Everyone loves the oasis of calm and beauty that’s created by a nice green yard. But what about a yard that’s "green" at the same time? There are a number of steps you can take to reduce noise, pollution, waste and water usage in your backyard, and save yourself some time and money at the same time. Simple changes all add up, and the following are a few tips to get you started.

Reduce your lawn area: The easiest way to reduce the impact of lawn mowing is to simply reduce the lawn in the first place. Instead, consider planting all or part of your lawn area with lush, green, low-growing ground covers — you’ll get much the same look with a lot less water and a big reduction in maintenance.

Use drought-resistant plants: In non-lawn areas, look for plants that are stingy water users. Depending on where you live, there are any number of beautiful backyard plants that require a minimal amount of watering.

Add mulch or bark to planter areas: The addition of a layer of mulch or decorative bark material not only looks nice and reduces weed growth, it also keeps plants cooler and reduces the evaporation of moisture from the soil, both of which help reduce water consumption.

Cut down on water usage: Instead of the standard rotating or sprayer-type sprinkler nozzles, switch to an irrigation system that uses less water. Soaker hoses, low-flow sprinkler heads, and drip irrigation are all good options for reducing water usage. Also, rather than allow your sprinklers to run until you remember to go out and shut off the faucet, consider the use of sprinkler timers. These can range from sophisticated timers for underground systems to simple hose timers.

Grow some of your own food: Planting a vegetable garden or adding some fruit trees to your yard will have a number of positive benefits. In addition to taking a little strain off your food budget, garden plants help cool the yard and absorb carbon dioxide, and fruit trees can add privacy and shade.

Watch your fertilizers: Talk with local garden and landscape experts to see what the best type of fertilizer and plant food is for your particular region and the types of plants you have. You can save money and reduce pollution by selecting the proper lawn and plant treatments, and using only as much of them as necessary. …CONTINUED

Don’t burn in the backyard: Get rid of your burn barrel and fill in the burn pit. Backyard burning has been shown by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to create a number of unhealthy conditions, including the release of dioxins, carbon monoxide and particulate matter that increases air pollution, and fine ash that can aggravate breathing problems. Instead, recycle wood, cardboard, paper, plastics and other materials, and properly dispose of the remaining waste by taking it to your local landfill.

Maintain your lawn and garden equipment: Gasoline-powered mowers and other yard maintenance equipment need to be treated in much the same manner as your car. Change spark plugs and oil regularly, have tune-ups performed at recommended times, and clean or replace air filters as needed. This will keep your equipment running smoothly with fewer emissions, and will save you money in fuel costs as well.

Use care when filling gas equipment: Take care not to overfill the tanks or spill any fuel. Spilled gasoline is both a pollutant and a waste of money. Look for approved fuel cans with a flexible spout to simplify filling, and use a funnel whenever necessary to prevent spills. Keep gas cans tightly sealed between fuelings.

Switch from gas-powered equipment: Last but far from least, when it comes time to buy or replace lawn maintenance equipment, give some serious thought to switching from gas-powered equipment to electric or, better yet, equipment that’s powered by rechargeable batteries. Great strides have been made in battery technology in recent years, leading to equipment that is powerful, quiet, and much, much cleaner.

For example, Black & Decker recently introduced a battery-powered, 36-volt string trimmer (Model NST2036, $249.99) that can go head to head with gas-powered trimmers. It has plenty of power and a long run time, all without gas, oil, fumes or noise. Also from Black & Decker is the Rechargeable Alligator Lopper (Model NLP1800, $139.99). A cross between a traditional chain saw and a traditional pair of lopping shears, the Alligator uses a chain saw blade and tough metal jaws to saw through logs and branches up to 4 inches in diameter — once again, without all the hassles, pollution or noise of a conventional gas chain saw.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paulbianchina@inman.com.


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