Face it: The classic suburban lawn is an ecological disaster.  

Grooming that expanse of velvety green grass has historically involved pesticides, herbicides and plenty of water through summer’s hottest months—not to mention the oil and gasoline needed to fuel the lawn mower.  

But there’s help for eco-warriors who want some green space at home—and the time to enjoy it.  

“Doing your bit for the environment doesn’t mean donning tie-dye and chaining yourself to the nearest panda,” says Carl Smith, PhD, a landscape architecture professor at the University of Arkansas School of Architecture and coauthor of the new book Residential Landscape Sustainability: A Checklist Tool.  

“We all know what we can do in the house—for example, using low-energy light bulbs,” says Dr. Smith, who earned his doctoral degree in sustainable housing design at the University of Sheffield in England. “What may be less obvious is what we can do literally around the house—in the yard, the garden or the driveway.”  

Here are two of his tips for greening your garden.  

Plant Trees 

If you have the room, trees can provide protection for your house from hot sun and cold winds, reducing winter heating and summer air-conditioning. In fact, planting trees and larger shrubs in the right place can help you save up to one-quarter of your energy bills.  Of course, trees also help provide habitat for birds and insects and, just as importantly, make our human habitat more attractive. Studies have shown yard trees can have a significant impact on how attractive your property and street appear.  

Think Natural  

Common sense tells us that the more processing a building product goes through, the more energy and potential pollution is likely to be involved in its manufacture.  

When adding surfacing or features to the lot, remember that naturally occurring materials like timber, stone and aggregate tend to have a lesser environmental impact than metals, plastics, bricks and cement.  

Tune in tomorrow for more of Dr. Smith’s tips. And for more articles on organic gardening, please click here.