While being focused on creating an eco-friendly indoor space, sometimes, we forget to create an equally eco-friendly outdoor space. Luckily, the summer is the perfect time to make your outside space as green as possible. It doesn’t matter whether you have a lawn or just a window: Making your available outdoor area natural, efficient, and eco-friendly can be really easy and fun. Try any of these tips:
Reuse plastic bottles as plant containers.
When creating an eco-friendly space, it all goes back to the three “R’s” that we were taught in school: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Container gardening is all about reusing. Use any of the things that you look at every day and pile up in your bins: plastic bottles, egg crates, tin cans, etc. (I personally love starting seedlings in egg cartons because they’re the perfect size.) This awesome New Yorker created amazing window gardens out of plastic bottles and tubes using hydroponics. For city-dwellers with only a window serving as their outdoor space, window farming using bottles is a new and attractive option.
Create a vertical garden out of used pallets.
There are locals who have only a window, and then there are others who have a bit more space, but not much: balconies, fire exits, or small outdoor areas. Maximize the green in those spaces by creating a vertical garden rather than a horizontal garden. Trust me: It’s a great way to decorate your space while reusing materials.
Get rid of a water-guzzling, boring green lawn.
Many people in New York City don’t own a bit of green, but some may be lucky enough to have a small lawn. For those who have a lawn, eliminating grass may be the better thing to do. Green lawns are not only water-guzzlers (they need frequent, regular watering to stay healthy and verdant) but gas-guzzlers (most people have to use gas or diesel lawnmowers to maintain them). Cut the sprawling homogeneity with some colorful ways to re-imagine the classic suburban landscape: walkways, sculptures, raised garden beds, or something unique to you!
… Or use an old-school mower.
Don’t want to get rid of that classic green? In that case, swap out your motorized mower for a push mower and get better exercise while you take care of the lawn.
Xeriscape to the max.
“Xeriscaping” might sound like the landscaping done on a far distant planet, but it really means landscaping for better water conservation. Wasting water damages the environment, and xeriscaping tactics like irrigation can help avoid it. Follow xeriscaping advice like remembering to water your plants in the morning rather than at noon, as evaporation rates are lower in the morning.
Light your summer evenings outside with solar-powered lights.
Introducing solar-powered mood lighting to your outdoor space is one of the cheapest ways to “go solar.” You don’t have to spend a lot, and you don’t have to increase your energy bill. (There’s also the old-school, romantic approach of candles, which don’t waste electricity.)
Collect rainwater in an old bin.
This is something that’s really become big in California due to the drought, but it can always be done here in New York, too: Reduce the amount of water you’ll need to use later by collecting rainwater in bins. This cuts down on your clean water usage, and rainwater is perfect for gardening.
Create recycled outdoor art.
Reduce, reuse, and recycle your way to amazing art pieces. Be creative and create something fun out of weather-resistant junk like bottle caps, plastic bottles, old spoons, or repurposed furniture.
Use organic weed killers, and pull weeds regularly.
You don’t need to spray toxic chemicals everywhere to take care of your lawn or garden. There are plenty of alternatives. Salt and vinegar kills plants effectively, for example.
Invite the “good” bugs, and avoid using unnecessary pesticides.
Prevent problems with plant-chomping bugs by planting marigolds to attract pest-killing ladybugs.
Plant native species.
This is one of the absolute best things you can do for the environment: Respect the natural, local ecosystem by planning native, or at the very least non-invasive, species. Don’t worry: Wildflowers look just as nice as the non-native species.
Reduce food waste and get free fertilizer.
If you have the room and time to start a compost pile, do it! It’s a great way to reduce your non-protein-based food waste. Create a compost pile in a box or bin, and occasionally turn and aerate the pile. Months later, you’ll have reduced the amount that you’ve thrown out and have nice, organic, nutritious soil. This reduces the amount of manure you’ll need to buy, which comes from diesel-guzzling farms.