This year's Earth Day theme is "Restore Our Earth". This sounds like such a big complicated process because it is. What if you realized that even small steps can lead to big changes and amazingly you have an opportunity right in your backyard. Yep, you can make changes to your yard that will help your local ecosystem; in doing so, help restore our earth one yard at a time.
Plant for Pollinators
Planting for pollinators is by far one of my favorite things to help restore an ecosystem. Choosing plants that provide the right kind of food for pollinators can help these populations thrive in your garden. Not only are these plants pretty but they also do an amazing job.
Plant a Tree
Trees are not only beautiful but they also have some wonderful environmental benefits. Amazingly trees act as natural carbon sinks, meaning they store bad carbon in their cells and therefore help clean the air of pollutants. In addition, trees are an important source of food and shelter for numerous wildlife creatures. For example, oak tree acorns are an important food source for birds, small mammals and deer. For us humans, trees provide shade on hot summer days. Trees not only help you enjoy the outdoors more but if you plant a tree on the west side of your house, they can help to shade your house during the heat of the day lowering the amount of electricity you need to cool your house down.
Balance Hardscape & Softscape Elements in Your Yard
If you just paved your whole yard would it be very interesting. No. It would be hot, boring and lack life. So when planning out your yard, you need to think about how much hardscape (concrete, pavers etc.) there is compared to softscape (plants). Cities have higher temperatures than the suburbs just by the sole fact that they have so much hardscape (often asphalt) that the air cannot cool down. So when planning your yard, you really don't want to emulate a cityscape. Instead, you want to have a backyard retreat where you can unwind and relax with friends and family. So make sure to really think about how much hardscape you need in your yard and then balance it with softscaping; that will not only improve your mood but also provide habitat for wildlife.
Grow Your Own Food
Growing your own food is not only fun but also helps the environment. By growing your own food organically, you are reducing the amount of chemicals that go into the environment. Growing your own food organically also reduces the fossil fuels (pollution) used to ship food from one location to another. Instead, your food is traveling from your garden to your table. In addition, growing your own organic food gives pollinators a bevy of wonderfully tasting food to snack on, keeping them healthy and vibrant. Finally, my favorite benefit is that home grown organic fruits/veggies just taste oh so much better and oftentimes kids will eat so much more of them if they come right from their own garden.
Be Conscience of Your Water Usage
Think of your outdoor space in terms of a water budget. We budget our money all the time but why are we not budgeting our water usage. Some easy ways to conserve water include, changing out old irrigation heads, hydro zoning plants (grouping plants that have similar water needs together) and using more climate appropriate plants.
Protect Your Watershed
Everyone lives in a watershed. A watershed is an area of land that collects water and then drains into another body of water. Everything that is washing off your yard will end up in your local watershed and into your drinking water source. So make sure that you are not having pollutants run off of your yard. Instead, opt to not use pesticides and ,if needed, use organic options.
Composting is one of the easiest changes you can make. By composting, you will reduce the amount of trash that goes into the landfill. Another benefit to composting, you get to use the compost to enrich your site soil. This will create much healthier soil for plants to grow in and microbes to thrive.
Help Your Local Wildlife
We go to zoos to see "exotic" animals but what about the wildlife in your own backyard. If you create a safe haven for your local wildlife, you can enjoy watching hummingbirds, butterflies, squirrels etc. busily enjoying your yard. You will also want to make sure your site is clean and your trash cans are securely closed so that you help protect wildlife from foraging on man made food. We don't want to encourage raccoons from eating our trash but we do want to encourage birds visiting our yards and enjoying the nectar from our plants.
Appreciate Your Own Backyard
When you appreciate the natural world right outside your doors then you become more in tune with the environment. You also become more aware of how important our local ecosystems are and will strive to protect it. This is my whole mission, I want to help create beautiful outdoor spaces for my clients so they are drawn outdoors and begin to connect with the natural world.
All these changes are simple. You can create a big impact, especially when your friends and neighbors see what you are doing and beginning to make changes as well. Together we can help restore our environment by starting with our own yards.