Going Water-LESS Outdoors
Happy Earth Month! Since April signifies April showers, and since the earth is mostly covered in water, I thought what better way to celebrate our earth in April than adopting the Everyday Eco-Habit of Going Water-LESS! Just for a quick minute, imagine a life without water. Impossible right? Water literally runs through our entire beings. It’s inside of us, compromising about 60% of our bodies, doing everything from helping our cells grow to delivering oxygen. We need it. And so does the earth. Like our bodies, the earth is similarly comprised of about 70% water. Of that water, however, less than 1% is actually available for drinking. And that same water has been cycling through our planet since before the dinosaurs, while the earth’s population has vastly increased. Plus, we use more water now - for almost everything, from growing food (especially meat as we learned in my Meat-LESS post in January), to making computers, and even manufacturing jeans (as we just learned in my Clothes-LESS post in March). Because of this, fresh, clean drinking water is a precious resource we need to take care of!
This is an issue particularly near and dear to my heart as I was a water quality lawyer for many years- my law firm’s name was even Lawyers for Clean Water! I have been lucky to work with some of the world’s best water quality and water conservation experts. I am going to share some of their wisdom with you throughout the month with interviews, tips and other resources on water conservation and protection. Since there is so much we can do to conserve and protect water, I am first focusing on Going Water-LESS Outdoors. I want to show you all of the simple ways you can conserve and protect the quality of water outside of your home as Spring approaches and we are all getting outside more. Don’t worry - we will Go Water-LESS Indoors in the future, so stay tuned.
There are SO MANY simple, Everyday Eco-habits we can adopt to Go Water-LESS Outside. After reading this post, I am asking you to Pledge to adopt any one of these Eco-Habits:
Opt for “permeable” surfaces for your landscape or driveway to reduce runoff and help replenish our aquifers. What this means is to move from “impermeable” surfaces such as traditional concrete and asphalt to ”permeable” surfaces such as plants and gravel that allow water to infiltrate into the earth. The bonus? As water percolates to aquifers below, the earth acts as a natural water filter, cleaning the water free of pollutants. Another bonus of moving from permeable surfaces to living plants is that plants “breathe in” (or “capture”) carbon dioxide and other pollutants and “breathe out oxygen which humans need to live, so they help reduce air pollution too! Check out an awesome example my Green Friend KeithMuller designed.
Use a broom to sweep down your driveway and porch instead of hosing it down. Not only does this conserve water, but it prevents runoff from collecting pollutants from pesticides, oil, grease, animal feces, etc. and subsequently entering our waterways.
Resist washing your car in the driveway for similar reasons. You can save 100’s of gallons of water and prevent even more run-off from polluting our waterways. Instead, opt for a car wash where they recycle their water.
Have a pool or a spa? Cover them to reduce evaporation and save energy!
Reuse water when possible. Have you heard of grey water? Grey water is water from your showers, sinks and even washing machines. This water can be reused to water your plants and yard! You can simply put a bucket in the shower, or even have a grey water system installed that reroutes water from your drains to your yard. You can save roughly 40,000 gallons of water a year! (There are certain regulations to check out so do your research).
Replace your turf with more water-friendly gardens! Join the #nomow movement and save water while improving the environment. Water-friendly gardens provide much needed habitat for native species, prevent run-off and (in my humble opinion) are so much more aesthetically pleasing. Many cities, especially in Southern California and Arizona, will offer you rebates for replacing your turf. Check them out before you make the switch!
Design your yard using hydrozones. This is where you group plants together that use the same amount of water, sunlight and soil to reduce water use.
Harvest rainwater with rain barrels to water your plants. Some cities have rain barrel programs where they pass them out for free! (Check out this free rain barrels program in the South Bay of Los Angeles.)
Water your plants early in the morning. Watering midday causes too much evaporation and watering at night promotes fungus.
Adjust your sprinklers to water only when needed. Water your lawn and yard only when needed and be sure to turn the sprinklers off during the rainy season. Maintaining your sprinkler system can save you time, water and money!
Install a drip irrigation system. Drip irrigation systems can reduce water by 30-70%. My Green Friend Mike Garcia at Enviroscape educated me about the importance of drip irrigation for conserving water and helped me to make the switch – I'm sure he would be happy to help you do so too! I will be sharing my interview with Mike this month, so look for that :)
Mulch it up! Make sure to layer your plants and shrubs with a layer of mulch. Mulch can help retain soil moisture and slow water evaporation.
Use that compost! Compost helps retain water in root systems and is great for plants and gardens.
Use the highest setting on your [eco-friendly] lawnmower. Tall grass reduces soil evaporation and helps the grass stay moist. It also allows the grass to grow deeper roots and prevents weeds. Win/win.
Kill those weeds! Weeds compete with your gorgeous garden for water. Be sure to pull weeds especially before they flower to prevent further growth.
Install a “Green Roof”- They capture rainwater before it even runs off! I am not sure if you have ever seen a Green Rooftop, but they are gorgeous and are gaining popularity in Europe and the United States.
Get involved with any of the amazing water-related non-profits out there. They are chock full of more information on protecting and conserving water and have great volunteer opportunities. A few of my favorites include: LAWaterkeeper, Waterkeeper Alliance, Heal the Bay,5 Gyres, Algalita,Treepeople,The River Project, Sustainable Surf, and Grades of Green's Water Campaign.
Any one of these Everyday Eco-Habits will help our earth by getting you thinking about conserving water and keeping it clean. On top of that, implementing these Eco-Habits will also reduce chemical and pesticide pollution, so it’s a double benefit for our environment. Don’t get overwhelmed thinking you have to do them all right away. Just make a Pledge to start with one of these Water-LESS Eco-Habits and then build on your success. I am starting with a Pledge to put a bucket in my shower to capture water for the month of April. What’s your Pledge? You’ve got this. So, get outdoors and enjoy April’s showers, all while celebrating Earth month by taking these small steps to Go Water-LESS.