Light on the Salt Please! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lisa Alexander   

Rock Salt and other deicers may melt the ice but they also end up in our streams, rivers, and lakes and pollute and contaminate our water, plants, and food supply.  Rock salt may sound harmless, but in high concentrations the various ingredients can stunt or kill plants and end up in our waterways through storm runoff, contaminating birds and fish that live and feed there.  Some manufacturers also add dangerous chemicals to keep the salts from clumping together.  One of those is Magnesium Chloride, which contains a derivative of cyanide that has recently been banned from use in pre-treated lumber due to its ability to leach out of the wood and contaminate the soil.

Real, Plastic or Potted….will the Real Green Christmas Tree please stand up! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lisa Alexander   

This time of year the question I get asked the most is, “What is the greenest choice for a Christmas tree?”

The answer is a real organic potted evergreen tree that can be replanted in the spring.  If you can, try to find an organic version because most tree farms use chemical pesticides and herbicides to protect and maintain a perfect commercial crop.  These chemicals leach into our ground and water supply and pollute rivers, streams and our drinking water. The same goes for a cut Christmas tree.  If you can’t afford the extra money for a potted live tree then still try to find a responsible organic tree farm.  Do you really want to bring all those extra chemicals like chlorpyriforus, a suspected neurotoxin, into your house? 

Garden Paths PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lisa Alexander   

Scholars say that civilization started when nomadic tribes of people stopped roaming the earth and settled down in a fertile place to gather the “fruits” of the land.  This was when the first garden paths were created.  While the men were out hunting, the women were collecting natural edible treats from the fields and woods near their settlement.  The paths were the routes they took as they went on their daily forages, wearing down the ground beneath their feet.


As societies progressed, so did their gardens.  People learned how to cultivate the land and control what they grew.  Throughout the history of civilization, paths have been important in determining the shapes and spaces of gardens.  Garden paths were meant for both form and function.  Besides being a creative line of communication throughout the garden, paths provide access for maintenance and help control surface drainage, mud and dust.


The nature of the path reflects the cultural attitudes of the society that designed it.  The earliest Egyptian frescoes show formal, geometric walled gardens with straight paths that were often dictated by irrigation channels and protective walls.  The idea of straight paths and symmetrical gardens is thought to be brought back from the Middle East and Northern Africa to Europe during the crusades.  This style continued for centuries.


The raids of Alexander the Great introduced the Greeks to the elaborate Asian garden culture.  The gardens of Asia attempt to recreate the natural world.  The guiding principle of paths working with nature, meandering through gardens, streams, ponds and hills, dates back over 2,500 years.  This style did not reach Europe until the eighteenth century.


Whether you want the feel of a formal old English garden or a meandering garden influenced by Taoist nature worship, the garden path is your opportunity to be creative.  It may not lead anywhere specific, it may be more functional, but the way you lay out your path and the materials you use will determine how your visitors experience it.


Your garden path can be straight, meandering, narrow or wide.  It can be made of cut stone, fieldstone, grass, brick, concrete, wood, gravel, trodden earth or the naturally occurring woodland floor like a trail of pine needles.  Lighter colored, harder materials reflect sunlight and increase heat.  Darker, softer materials will absorb heat and disperse it to the surrounding soil, making more comfortable surfaces and reducing temperature.


 The “Greener” choice, as in environmentally friendly and in color, is to use a natural path whether it be sand, gravel or grass, depending on the natural climate where you live. Grass paths are the most comfortable and provide good drainage and natural air conditioning.  An alternative to grass would be to create a natural carpet using plants that hug the ground closely.  The only disadvantage to these is that they do not hold up well to heavy foot traffic.


The next best natural “green” choice would be decomposed granite.  DG looks like dirt without the dust, is functional, drains well, and is inexpensive and easy to install.  You can also use other loose gravels or oyster shells packed into soil or mulch, but be careful walking barefoot on these.


Bark or mulch can also be a simple natural way to create a path and it’s easy to maintain.  You will need to lay down a new layer every couple of years.  There is however, a new product on the market that mimics natural bark or mulch, comes in many colors and sizes, and does not need to be added to every few years.  It is made from recycled rubber tires.  It resists compaction, fading, rot, termites and won’t blow away.  It will save time and money and is non-toxic and environmentally friendly.  It is called Rubberific Mulch.  You’ll find it on the web or ask your local garden center.


Whatever “path” you choose, you can’t go wrong…for the path you take will be path you create.


Lisa Alexander, LEED AP


Originally Published in Milford Magazine, April 2006

Copyright (c) 2008 Green Life, Inc., All Rights Reserved.”

Hire an Architect and Save Money PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lisa Alexander   

Sounds crazy but it’s true. Hiring an architect for your new home, additions and renovations, will actually save you money on both the initial build, and for years to come.

How & Why you ask? Well it is the architect who is the certified and licensed professional with years of education, training and experience to help you through the whole design building process to help you construct an efficient and economical home of your dreams, distinctive to your style and personal needs rather than a pre-designed home out of a book with no personal thought to your specific lifestyle. The question is do you want a home that fits your wants & needs and has better re-sale value or do you just want to buy a house “off the rack”?

Easy and Inexpensive Ways to Save Energy and Money this Winter PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lisa Alexander   

With an uncertain economy and fuel prices looming this winter, saving energy not only means saving the planet, but right now more importantly it also means saving money. Almost half of a home’s energy costs go to heating and cooling, but there are easy and inexpensive ways to save energy and money without having to spend thousands of dollars on new Energy Star appliances, furnaces, windows and doors, or other retrofits. 

 First and foremost turn down the thermostat.   Throw on an extra sweater and snuggle up with your sweetie or pet to help keep you warm while you’re saving money. For every 5-10 degrees you lower your heat you could save up to 20% on your heating bill or roughly $200 a year! Turn the heat down considerably during the day when you’re not home and at night too, just grab an extra blanket. Programmable thermostats can become useful in this case, but a decent one may cost you up to $200. However, if you can remember to change the temperature regularly yourself, you will save money.  Make sure you properly maintain your heating equipment and clean or change your air filters monthly.  Keep your baseboards, warm air registers, and radiators clean and dust free and make sure they are not blocked by carpeting, drapes or furniture.

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