Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

Category: Water conservation

NPR’s Freakonomics podcast: How Stupid is Our Obsession with Lawns?

Do you hate mowing the lawn? I used to. We had a lawn that was half the size of a football field, and I spent many hours as a child, and lots of gasoline spilled, on that activity. Loads of gasoline spilled, actually. It kills the grass, but after a week or two, the grass comes back.

A friend just turned me on to last week’s Freakonomics podcast episode on America’s obsession with lawns. It has a lot of different points of view and recommendations on what to do differently; native species, alternative lawn care, and urban agriculture are some of the topics. Listen here:

If you prefer to read an article instead, there’s 2013’s Outgrowing the Traditional Grass Lawn – Scientific American Blog Network.

The ideas we are trying to implement at Rewilding have been around a few years now. it takes time for people to accept and adapt. If you have a yard, please consider replacing it by turning into a meadow or something equally hospitable. We’ll help you. 

This blog post needs an update. There’s a lot of material that I’ve received from one of my resources, talking about lawn replacement initiatives. I’d pass some of it forward by email when I’ve attained enough subscribers to get the list going, so subscribe!

How the green driveway conversion is holding up

In 2015, I posted about converting a standard residential parking spot into a green driveway. It’s a pictorial, part of our Project portfolio. Three months after completing the job (from mid-May to August), I’d gotten used to the results and I was quite happy!

A year and half later – that is, last fall –  I was still pleased, having seen the results over seven seasons (spring through winter, then spring through fall). It was like an extra yard with cobblestone wheel paths, and an Adirondack chair in place after I got rid of my car.

There were only two problems I can complain about. If one parked on the green driveway for too long, without sun, the plants under the car would die back, but as soon as you parked elsewhere and watered them a day or two, the green would come back. So, if you drive to work most days: no problem! The other issue I had was when someone else parked in my driveway and they had an oil leak. It killed the plants, but as oil does biodegrade, the vegetation came back only a little worse for wear (creeping thyme is hard to grow) in about two weeks. It still beats seeing an oil stain on your driveway!

Now the driveway is under a foot and a half of snow. With no car, I have no need to shovel it out. The effort of shovelling a green driveway is different than that of a standard one. For example, you cannot use salt, but neither do you have to go right down to the pavement. You shovel out the wheel tracks and path to the car doors and keep them even, but otherwise, if the snow packs and turns to ice, you put down sand or sawdust instead.

If you have a driveway that could stand converting over from hot and ugly old asphalt to something a little more cool and welcoming, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re looking for people to serve!

If you enjoyed this post, the mailing list will contain questions and answers and I will be most curious and happy to answer yours, especially if it will spread the word about how viable this project is.

What to do with old bath water? (AKA, grey water)

The other day, I had a delightfully long bath and did not let the water out of the tub at the end of it. There’s gotta be a use for that water, despite not having a grey-water recovery system. Best used in homes and businesses that use a lot of water, this kind of water-saving system reuses wash water for flushing toilets, or watering the terrain.

Of course, then I get the No Doubt “Bathwater” song stuck in my head.

Here are things you can do with your old bath water before you pull that plug:

  • While it’s still warm, if you are so ambitious, you can mop the floor. Just add vinegar.
  • If you wait and mop the floor another time, add a blast of hot water and/or floor soap to the mop bucket.
  • You can wait until it’s cool, and then water your plants with it. You can even dunk your plants for bottom-feeding if you let out all but 2 inches of the tub.
  • If you really wanted to, you could transfer it by bucket to a top-loading washing machine and do a load of laundry.
  • You can also flush the toilet with it. The flush happens because of the sudden influx of water – it doesn’t matter if the influx comes from the toilet tank or from a bucket. This is, in the end, what I did with most of it, after watering the plants.

The water that you take from the tap, which is fresh water treated for drinking, is a resource. Reusing water in appropriate ways will conserve the amount of water your home uses. If your home is on a water meter, it’ll save you a few gallons over the long run.

Grey water systems should probably become a default building code for dwellings of 6 units or more, for basic non-potable use and landscaping.

But as for landscaping, rainwater collection also helps. And any water saved for use in landscaping, reduces the amount of treated potable water spent. Any water saved from going down the drain by going to your yard and garden will also cut the amount of water sent to our sewers, which flows untreated into our watersheds.