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How to Make Your Outdoor Space Environmentally Friendly

eco-friendly outdoor spaceEveryone loves the great outdoors, but we must all work together to take care of the environment. One great way to make an impact right in your own corner of the planet is to “go green” in the back yard. Even a few small, inexpensive changes can make a difference. 

Choose Green Materials

Many traditional building materials are not environmentally friendly. For example, typically decks are built of treated lumber that must be retreated with chemicals to prevent rot. Nevertheless, this decking eventually breaks down and requires replacement. The same is true for fencing and even patios. Traditional materials experience wear over time, and they are also made in factories that may not be environmentally sustainable.

Instead of traditional building materials, search for more sustainable options. For example, fences can be made from bamboo, which is long-lasting, prolific and fast-growing, and decks can be constructed from cedar, which is naturally moisture resistant. Both of these options eliminate the need for additional chemicals. Greener still, you can choose a composite product that looks like wood but is made from recycled materials, including plastics and metal.

Look for manufacturers who have a “Cradle to Cradle” certification, which indicates that their products are safe for the environment, safe for people and durable.

Irrigate Responsibly

Irrigating during the day is not only ineffective, it is expensive since much of the water — up to 70 percent — evaporates rather than soaking deeply enough to impact your lawn and decorative plants.

A great way to save money on irrigation is by using a rainwater collection system. These systems often work by diverting rainwater from your home’s downspouts into a collection barrel. The most efficient way to use collected rainwater is through a drip-irrigation system, which delivers the water to the root area where it is used rather than evaporated. In addition, drip irrigation discourages weeds, reducing the need for additional chemicals.

Consider Composting

Composting eliminates the need for fertilizers, which in turn eliminates chemical run-off into creeks, rivers and lakes. Using only a little chicken wire and a small shady space, you can create nutrient-rich soil that will produce top quality flowers and vegetables.

In addition, a compost pile eliminates yard waste, such as grass clipping and fall leaves. Composting even reduces kitchen waste by recycling common refuse, such as coffee grounds.

Add Solar Lighting

Solar lighting is becoming more attractive and efficient, so consider replacing electric outdoor lighting with solar. Solar lights are particularly effective in lighting pathways, patios and decks. This simple change not only helps the environment, it also reduces your electric bill.

If you do not yet have outdoor lighting because high installation fees are cost prohibitive, solar lighting is a good solution. Solar lighting adds safety and security without an expensive electrician.

Choose Green Furnishings

Did you know that even outdoor furniture can be eco-friendly? Similar to composite building materials, eco-friendly outdoor furnishings are made from recycled materials and are often more long-lasting than traditional options.

If new furniture is not in the budget, consider some do-it-yourself recycling. Find environmentally friendly used furniture, such as that made from wood or metal instead of plastic, at garage sales and consignment stores. Next, add new paint and cushions. With a little elbow grease you can create a new look and spare a landfill at the same time.

Before you dive into that outdoor project that you have been dreaming about all winter, do a little research and make wise choices that can impact the environment for your generation as well as for many generations to come.


Brian Sonnier is the owner of Lone Star Patio Builders, a premium patio cover and pergola construction company in Houston, TX.