Rainwater Harvesting, with Water Level Meter and Rainwater Sensor

Rainwater Harvesting, with Water Level Meter and Rainwater Sensor

Harvesting rainwater achieves many green living principles. We’re saving potable water which is a valuable resource. And we’re reducing our carbon footprint.

Harvested rainwater is used for garden irrigation, flushing the toilets and for the washing machine.

By installing a smart device app, or navigating to the monitoring website of the smart home, green features are easily monitored and can be adjusted where applicable.

These metrics can be monitored:

  • Rainwater tank level.
  • Rainwater usage.

Rainwater harvesting reduces utility water usage by up to 60%, thereby saving water utility costs.

When establishing an indigenous garden, installing a rainwater sensor, and being able to measure rainwater usage, the irrigation cycles can be adjusted to closely align the rainfall with the water required by the garden, thereby using the harvested rainwater most efficiently, maximising savings and tending to a lovely garden at the same time.

Low Maintenance, Indigenous Garden

Low Maintenance, Indigenous Garden

Many indigenous plants will adapt in their local surroundings and do well in most parts of the country.  In South Africa, many of the indigenous plants need very little water to survive.  This means that we enjoy a cool, lush garden with little effort on our part.  If we choose evergreen trees, our garden is green, even in winter.

A well-planned garden requires less effort in the long term.  Local plants are more resistant to local pests.  And well-positioned plants give our home shade during the heat of summer.

When it comes to lawn, areas within the garden that don’t receive enough sunlight may wither.  Minimal use of grass is recommended, and will thrive when laid down where it will do well all year round.

With a little help from the experts, we could plant a garden that will bring year round comfort.

4 unconventional ways to save on your water bill (without cutting down on your water usage)

4 unconventional ways to save on your water bill (without cutting down on your water usage)

There is lots of advice out there on how to cut down on your water usage and save money on your water bill. But why deprive yourself of water simply to save a few Rand? We’ve come up with four ways to save money without having to cut down on your water.

Plant indigenous plants in your garden.

When a garden is filled with indigenous plants, you will barely need to water or maintain it throughout the year. Indigenous plants can withstand the hot South African summers, while still staying green during winter months. Imagine having to almost never water your garden except in drought months!

Awareness is increasing in South Africa regarding trees and plants that are not native to South Africa. These plants are often referred to as invaders. Invader plants have a way of stifling the growth of native plants by:

  • Stealing moisture during dry seasons
  • Taking up space and crowding other plants
  • Self-seeding prolifically, not giving other plants a chance
  • Growing elaborate root systems that cannot be unearthed
  • Not adding any benefits to animals such as birds and insects

Another aspect to having these plants in your garden is the maintenance. Many of them steal moisture from your soil—meaning you are forced to water your garden more regularly to ensure the survival of indigenous plants. You will be required to trim these plants regularly to ensure they don’t take over. Worst of all, when seeding takes place you are left with hundreds of weeds.

The benefits to having a purely indigenous garden are many. Here are a few reasons we planted them in our homes:

  • Indigenous plants work well together. Because they are native to South Africa, they benefit each other; coexisting in a way that cannot take place with other plants.
  • These plants are more likely to stay green all year round. They don’t mind harsh climates, as they have already adapted themselves to our weather conditions.
  • Maintenance such as watering, trimming and shaping is minimal with indigenous plants. They work well together to create unity within your garden—without much effort from people.
  • Indigenous plants also bring life to your home. Because they house birds, insects and small animals, your garden will soon become its own little ecosystem. Another reason why working WITH nature is so much better!

So it’s not only about saving water—it’s also about all these other benefits. Now let’s look at another way to save water…

Harvest rainwater for everyday cleaning

Installing a  rainwater harvesting system on your property is an excellent investment. Rainwater is not fit for drinking, bathing or showering; but it can be used in almost any other capacity in your home. Use rainwater to flush your toilets, washing machine and your outside taps. In fact, any cleaning can be done with harvested rainwater which has been coarsely filtered.

Many people wonder whether rainwater is clean enough to use in the home. The answer is, YES! Basic rainwater collection tanks are perfect for watering your garden. But if you want to take it one step further, then a rainwater filtering system is excellent.

These systems perform three major functions:

  • First of all they collect rainwater more efficiently than regular surface mounted tanks. That’s because they are installed in strategic positions which maximise collection potential.
  • Second, these systems perform general coarse filtering of your water. This takes place by extracting the water from just above the surface—thereby giving you the cleanest portion.
  • Finally, these systems go one step further by distributing the water to certain areas of the home. This includes the toilets, the washing machine and the irrigation system for your garden.

That’s right. If you can get your rainwater tank connected to your plumbing, you can even use it for toilet flushing! This is a system that is usually pre-installed in a ready-built green home; but if you plan on staying in your home for years to come, there’s no reason why you can’t install such a system in your current home.

As mentioned, unfiltered rainwater is not fit for consumption. But some would argue that tap water isn’t either. So why fill your water filter with tap water when rainwater is free? If it’s available and accessible, you may as well use what nature has already given you free of charge! Since most of us use water filters/coolers in our homes, there’s nothing wrong with filtering your rainwater for the purpose of consumption. Simply access your water at the source, collect it in a jug, and fill your water filter. Within a few hours you will have perfectly clean drinking water that didn’t cost you a cent!

Now you may be wondering about the price. What does rainwater harvesting cost? How hard are these systems to maintain?

Although decent rainwater harvesting systems cost a bundle, they provide a return on investment that far surpasses their initial cost. This is a viable long term option for homeowners who want to save on their utility bill.

Maintenance on rainwater harvesting systems is minimal. These systems are designed in such a way that they run themselves. And because there are no complicated mechanics to how they work, they won’t breakdown or malfunction.

Reduce the need for running your taps unnecessarily

Plumbing has slowly evolved over the decades. Today we have awesome systems which will help you save on your water bill. Although these savings are small at first, accumulatively they make a massive difference.

One such system is a heat pump. Heat pumps work in conjunction with three other systems which keep your hot water warm within the pipes. These include:

  • Hot water pipe insulation
  • Insulation of the tank to negate the need for constant heating
  • A linked loop plumbing system to prevent waste

We’ll look at each of these aspects more closely. But first, let’s explore how having hot water immediately on tap ultimately saves water.

You may be surprised to learn how much water is wasted while you wait for it to warm up. Conventional plumbing systems allow water within the pipes to cool down within minutes of your previous use. So every time you need hot water, you have to run your hot water tap for about 15 seconds or more before it warms up.

This wastes A LOT of water! Collectively, litres and litres of water are lost. That’s literally money down the drain.

So let’s now look at the three factors that help you save money on your water bill:

  • Hot water pipe insulation

When hot water flows through pipes, insulation keeps it warm. Insulation material is wrapped around pipes to ensure heat is not lost while the water sits dormant inside. This ensures that hot water is immediately accessible whenever the hot water tap is turned on.

  • Insulation of your water tank

In addition to the pipes being insulated, the tank needs to retain its temperature too. By keeping the water tank insulated, water does not require constant heating. Electricity is saved and so is water—because again, you don’t need to run your tap to get to the hot water. It’s already there!

  • Linked loop plumbing

A linked loop plumbing system is another practical way to keep hot water accessible throughout your home. This again negates the need for running water to get it to the desired temperature. Linked loop plumbing ensures that water is always warm, always accessible no matter where you are in your house.

Use reputable green vendors to fit your plumbing systems

As with all industries, the green home industry in South Africa is rife with low quality materials and installers. That’s why it’s important to find reputable vendors when looking into these systems. Yes, you will pay a little more. But rather that than having to worry about problems down the line.

Here are some you may hear about:

  • Leaking pipes

Leaking pipes may cause you unimaginable problems later on. Because these pipes are built into walls, floor and ceilings, they need to be of a very high quality. Low quality pipes will leak after a few years and breaking down your home to repair them is simply not worth it. And even if you don’t realise you have a leak, your water bill will be ridiculously high despite your attempts to save on water usage.

  • Cheap insulation material

We’ve already seen how insulation of pipes and hot water tanks can save money on your water [and electricity] bill. But if that insulation material comes loose, it’s function is lost. Additionally, if the wrong type of material is used, your insulation won’t be as effective.

  • Poor installation

When a green plumbing system is not fitted correctly, it will not perform as well. If it’s not performing the way it should, it’s not saving you money—and is therefore a useless addition to your home.

  • Cheap brands

Green home components should come from reputable green suppliers. There are countless cheap brands out there and many South African installers use these brands—choosing price over quality. Do a bit of research before you get an installer out and make sure they know their brands.

Don’t be discouraged by these possible problems. Fortunately there are companies in South Africa that are serious about delivering a high quality service.

 These water saving strategies are probably very different from the ones you’re used to reading about. And while they are unconventional methods, they are super effective in giving you a return on your investment.

If you’ve never considered green features as a way to save on your water bill, then now’s the time to look into it. As green home development increases, more and more of these methods will be implemented. Accumulatively, when water is saved, it has a huge impact on our planet.

It also has a positive effect on the economy since everyone benefits when water is saved! So, for saving on your pocket, your planet and your peace of mind; implement these systems wherever you can and save our most precious resource.

How a green home saves you money

How a green home saves you money

Your home is the biggest investment you’ll ever make. And with the rising cost of electricity and the vulnerability of South Africa’s water supply, green living is becoming a more attractive option for many home owners. But can you afford it now? The last thing you want to do is over-capitalise on your property.

Another option would be selling your current home and buying a ‘green’ home instead. But how would a home that’s designed to be environmentally friendly save you money? While it’s true that sustainably built homes cost more initially, the long term benefits extend beyond saving on your electricity bill. So with that in mind, here are four reasons why investing in a green home makes financial sense.

  1. A green home costs less to maintain

Do you have a list of things to do around the home? Perhaps you need to paint the exterior, tend to your gutters and downpipes or maintain a large garden? There always seems to be something that needs repairing or re-decorating.

And it all costs money, time and effort. A green home simply doesn’t have these issues to begin with. That’s because a good developer makes sure that the materials used to construct a green home are durable. In a green home you should find the following low-maintenance features:

  • Naturally coloured roof tiles

That’s right, you’ll never have to spend money or put your back out painting your roof. The colour of these tiles won’t fade from exposure to the harsh South African sun. And they’re tough as nails too. They can withstand rain, wind and hail and aren’t easily damaged. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever have to spend money replacing them due to damage.

  • Self-cleaning rainwater tanks

Most rainwater harvesting tanks require some form of maintenance to remove the plant material, waste and sediment that build up over time. This can be a tedious job if you undertake it yourself, or expensive if you call in a professional cleaning service.

Rather choose tanks that are self-cleaning. So you’ll never have to incur the hassle or expense that normally comes with such a feature.

  • Aluminium and stainless steel

Aluminium is the ideal material for window and door frames. They add to the look and style of any home and the material itself offers homeowners several benefits over wood or uPVC frames, including:

  • Low maintenance: Resistant to all weather conditions and corrosion, aluminium frames won’t warp, crack, split or swell.
  • Environmentally friendly:Aluminium is one of the most highly recycled materials in the world which makes it extremely sustainable.
  • Thermally efficient:Frames made from aluminium outperform other materials when it comes to adapting to heat gain and loss.
  • Inexpensive:Although prices vary between manufacturers, aluminium doesn’t cost as much as you might think. And because the material is so energy efficient, you’ll quickly recoup the initial costs.
  • Design flexibility:You can customise aluminium frames to suit any shape or size making it particularly suitable for unusual openings.

Steel is another material that’s both cost-effective and sustainable. It offers strength and durability to the frame of a home and requires little or no maintenance. Best of all, it can be completely recycled so it never goes to waste.

  • A water-saving garden

Keen gardeners will already appreciate the fact that maintaining a green lawn and lush shrubbery takes a lot of time and effort. Create gardens that still look appealing without the hassle or cost by including these elements:

  • Indigenous trees and shrubs: These require less water as they have adapted to the South African climate. You won’t have to water them as often as foreign plants so you’ll spend less time working on your garden, and more time enjoying it.
  • Smaller lawns: This is the part of any garden that requires the most maintenance and incurs the most costs. Constantly watering your lawn to keep it looking at its best comes at a cost. Instead, make smaller lawns and use pots and decorations to make your garden a beautiful space.
  • Rainwater tanks: Rainwater doesn’t cost you anything and is perfectly safe for using to water your plants and clean your car. Even in times of drought, supplementing with rainwater saves on costs and helps preserve this precious resource.

A green home normally makes use of alternative energy sources to reduce your reliance on the grid. And these features will reduce your monthly costs. But by taking into consideration every aspect of your living space, you can reduce your costs even further by reducing the need for expensive maintenance.

  1. A green home is healthier

An advantage of green homes that is often overlooked is the fact that they are healthier than regular homes. In other words, all the materials and methods used in a green home tend to emit less harmful chemicals and toxins into your living space.

There are a few ways in which green building practices contribute to the health of a home:

  • Better air quality: Because green homes use paints and adhesives that emit less volatile organic compounds, the air in the home is safer and cleaner. Without constantly breathing in dangerous chemicals there’s less chance of the inhabitants suffering from eye, nose and throat irritations and headaches.
  • Elimination of mould: A home that is properly sealed and ventilated doesn’t give mould the chance to grow. Mould and damp can cause respiratory problems and infections, allergies or asthma. They can also affect the immune system.
  • Less temperature variations: Proper insulation in green homes reduces the fluctuation in temperature inside the home between seasons. Green homes are a comfortable temperature all year round which means you’re less likely to get sick. You may not get ill from being cold, but it does affect the immune system, making you more susceptible to any kind of infection or illness.
  • Cleaner water: the filtration systems used on green homes are effective at removing up to 99% of dangerous contaminants, including chlorine, metal and pesticides. And cleaner water means there’s less chance of you picking up an opportunistic infection.

But what does all of this mean for your pocket? Quite simply, it means you’ll be spending less time at the doctor’s rooms and less money on treatments and medicines. Healthcare is expensive and as the old saying goes—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Many studies have shown the health benefits that green building provide to the people who live and work in them. A healthier living space also makes people happier and more productive. These benefits make investing in a green home a smart decision for your pocket and your future health.

  1. A green home has a higher resale value

Your initial costs may be high, but if you ever need to sell your green home you’ll be pleased to hear that it can command a higher resale value than ordinary homes. Even retro-fitting an existing home with green features can increase your asking price when you sell it.

Energy efficient homes are becoming more attractive to homeowners because of the continual and long-tern savings they represent. And in current and future economic times, the ability to reduce your monthly running costs will be an important consideration when shopping for a home.

Scarcity of natural resources will also be a concern for future homeowners. So choosing a property that has been designed to make the most of natural energy sources will be more attractive. While green homes are still the exception, rather than the norm, many new developments are starting to incorporate green features. And in the future, tax rebates may be offered for those who make use of green technologies when building new homes.

How quickly you can expect a return on your investment in a green home depends on several factors. Your initial costs versus the savings on monthly utility bills, reduction in maintenance costs and the savings on your healthcare all contribute to the final figure. Within reason, you can expect to have recouped your costs within 10 years or less.

  1. Green homes reduce the strain on local infrastructure

Even those who do not live in an energy efficient home can benefit from living in an area where there are green homes available.

Because green homes don’t rely solely on the electricity grid to run their homes, this makes it much easier for local suppliers of electricity to cope with the demand. As a result, the cost of supplying these services will stabilise and make them more affordable and reliable for everyone.

Unfortunately there are not enough green homes to make this a reality yet. But with the movement becoming more popular it could mean that in the future, electricity will be more affordable for everyone. And that way, even if you do need to use the grid to supplement your photo-voltaic solar electricity supply, it won’t cost you as much as it might have.

  1. Green homes have many other benefits

Besides those already mentioned above, green homes have a number of other benefits that can’t be measured in monetary value.

The benefit to environment is the most obvious. Even though these homes still use a variety of building materials, these are sourced and used in a sustainable way. Harvesting rainwater and using solar panels for generating your own energy reduce the strain on local resources. Green homes generate less pollution and reduce your carbon footprint substantially.

Green homes are stronger, sturdier and built to last. They have been designed to work with nature and not against it. A good developer will take all aspects of the construction into consideration when helping you plan your green home. This includes looking at factors such as the location and your requirements. They will know how to maximise the efficiency of systems and techniques to benefit you and the environment.

Once you’ve experienced a green home you won’t want to live any other way. The air and water quality are often much better than those in other homes. Double glazed windows reduce noise pollution and make green homes a haven of peace and tranquility.

If the cost of buying or building a green home is putting you off the idea, these benefits should convince you otherwise. It’s tempting to try and save money, but when buying a home one needs to consider the long-term costs involved in maintaining and running it. And this is where a green home can really make an impact on your future expenses. Your home should be an investment for the future. So take the time to research and calculate the real cost of a potential property. Once everything is on paper, you’ll clearly see the financial benefits of going green. 

What makes a green home green?

What makes a green home green?

Today, many developers use the term ‘green’ to describe their buildings. But what are the elements that really make a house environmentally friendly? Does it only refer to using solar power for heating your water? Or harvesting rainwater in a cleverly hidden tank? Seeing as the term gets thrown around so often, we decided to give you a better understanding of what makes a home green.

If you’re serious about green living, there are six general aspects you should consider when building or buying a home. Each of these aspects possesses other smaller elements that are optional. In the end, you will need to decide which ones you can afford, and which ones you don’t really need. Here are the six we have highlighted—with a brief description of each.

Generating energy

Photo-voltaic solar panels are the obvious answer to reducing your reliance on the grid. But you should consider your needs carefully. How much energy would you need, to generate power for all of your appliances? Be realistic and look at ways to reduce the amount of energy you require. Ask yourself whether it’s worth investing in energy efficient appliances. Finally, work with a developer that understands how to utilise orientation, shading devices and insulation to lower your requirements.

  • How much energy will you need?

Measuring the amount of energy you need is step one. Step two is working out how much renewable energy you need to generate in order to maintain your household. It’s simple math and the answers are out there. Remember to do these sums thoroughly before you add this feature to your home—or purchase a home that has it already implemented.

  • Should you also buy energy efficient appliances?

Appliances that are designed to use less power can be extremely helpful too. However, this is not an option for everybody. If you have to balance your comfort and convenience, then these appliances are not going to make your life better. Living cheaply, doesn’t mean you have to live less comfortably. Rather generate lots of free, renewable power than having to lower your lifestyle.

  • Should you work with a green home developer?

Green home developers have already worked with green vendors. They’ve had their bad experiences with the dubious ones and finally found teams of individuals who deliver what they promise. That’s why it can be beneficial to work with these developers for advice. If you are looking for someone to help you get it right the first time, speak to someone who’s already made all the mistakes and come out on top.

Harvesting rainwater

After energy, a sustainable water supply is essential for any green home. Every effort must be made to make the collection of rainwater as efficient as possible. This requires expertise in the placement of pipes and catchments. Once again, developers need to have local knowledge of the rainfall patterns in your area to ensure maximum collection.

The most efficient rainwater harvesting methods are the cheapest. Finding a way to collect as much water as possible is the trick to maximising your efficiency and your savings. Remember, the more water you collect, the more you will benefit from your return on investment.

Once again, it’s important to use a proper expert to do this implementation in your home. Working with a green home developer who knows a good vendor, or finding a vendor with an excellent reputation is the key to getting the best system.

There are many important aspects to this green feature:

  • Positioning of the catchments
  • Installation of the pipes
  • Choosing the right collection point
  • Having high quality equipment all round

Only true experts will give full attention to detail with ALL of these aspects. So be sure to speak to the right people about installing your rainwater harvesting system.

Choosing materials

A home that is truly green is one that takes every part of the building process into consideration. And that includes the materials that are used in its construction. Bamboo is an example of a sustainable alternative to wood. It has a much lower impact on the environment but is just as durable.  It can be used for flooring, counter tops and in the construction of shaft covers.

Having a truly green home means using materials that have little impact on the environment. We’ll use bamboo as an example here. There are three questions to ask when choosing material:

  • Does harvesting this material take a lot of energy?

In the case of bamboo, harvesting has a significantly lower impact on the environment than other methods. These include cutting down large trees, mining, farming, etc.

  • Will the removal of this resource from nature negatively affect the planet?

Unlike trees, bamboo does not play that much of an important role in dissipating greenhouse gasses. Bamboo isn’t a huge oxygen producer either, so removing it has a very low impact on our planet.

  • Does this resource grow or generate fast enough to sustain its demand?

Bamboo grows incredibly fast! If and when the demand for bamboo increases, growing more will be quick and simple. This makes it incredibly sustainable as a building material.

Insulating the rooms

Being green is not only about harvesting natural resources for living. It’s also about maintaining what you have without needing to continually generate more. This is especially true in the case of heating and cooling your home. That’s where insulation comes in.

There are many ways you can insulate a room. For now, let’s just look at five:

  • Ceiling insulation

By insulating your home’s ceiling, you ensure that warm air cannot escape. Even though your ceiling is solid, air escapes through it much easier than you realise. This is an especially useful feature during winter. Warming up a room takes time, and that heat will not leave the room so easily.

  • Floor insulation

Floor insulation is another way to keep the temperature in your home constant. But more importantly, floor insulation ensures that your under-floor heating or cooling system (hydronics radiant heating and cooling system) retains its effectiveness.

  • Wall insulation

Probably the most effective way to retain a home’s desired temperature is through wall insulation. This is often done by using products such as Lambdaboard within a cavity in each exterior wall.

  • Window & glass door insulation

So much air escapes through closed doors and windows. In the case of windows and glass doors, even sealing the sides will not prevent air from escaping through the glass itself! Double glazing offers the solution here. By trapping the air within a small cavity in the window pane, your rooms will retain the temperature you set for them.

  • Pipe insulation

A homeowner who has truly adopted a green lifestyle will always insist on pipe insulation. This has a number of benefits:

  • Less electricity is needed to reheat water that would otherwise have cooled down faster
  • Water within pipes retains its heat so that water is ultimately saved by not having to run the tap for long
  • Pipe insulation also prevents your cold water pipes from reaching room temperature too quickly. This again saves you on having to run the tap longer when the water is required.

Consider your garden

Gardens take up a lot of time and effort to maintain. Even if you exclude the watering of a garden, there’s still the pruning, treating and mowing that goes into that maintenance. All of these things have an impact on the environment. So what’s the secret to owning a garden that’s as green as your home?

One of the biggest suggestions we put forth to our clients is the importance of planning indigenous trees and plants in a garden. Why do we see this as a green aspect? Because:

  • Indigenous plants need very little maintenance
  • They attract natural wildlife and birds to your garden
  • These plants require very little watering
  • They grow well together
  • They stay green all year round—that means less replacement gardening for you

Learning about invasive plant species in South Africa is also something you can do to be a more responsible homeowner. There is tons of information on the Internet about this subject. Fortunately for the South African environment, this topic is getting a lot of attention at the moment.

As you can see, gardening is a major part of living green. If your garden isn’t green, time to get a revamp. Green, environmentally friendly gardens are an essential part to reducing your carbon footprint.

Thinking about the little things

Another truly green aspect of any home is how easy it is to maintain the little things. We’re talking about cleaning, repairing, treating, painting, polishing… all those things that require time, energy, and chemicals.

Living green means thinking ahead about small aspects of maintenance. Today there are countless options available to homeowners and developers. Let’s take a brief look at some of them:

  • Low maintenance roof tiles

You can now purchase uncoloured roof tiles. This means that you will never have to paint them. It also means that they will never fade from the sun or rainfall. There are no side effects either. These tiles are durable, aesthetically pleasing and cost effective.

  • Stainless steel fittings

Something else to consider is that stainless steel is a great option for certain metal fittings within your home. Stainless steel is easy to clean. It’s also rust resistant and doesn’t require chemical treatment to maintain it.

  • Less lawn area

Maintaining a large area of lawn can be very expensive. It also takes up loads of energy and machine power to do so. If you want to truly live as green as possible, why not consider replacing lawn space with garden decor? This can include pretty rocks & pebbles, pavers, stepping stones, ground cover plants, gravel areas.

Retrofitting existing homes with these features can be challenging. But green homes are becoming more popular in South Africa. Purchasing a brand new green home is already an option that is available to those who appreciate the benefits of green living.

Gardening for greener living

Gardening for greener living

Your garden is the ideal place to start practicing greener living. Working in your garden is satisfying. Whether you grow prize roses, or vegetables to feed your family, sustainable gardening makes your efforts more rewarding. With a focus on preserving the soil and using resources wisely, eco-friendly gardening is cost-effective and easy to do. Here are some sustainable gardening principles you can start using in your garden right now.

  • Composting

Eco-friendly homes take advantage of available resources and make the most of them. Recycle your food scraps, used coffee grounds, vegetable peeling and plant cuttings. By making your own compost you’re able to fertilise your garden for free. And you’ll provide your plants with a rich source of nutrients. Composting is a perfect example of green living.

To make your own composter, start by picking out a shady spot in your garden. Your compost heap should be larger than a cubic metre, but smaller than 5 cubic metres. The compost heap should be large enough to generate sufficient heat to break down the material.

Start with a layer of course material such as thin sticks or twigs. Then add a mixture of grass clipping and green and dried leaves. Then add some soil. You can also add manure to your compost heap, make sure it’s well-rotted. You don’t want to be inundated with flies or a subject your neighbours to the potent smell. Keep adding more layers to your heap in this order until it’s a about a metre high. Over time, the material will turn to compost.

These are typical items you’re able to add to your compost heap:

  • Fruit and vegetable peelings
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags
  • Egg shells
  • Lawn cuttings
  • Nut shells
  • Straw
  • Paper
  • Cardboard and eggs cartons

Composting ticks two greener living habits off your checklist in one go. You end up sending less waste to the landfill, and you recycle organic materials at the same time. A third is, you feed your garden without it costing anything.

  • Harvesting rainwater

Any gardener knows that a beautiful garden needs water. This is one of our most precious resources. When experiencing a drought, harvesting rainwater is the ideal way to start living green. A sound investment in the future.

Rainwater is used for watering your garden, washing your car and even flushing your toilets. It’s not suitable for human consumption unless you filter it, using rainwater for general purpose jobs reduces the strain on the municipal supply. And, you’ll save money on your water bill at the same time.

While purpose-built eco-friendly homes have water tanks installed below ground, with existing homes if not possible to install underground, they are easily installed above ground. You’ll need to take into account how much water you need, the collection area of your roof and the rainfall pattern in your area to determine what size water tank you need. Water tanks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you’re bound to find one that works best for your garden.

If you haven’t got the room for a water tank, there are other ways to keep your plants hydrated the green living way:

  • Use mulch and ground cover to prevent water from evaporating.
  • Create raised beds to collect water and let it soak into the ground.
  • Use a watering can to water your garden instead of a hose pipe. That way you’ll use less water.
  • Swap your direct irrigation system for a drip irrigation system. This is an efficient way of watering your plants.

Using water wisely is the cornerstone of greener living. Water tanks are a great addition to eco-friendly homes. And in times of drought and water restrictions, you’ll prolong your supply of water to keep your garden blooming.

  • Planting native plants

Choose native plants that are hardy and drought resistant. Not only do they contribute to greener living, they require less maintenance. You’ll spend less time working on your garden, and more time enjoying it.

Native plants are well-adapted to local conditions so they don’t need as much water as foreign species. Indigenous trees, shrubs and flowers are more resistant to local pests and diseases. When planting trees consider their position and type to reduce your home’s heating and cooling costs.

Evergreen trees are green all year round so use them to form a windbreak and protect your home from chilly winds in winter. In summer, they’ll keep your home cool and comfortable. While deciduous trees lose their leaves in winter making them ideal for protecting the areas of your home that get the full sun in summer. Come winter, when the leaves fall off to let the sun in to warm the room.

Using plants to control the temperature of your home means you won’t have to rely as much on air-conditioners and heaters. If you adopt this green living trick you can make your home more comfortable and save on electricity. These natural methods are something that eco-friendly houses incorporate into their design from the start. And there’s no reason why you can’t do the same in your garden.

  • Controlling pests organically

Gardens attract insects and while eco-friendly gardeners recognise that some are beneficial, others are just pests. There’s no need to abandon your green living principles with them. From home-made insecticides to encouraging natural predators, there are organic ways to stop pests from ruining your garden:

  • Natural solutions: Save your eggshells from breakfast, crush them up and spread them around the base of your plants. That will keep slugs and cut worms away. Sprinkle salt around on the soil to stop snails from taking over. Don’t go overboard though, too much salt in the soil isn’t good for your plants.
  • Clean and tidy: Pests prefer untidy gardens. It gives them the chance to settle in and start breeding. So keep your lawn manicured and your beds tidy. Remove fruits and vegetables before they start rotting and become a food source for pests; and good for the compost heap.
  • Install barriers. Physical barriers such as mesh and nets protect plants from pests. Loosely woven material protects plants while they get enough water and sunlight to grow.
  • Insect-repelling plants. Citronella, marigolds, thyme, lemongrass and spearmint are all plants with insect-repelling properties. When planted in-between your shrubs they naturally repel pests – no need for chemicals.
  • Encourage birds. Hanging a feeder gets birds to visit your garden. Birds are fond of snacking on bugs and will help control the pest population in your garden. Lizards and frogs are another natural form of pest control.

Save on expensive and damaging chemicals and use natural, greener living methods to manage pests in your garden. You’ll discover that once you start working with nature, you’ll achieve the results you want with less effort, and costs.

  • Old-fashioned garden maintenance

To maintain a garden you rely on a number of tools to keep it looking tidy. Lawn mowers, leaf blowers and hedge trimmers are an essential part of any gardener’s kit. Where possible, choose electric-powered equipment. You could invest in cordless tools to make your job easier.

Electric-powered lawn equipment creates less noise and air pollution than the gas-powered models. Electricity is also cheaper than fuel and another way of saving on costs of keeping your garden in tip-top shape. Alternatively, using a traditional push mower and get a workout while attending to your garden.

An alternative to leaf-blowers, is sweeping the driveways and sidewalks the old-fashioned way – and getting in a workout. Though it may take longer, it saves on fuel and noise pollution. Green living, though by working differently, saves costs in various ways.

And did you know that using a hoe to cultivate between your plants suppresses weeds and aerates the soil? Spending a few minutes in your garden every day and pulling weeds, by hand contains weeds and they won’t spread get out of control. Ten minutes daily beats hours of weeding once a month.

Working in your garden is as good for the garden as for your soul. By returning to greener living practices you re-discover the joy of spending time in nature.

  • Designing eco-friendly gardens

Eco-friendly homes with eco-friendly gardens is a balanced eco-system. Compliment the indoors and outdoors, by following greener living through to your outdoor spaces too. Whether working with an existing garden, or starting one from scratch using these tips create a garden that’s eco-friendly:

  • Recycle materials. If you want to build a deck or a patio, use recycled materials or a material that can be recycled such as wood or aluminium. Some manufacturers offer you a composite material made from a combination of plastic and wood particles. This type of decking is fade-resistant and easy to clean. It requires little maintenance and looks attractive.
  • Plan your planting. Learn about native plants to make your garden attractive. The local nursery is able to help pick out indigenous plants that are ideal for our gardens. Native plants will help you to cut down on water usage, repel local pests. Have a beautiful garden. Use a combination of sun-loving and shade-loving plants appropriately. The more you know about the plants you want to use, the better your landscaping.
  • Limit your lawn area. Lawns require frequently watering and care to keep them looking at their best. Consider whether you need a large lawn and if you don’t, experiment with other kinds or ground covers that don’t need as much water or maintenance. Natural grasses are just as attractive and are suited to droughts and our particular weather conditions.
  • Make maintenance easy: Designing your garden in way that makes it easy to look after. Remember that green living is convenience. If you want to harvest rainwater for use in your garden, or start a composting heap, set aside space for these projects. Incorporate them from the start and make them part of your garden. Reduce the need for gas-guzzling or power-sapping garden tools. Working on your garden is a pleasure when approaching it differently.

When adopting green living gardening principles, changes the way you see your garden. Eco-friendly homes are about convenience, saving costs and being environmentally friendly. Everyone benefits when becoming mindful of how resources are used. Explore ways that you’ll enjoy and start a small project putting your ideas into practice.