The United Nations set up a scientific body known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to research the international affects of global warming. Their recent report states that temperatures are rising faster than any time in the last 500 years, and predicts that the overall surface temperature could rise as much as four degrees centigrade within the next century.
The main cause of this global warming is due to the increase in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide due to human activities. As landscapers, there is something we can do to help cut the overall emissions. Given the effects of climate change (including droughts in some areas and rising sea levels in others)are already being felt in many areas, so landscape architecture-based mitigation strategies are now being implemented in many cities and towns.
In Texas, Dallas landscape designers can work with local city leaders and the Metroplex planning department to design and roll out land based mitigation strategies to reduce emissions through smarter community planning to offer plenty of green space. Green open spaces like parks are critical to making low-carbon urban living possible and improving the environment at the same time. New developments can also be planned to have a higher density of trees, and also incorporating new ideas such as green rooftops and green balconies.
There are other ideas which can be applied along the Texas Interstate Highways, for example conventional grass medians can be replaced with an eco-friendly landscape that is both attractive, and eco-friendly, producing great water savings as well. On a project such as this, existing turf can be left in place, and sheet mulch added (layers of recycled cardboard, mulch and compost). These layers both improve the quality of soil and help retain its ability to retain moisture. Using sub-surface irrigation with drip emitters will cut water loss due to evaporation in the heat of the summer. Once the sheet mulch and irrigation is laid, local Texan plants can be selected. Local native plants that have developed over generations to require less water are both very attractive and are drought resistant.
Not just restricted to city projects, home owners from Richardson to Plano can also play their part in slowing climate change, by implementing xeriscaping in their back yards. Xeros derives from the Greek word dry, and is a system of landscaping that both preserves water and also protects the environment.
This is different from zero-scaping which relies on stone, rocks and gravel, but rather relies on plants including native shrubs, flowers, bushes and trees. Generally across North America, approximately half of all residential water use is used for watering lawns, and xeriscaping can reduce watering by as much as 60%. Every square yard of lawn replaced by drought tolerant plants can save up to 400 gallons of water per year. Converting a lawn does need some design and careful planning, but with low water irrigation, improving the backyard soil quality and the use of mulch, permeable paving for paths and the planting of native shade trees you can have both a beautiful backyard which is environmentally friendly too.