Living green in the suburbs is gaining interest from all over the US. Today, 8 of every 10 Americans live in the suburbs. Suburbs are areas within a metropolitan area that are primarily residential. They are not as densely populated as the inner city and are generally a separate political entity of the city. In many suburban areas, a car is required to get around the area and enter the main city or downtown core. In America, the suburbs are responsible for 50% of carbon emissions due to car dependence.
Moreover, these homes conserve less energy as they are required to heat and cool larger houses. Many suburban homes have lawns which require water and maintenance. Over 3 trillion gallons of water a year across 40 million acres of lawn is used in the US. Lawns are also one of the nation’s largest sources of pollution due to the chemical runoff from pesticides and fertilizers that make their way into waterways. Suburban lawns have been known to contaminate swimming and drinking water and harm local fish.
Living Green in the suburbs is simple (and fun).
But it doesn’t all have to be bad. Many environmentally friendly solutions exist to help make living green in the suburbs easier. Front or backyards could be transformed into wildflower meadows or rain gardens. Wildflower meadows mainly contain native plants and are a perfect habitat for pollinators like bees, butterflies and birds. Rain gardens are filled with plants and native grasses that collect stormwater runoff from roofs, driveways and streets and are ways to protect the aquatic ecosystem.
Another lawn alternative is planting ground covers that require no mowing and little fertilizer and water. Foodscaping is also growing in popularity as a lawn replacement as it enables sustainable edible landscapes. The plants can be edible, which will help contribute to food security, or ornamental, providing an aesthetically pleasing landscape with little planning.
Another way for suburbanites to reduce their environmental impact is by harvesting rainwater from runoff surfaces. The water can be used for irrigation and toilet flushing. It also reduces energy use and carbon emissions from water treatment industries that treat and transfer water.
Reducing energy consumption while living green in the suburbs includes buying more energy-efficient light bulbs, installing insulation and storm windows, purchasing Energy Star Label appliances and choosing renewable energy. Within these suburban communities, a community solar project may allow homeowners to buy into a collectively owned energy project.
Here is an easy-to-follow checklist for living green in the suburbs.
1. Reduce, reuse, and recycle: Practice the three R’s of sustainability by reducing your disposable consumption, reusing items as much as possible, and recycling materials such as paper, plastics, and glass.
2. Compost: Start a compost pile to reduce organic waste and produce nutrient-rich soil for gardening.
3. Install energy-efficient appliances: Replace old appliances with energy-efficient models to reduce energy consumption and save money on utility bills.
4. Use public transportation or carpool: Use public transportation whenever possible or carpool with others to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles.
5. Plant native species in your yard: Planting native species can help support biodiversity and provide habitats for local wildlife.
6. Conserve water: Install low-flow showerheads and toilets, and limit outdoor watering to reduce water usage.
7. Use eco-friendly cleaning products: Switch to environmentally friendly cleaning products that use natural ingredients instead of harsh chemicals.
8. Support local farmers and businesses: Buy produce and products from local farmers and businesses to reduce the carbon footprint associated with shipping and distribution.
9. Use solar power: Install solar panels on your property to produce clean energy and reduce reliance on non-renewable energy sources.
10. Participate in community-wide sustainability initiatives: Join community groups or organizations that promote green living and participate in local sustainability programs or events.
Just because you live in the suburbs, it doesn’t mean you get a free pass to environmental damage. Suburban living can be environmentally damaging, but many opportunities exist to reduce your impact. By simply converting your lawn, you can protect local wildlife and ecosystems. Finding ways to reduce your energy consumption, installing compost bins and piles, and even choosing to eat locally and seasonally will all positively impact how you live, no matter where you live and soon you will find your own family living green in the suburbs.