According to Folio Weekly, the Haskell Corporation - a Fortune 500 company based in Jacksonville with a large building on the Northbank of the St. Johns River - recently ripped out turf grass along the edge of the river and replaced it with drought-tolerant, native landscaping. They also installed signs explaining "river-friendly" yard practices to educate foot traffic passing by.
Jacksonville-based CSX Transportation, an international transportation company, is funding a small forest of native trees to be planted in Springfield's Klutho Park on Hogan's Creek. About 150 volunteers from CSX and Greenscape will plant 75 live oak, holly, cypress, little gem magnolia and crape myrtle trees in the park. CSX has promised to plant one tree for each of the 21,000 miles of track in its railway system.
Go Green with Florida-Friendly Outdoor Improvements
When it comes to lawn care, Floridians now have additional options for creating environmentally friendly backyards. While homeowner associations have limited lawn types in the past, residents of Jacksonville, and those living in the North and Northeast parts of Florida, have legislator support to convert their landscapes into green outdoor improvements.
Homeowner associations require tenants to adhere to rules that govern the appearance of lawns. Mainly these ordinances require residents to grow St. Augustine grass, or in areas such as St. Petersburg, association rules require residents use sodded grass. Homeowners who want to transition to landscapes that use native plants, now have additional support from legislators. This means that homeowners have the opportunity to covert sod into eco-friendly options without repercussions from homeowner associations.
In October 2001, lawmakers passed a bill allowing homeowners to switch from sod lawns to xeriscaping (now replaced by “Florida friendly”), a technique that develops attractive landscapes without relying on mass amounts of water, pesticides and fertilizers. The law also states that homeowner associations cannot take legal action against those who convert to eco-friendly options. Senate Bill (SB) 2080, which Governor Crist signed into law in June 2009, extends the 2001 law by letting homeowners switch to “Florida-friendly” options without breaking association rules.
Associations are concerned that any deviation from the norm will spoil the reputation of gated and upscale communities known for their lush and bright-green lawns. Moreover, associations are concerned that the government is taking away their rights to enforce standing community rules. However, these past and recent laws ensure that residents have options that will not deter from the standards of their communities.
For long-standing residents who do not want to upset neighbors or association rules, there is a St. Augustine grass option available. Floridians now have a choice to use Captiva, a new type of St. Augustine grass. Captiva uses a process of reclaimed water so homeowners cut down on their water intake. For some homeowners, irrigation costs account for approximately 50 percent of all home water usage. Captiva reduces these costs because this type of grass grows slower and requires less mowing and watering.
Using the above method helps Floridians do their part to conserve water and energy, without sacrificing a yard’s look. In addition to using Captiva to get around association rules, local governments have the authority to provide homeowners and contractors additional tax breaks and incentives to go green. By building green, homeowners take advantage of lower energy costs, tax credits, and utility company rebates.
Furthermore, developers who exceed water-efficient principles, receive reductions in city and/or county permit applications. This allows developers to continue to manage costs to build sites and greenery for their clients. Individual residents are not required to submit a design plan that meets or exceeds the “Florida-friendly” principles. However, those who submit plans, receive reductions in utility-water charges, permit fees, and property taxes.
Lawmakers state that SB 2080 works to protect the integrity of the environment and its water resources. However, environmentalists argue that a last-minute addendum to the bill harms peoples’ rights to obtain permits. This addendum shifts responsibility of granting water permits to executive directors and staff of Florida’s five-water management districts. Previously, a water-management governing board granted permits to residents who made their cases at public hearings.
While the ability to approve water permits still generates debate, some points remain clear. Citizens who convert to green options receive additional tax breaks and they no longer fear fines from their homeowner associations. At a time of severe drought, homeowners should seize the opportunity to create green outdoor improvements while taking advantage of the rewards that come from using renewable energy to conserve Florida’s water supply.
Ecological-friendly outdoor home and backyard improvements are a growing trend in North Florida due to the terrific benefits for consumers as well as the environment.
One possible home improvement option is solar panels. These simple-construction panes don’t have any moving parts and don’t require fuel. They are a green and renewable way of producing electricity for a home. Try Sunworks Solar or Dragonfly Solar in Jacksonville, FL for solar panels and other products.
For lighting the outside of a house use outdoor compact fluorescent bulbs, which consume less energy and have a longer life span than other bulbs. Another option is eco-friendly LED lights. They last 2 times longer than standard fluorescent and do not have mercury in them. Solar lamps and dark sky lamps are another decorative option as well. Take advantage of energy saving motion sensors for outdoor lights. Leaving porch lights on all night can eat up a lot of wattage, cut back by installing motion sensor lights that only come on when they need to.
Backyard patio furniture and outdoor kitchen set ups can be environmentally friendly when constructed of sustainable, renewable material such as bamboo, cedar and teak. These are also great materials, as well as recycled PVC, for building arbors and trellises. When painting or sealing furniture for outdoor use, be sure to use non-toxic, ecological-friendly products like Environmental Building Supplies natural paints and stains to preserve the furniture piece and the ecosystem.
Building a “green” deck is also a wonderful outdoor home improvement that is a growing trend with Northeast Florida residents. There have been a number of advancements in eco-friendly building materials such as recycled plastic lumber that can be used to build a beautiful deck. Recycled plastic lumber is about as perfect a material as it gets. It does not need to be sealed, stained or weather proofed, it involves very little maintenance and does not rot. Using this material is helpful to landfills too because recycled plastic lumber is made of postconsumer plastics such as grocery bags.
For pavement/cement outdoor home improvements, use eco-friendly brick pavers. Recycled-brick Brick Pavers help to drain water into the ground and not into streams or rivers, which helps improve water quality. Similarly are permeable paving stones, which look like concrete, but are porous to help with water drainage and won’t trap heat. Gravel is as “green” as pavement related materials can get and is cost effective both initially and to maintain. Try Moderna Pavers of Jacksonville Beach for eco-friendly paving and concrete solutions like permeable pavers.
Backyard swimming pools offer First Coast swimmers environmentally friendly options as well. Simply using a reflective cover can cut down on evaporation rates causing pool owners to replenish the water less often. There are water-saving filters, such as Pentair Quad DE Filters, that use a system of smaller pumps to reduce electricity consumption and reusable cartridges to cut down on backwash water usage. The biggest green pool trend is saltwater pools. They are helpful to both bathers and Mother Nature due to its low chlorine content (however, these pools are not chlorine free). The lower amount of chemicals help the environment as well as reduce the “stinging eye” or “burning” feeling some swimmers report after being in a high chlorine pool. There are companies that install the special filters needed for saltwater pools as well as offer “green” cleaning services. In South Florida try Bay Area Pool Service.
To encourage eco-friendly outdoor home improvement upgrades the Florida government offers a variety of incentives. One is the ‘Solar Rebate Program,’ which states that residents who purchase
and install solar energy systems are qualified to receive a rebate for a part of the cost. The ‘Renewable Energy Equipment Sales Tax Exemption’ offers a sales tax refund of machines and equipment for
renewable energy technologies such as hydrogen-powered vehicles. ‘Clay Electric Cooperative, Inc - Energy Conservation Loans’ are low interest loans offered to customers in order to assist in financing energy efficiency upgrades for houses.
The LEED for Homes Reference Guide, a comprehensive tool for residential builders using the LEED for Homes Green Building Rating System, is now available for purchase online at www.usgbc.org/store. The Reference Guide offers over 350 pages of information, resources and standards for the LEED credits covered within the residential green home certification program.
LEED for Homes is a national, third-party certification program for green homes developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The rating program provides a framework for “whole building design” of homes that have lower utility bills, are healthier and more comfortable for the occupants, and are better for the environment.
Along with the availability of the LEED for Homes Reference Guide, homebuilders, architects and designers will now have access to a larger pool of local LEED for Homes providers. The network of homes providers recently doubled to meet surging interest. Currently 540 homes have certified under the LEED for Homes rating system and nearly 13,000 projects are under development.
The Reference Guide is available for pre-order and will begin shipping in April 2008. To purchase a LEED for Homes Reference Guide and view other publications for sale, visit the USGBC store at www.usgbc.org/store.
About LEED for Homes
LEED for Homes is a national third-party certification system for leadership in green homebuilding. It was developed by USGBC through a consensus process that included leading building scientists, home builders, architect, and other diverse representation from the homebuilding community. LEED for Homes rates and certifies green homes based on six sets of criteria, including energy and atmosphere, water usage, sustainable sites, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and location and linkages. Additional consideration is given for extraordinary innovation. A comprehensive Reference Guide, instructor-led workshops, and online courses about LEED for Homes are available.
The U.S. Green Building Council is a nonprofit membership organization whose vision is a sustainable built environment within a generation. Its membership includes corporations, builders, universities, government agencies, and other nonprofit organizations. Since UGSBC's founding in 1993, the Council has grown to include more than 13,500 member companies and organizations, a comprehensive family of LEED® green building rating systems, an expansive educational offering, the industry's popular Greenbuild International Conference and Expo (www.greenbuildexpo.org), and a network of 72 local chapters, affiliates, and organizing groups. For more information, visit www.usgbc.org.