Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sustainable Yards Simplified

Native Landscape
The Santa Monica, CA Office of Sustainability and the Environment recently finished installing Garden-Garden, a demonstration landscape that provides a side by side comparison of two landscape strategies, the sustainable approach and the traditional non-native approach.  The project compares two adjacent yards in terms of aesthetic appearance, water usage, yard waste, and maintenance hours, and draws a concise and clear conclusion about which option is easier, cheaper in the long run, and better for the local ecosystem.

In this case, the numbers say it all. 
  • The native garden cost $16,700 to install compared $12,400 for the traditional garden. Despite its higher initial cost, the native garden’s lower maintenance requirements translate into $2,200 per year in cost savings.
  • The native garden uses 77 percent less water, produces 66 percent less waste, and requires 68 percent less labor than the traditional garden. 
Not to mention that the native garden looks beautiful and provides native habitat for indigenous fauna like butterflies and ladybugs.

Traditional "Mow and Blow" Landscape
Santa Monica currently imports over 90% of its water from Northern California and the Colorado River, and as these water sources are more than 400 miles away, their continued use in Santa Monica  can hardly be considered sustainable.  Traditional gardens in the area utilize exotic plants from wetter climates, and employ the use of standard sprinkler irrigation systems that distribute water over all plants regardless of need.  This translates into an incredible water demand that has already put regional ecosystems and communities under increased stress.

Additionally, traditional gardens require frequent applications of fertilizer and pesticides that leech into the city's water supply during rainstorms, causing pollution and aquatic habitat disruption.  When considered on a large scale, this is a huge problem as the average home gardener uses 10 times more toxic chemicals than a farmer.

Overall, the choice is a no-brainer.  Native gardens are an all-around amazing solution to Southern California's water shortages, as well as a sustainable alternative to landscapes steeped in exotics and pesticides.  In my opinion, education is the logical next step, so spread the word about what sustainable landscaping can do for you and your community!  Check out the full report here and tell your friends!

Wishing you all the best,

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