Archive for Environment

Agave in Landscaping

Agave isn’t just grown for it’s syrup. It’s actually a very pretty ornamental succulent that could liven up any yard. Especially yards in in the South West or Western part of the U.S. I came across these great photos of different varieties of agave used in landscaping in California from Sunset magazine. I aspire to have a dessert garden someday.

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“The light green leaves of a colony of A. attenuata contrast in this combo with the nearly black rosettes of Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’.” – Sunset Magazine. I like the contrast of green and deep purple in this garden.
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Lawn Alternative: Naturescaping

This year California may be facing a severe drought. Our heavy rain season starts around autumn and continues through spring. I can say this year’s rainy season was not so good. I think we had some cloudy winters, but not much rain. Mostly fog in parts of northern California.

nscapeConcerned homeowners and avid gardeners may want to look into finding ways to conserve water. But I have mostly desert plants that are in pots, so it won’t be much of a problem for me. My mom said she may cut down on what she will be planting this year too. The latest idea suggest replacing the common lawn and yards with native plants. This idea is termed “naturescaping”. These two front yards are good examples of naturescaping. Photos were taken by City Steward of Portland, Oregon.

There are many benefits for naturescaping and to growing native plants. A great landscape design practice also located in Portland, Oregon named Plant Native gave us 6 good reasons. They are listed below:

1. Low Maintenance – Native plants evolved to grow in local conditions and to predictable sizes. They do not require watering (except during establishment), chemical pesticides and fertilizers, or frequent cutting.

2. Public Health (lowers cancer rates) – Traditional landscaping uses large amounts of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, some of which are suspected carcinogens. During rains, these chemicals often run off into public water supplies. Traditional landscaping also contributes to air and noise pollution.

3. Saves you Money – The cost of maintaining a naturescape is dramatically less than that of a traditional landscape because a naturescape essentially takes care of itself. Naturescapes also save you time – and how valuable is your time?

4. Water – In the West, 60% of consumed water goes to lawns; in the East, 30%. This water diversion harms the environment, kills fish, and returns polluted water to our streams and rivers. It also costs you – on irrigation system installation and maintenance, and on your water bill.
5. Song Birds – Our song bird populations having dropped steadily – 5-10%, per year!, depending on the species – for the last several decades, and there is no end in sight. The loss is primarily due to habitat loss. Adopting naturescaping is critical if song birds are to remain.
6. Enhances Livability – An ecologically functional landscape offers so much more than a sterile, static landscape. It offers imagination to our children, and color, sound and wonder to all of us. It is cleaner, quieter and healthier, and may increase property values.

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Laundry with Soap Nuts

The last time I was in a health food store in Palo Alto (California) I saw a box of Maggie’s Soap Nuts. They were $10 for 4.5 oz box. I would try it if it was a bit cheaper. But better if they had free samples for customers to try first. At the moment I’ve been using commercial Arm & Hammer Essentials for my laundry and just add some borax for extra cleaning power.

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Photo of dried soap nuts from ECO-CAN news.

I’ve never even heard much about soap nuts and decided find out more about them. A few nuts can be placed in a cotton drawstring bag, then add to your wash. It can even be reused several times. Soap nuts are safe for washing silk, woolens and other delicate fabrics. Anything soap related to me is fun, especially ones that grow naturally on trees.

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My SIMPLE ECO SNEAKER

My favorite classic suede Converse has seen better days and the side is starting to rip. With a little bit of Shoe Goo, it will not end up in the landfill just yet. I plan to use it as my dirty chores shoe now.

simplesustainSince it’s time to shop for another comfortable walking shoe, I’ve decided to get something made by Simple. They are an interesting green company that was started in Santa Barbara, CA back in 1991. Simple Shoe company is committed to making their product 100% sustainable. Finding materials and processes that make the products sustainable is a method called “Green Toe”. Some of the products found in their shoes are listed in the colorful bubble drawings here – from hemp to bamboo.

The company follows the Deckers Ethical Supply Chain Guidelines. I’ve never heard of it until I came across Simple’s website. It’s a good concept and more companies should strive to do the same. You can read more about it here. A little excerpt below:

“Deckers Outdoor Corporation respects internationally recognized human rights and environmental standards and places them at the core of our business practices. We believe that no business should ever be complicit in human rights abuses. We promote greater environmental responsibility and we encourage the development and use of environmentally friendly technologies. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rooftop Gardens & Urban Farmers

A great way to bring a bit of nature into city living is having a rooftop garden. People usually think of rooftop city gardens as only being in New York City. Usually places used to hold cocktail parties. But rooftop gardening is nothing new, it has been seen in the Hanging Garden of Babylon to the Kensington Roof Garden in London , England.

The popularity of roof gardens have grown in many other cities in the United States as well. Even people in Vancouver, B.C. are joining in on rooftop gardening too. From hotels, restaurants to local organizations. I think that is a great use of extra space and a way to add a bit of green space. It may even help clean the air too.

englandrtgarden2Photo credit: Risc’s Rooftop Garden.

Another successful rooftop garden comes from England. The one pictured here is of Risc’s edible roof garden. The garden is complete with over 120 species of edible and medicinal trees, shrubs, vines and plants from around the globe. You can read more about the place here.

Rooftop gardens are usually seen as ornamental gardens, but the idea of growing your own food is gaining popularity. A great organization based out of Vancouver, B.C. by the name of City Farmer’s has a collection of stories about their work in Vancouver, Canada, and about urban farmers from around the world.

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