Case Study > How to Adjust to a LIVE Green Lifestyle>
How to Adjust to a LIVE Green Lifestyle
LIVE Green is a non profit organization in the city of Lancaster that educates the residents of the city on how to live a green lifestyle. The LIVE in LIVE Green, stands for Lancaster Investment in a Vibrant Economy. The goal of this organization is working on implementing and supporting initiatives that have measurable impact on the livability and environmental sustainability of Lancaster through resource development, public education, and tangible projects.
What is LIVE Green?
LIVE Green focuses on two areas, Residential and Institutional and then, within those two areas, they focus on water and energy issues throughout Lancaster City. In the Residential areas, they concentrate on rain barrels, composting, and Energy Solutions for City homes. On the institutional side they concentrate on Green Roofs, Green Facilities partnerships, and building energy technologies certificate programs.
LIVE Green is promoted throughout the city in many ways, such as Grass Roots Promotion, Face book, all different types of social networking, posters in local spots, Green Pages, Downtown Directory, workshops throughout the year, and the cheapest way, which is word of mouth.
LIVE Green wants to “engage residents, and build shared understanding and vision of the city and its environment through program development and education, as well as develop collaboration to leverage resources, implement programs, and raise profile. Increasing the adoption of greening principles among Lancaster City institutions is also part of the goal.”
Lancaster County Roof Greening Project
One of the bigger projects that LIVE Green is associated with, is the Lancaster County Roof Greening Project. “Through the Lancaster County, Roof Greening Project, the Lancaster County Planning Commission and its partners are working to facilitate the installation of the vegetated or “green” roofs on roughly seventy-nine thousand square feet of non residential roof space in Lancaster County. The goal of this project is to demonstrate the many benefits of roof greening, while developing the capacity of local businesses to respond to increased demand for this innovative technology. The program is funded through a grant from the Department of Environmental Protection Energy Harvest Fund, and expires in June of 2010. As of October 2009, forty-four thousand square feet is under contract or has been installed. Additional partners and roof space is being sought for greening.”
Many other parties are involved with the project such as engineers, architects, landscape architects, roofing and landscaping contractors, and material suppliers. The engineer’s role is to examine the current roof structure they are dealing with. After determining if the structure is safe enough to support a design for a new roof that is up to date with green roof requirements and specifications, the landscape architects plant the material and design extra features such as patios and pergolas if needed.
What is a green roof? “A green roof is a vegetated roof cover that is installed on top of an otherwise conventional roof characteristic that more closely resemble a natural environment.” Ancient green roof technologies have been used for thousands of years. Today, “Modern green roof technologies were developed in Germany during the 1980’s.
A big part of this project is the up keep and installation of the green roofs.
There are six different maintenance categories designed for Lancaster County Roof Greening Project.
The first one is designing for low maintenance, and that means that once the green roof is installed, it takes a general low maintenance for up keeping of the roof.
The second maintenance is watering and fertilizing, and this consist of initial watering, and a few times fertilizing, which is required until all the plants have fully grown. However, once the plants are all healthy and have had time to establish, due to extreme drought situations green roofs cant be responsible.
The third maintenance category is trimming and wedging. If the green roof designing is right and proper, usually a green roof does not have to be cut, but some times weeding the rooftop may be necessary.
The fourth maintenance category is inspection for drainage, which allows for drainage flow paths, which are very crucial for green roofs to last.
The fifth maintenance category is inspection for leaks. Certain areas of a green roof may occasionally need inspections for leaks in areas such as the vertical walls, roof vent pipes, outlets, air conditioning units, and perimeter areas.
The sixth and last maintenance category is roof replacement. Since green roofs are more efficient that regular conventional roofs, protecting the roof membrane is vital. This will cut down on the maintenance cost and will extend the life of the membrane.
There are six parts to the anatomy of a green roof:
The six parts of the roof are the sedum plants, roots barrier and separation layer, roof deck insulation waterproofing, filter layer, drainage board, and protection fabric.
There are a plethora of benefits for the Lancaster County Roof Greening Project, but some stand out among others. When it comes to energy conservation, green roofs provide additional insulation for the building, and decrease heating amounts. Green roofs can decrease temperatures, which in the long run helps to reduce even more energy costs. Storm water management is a key factor to this project because a green roof reduces storm-water run-off anywhere from 70-90 percent. The roof defends against things such as toxins and pollutants, which come from the run-off water. Again, in the long run, this will all lead to reduction of toxins and pollutants with the number of overflows, and minimize the amount of land needed for development. A green roof can give environmental enhancements as well. A green roof is also incorporated with green infrastructures in the environment by absorbing green house gases, such as carbon dioxide. The green roof is also considered a resource conservation, which means that the roof lasts twice as long as a normal conventional roof, which saves cost along the way, since green roofs last over 20 years.
What is Green Infrastructure?
There are two different types of infrastructures, green and gray. “Gray infrastructures refer to engineered systems such as roads, sewers, water facilities, and electrical transmission lines. They are man made substructures that support societal functions such as communications, movement, and commerce. Green infrastructures differ from gray in many ways, yet both are essential to a healthy viable community.”
Being a resident in Lancaster City can be very different from being a green resident in Lancaster City. “Residents can do many things and one of the simplest ways to support local green infrastructure development while also benefiting directly is to make your own home and neighborhood greener. A variety of simple solutions exist for protecting and enhancing local water resource and native species, increasing energy efficiency and building community support.”
Green Infrastructure Solutions
According to LIVE Green “Lancaster is tackling pressing environmental concerns by employing an innovative design strategy that uses natural “green” resources to clean out air and water, reduce energy cost, and enhance the natural beauty of the place we live, learn, work, and play. This cost-effective, sustainable, and environmentally friendly approach is called “green infrastructure”
There are so many different solutions out there that anyone can learn about and implement in their everyday lives. LIVE Green emphasizes two of them, rain barrels and composting. “Rain barrels are one component of a ‘Green Infrastructure’ approach to wet weather management that are cost effective and environmentally friendly. Rain barrels are custom designed to work day in, and day out to keep rainwater out of storm drains and sewers. Connected to your home’s downspout, the rain barrel collects storm water during each rainfall. During dry weather, a hose connected to the barrel allows the water to seep out to water gardens and replenish the ground water table.”
LIVE Green has a program called the Rain Barrel Workshop, and the goal on the workshop is to educate city residents about storm water pollution. “Each participant is provided with an affordable high quality rain barrel, at a subsidized cost, along with the training to prepare them to install and manage their rain barrels properly. Empowering participants to take action and make a change by utilizing the green space around their home.”
According to Storm Water PA, flooded basements, impassible roadways, and overflowing sewers and eroded stream banks are problems. Besides costing time, money, and aggravation, all these problems pose serious threats to human health. The good news is that there are wide ranges of new ways to deal with storm water run off more effectively, and turn it from nuisance into valuable resource.
The earth is made up of 71 percent of water. “Only 2.7 percent of that is fresh water, and of that, most is frozen in glaciers and ice caps. Less than one half of one percent of all of the worlds water is fresh water that is actually available for living things to use. It’s no wonder that water quality is a constant concern, or that the negative impacts of storm water have become such a big deal. Not only do impervious surfaces such as roads, parking lots, sidewalks, and rooftops add to the non point source pollution problem by carrying contaminants directly into surface waters, they prevent storm water from seeping into the ground where it can be filtered.
“Rain barrels offer multiple impacts and benefits to both the homeowner and the municipality’s infrastructure. Using rain barrels helps to divert water from the municipal storm drain system, protect rivers and streams from runoff pollution, control moisture levels around the foundation of a home, provide oxygenated, un-chlorinated water, which is ideal for plants, direct overflow water to where it will have the most beneficial impact, and conserve a vital natural resource.”
The next focus for LIVE Green is composting. “Composting is the controlled decomposition of organic materials into a soil-like substance called compost. Organic materials, such as grass clippings, leaves, yard trimmings, food scraps, and non recyclable paper products, can be composted at home in compost bins or piles. Backyard composting is an easy and economical way for individuals to convert their organic waste into a soil amendment that they can use to mulch landscape, enhance plant growth, enrich topsoil, and provide other benefits to plants and soil.”
LIVE Green proposes that if everyone started composting, the amount of waste hauled to landfills will be reduced by almost one third, while cutting back on fertilizers and soil amendments purchased annually. Using compost to condition your soil also reduces the harmful over use and runoff of chemical fertilizers into local streams and bodies of water. Over abundance of phosphates and nitrates from chemical fertilizers disturbs the aquatic environment by causing an over growth of algae. The overgrowth of algae depletes oxygen in the water, resulting in death for fish and other aquatic creatures.
Composting is one of the few waste management techniques that can be performed without expensive technology or energy requirements. It can be accomplished by using methods ranging from simple stacked piles, to boxed enclosures made of wood or brick.
The primary goals of LIVE Green’s compost program is to educate city residents about the nature of residential waste and the benefits of composting, and empowering participants to take action and make a change. By providing each participant with an affordable high quality compost bin at a subsidized cost, along with the training to prepare them to manage their compost properly, will only benefit them.
There are many environmental benefits of composting, such as:
1. Reduces the cost of getting rid of your garbage, especially when you pay by the bag.
2. Reduces the smell of your garbage bags. With all that wet stuff gone, your trash is lighter, with less smell.
3. Reduces global warming. Food decomposing in landfills produces methane, a supercharged greenhouse gas, and in your backyard compost bin, it does not.
4. Saves space for longer-lived landfills.
5. Produces great soil amendment for your garden by returning nutrients to the soil such as phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, iron and boron.
6. When added to the soil compost helps promote root development, enhances retention of water and nutrients, and makes the soil easier to cultivate.
7. When used on the surface of the soil as mulch, compost reduces rainfall run-off, decreases water evaporation from the soil, and helps to control weeds.
The recipe for composting is easy and requires four basic ingredients: nitrogen, carbon, water and air. The easiest compost recipe calls for layering or mixing roughly equal parts of green material, which is high in nitrogen, and brown or dry material, which is high carbon, in a pile or enclosure.
Greens (Nitrogen) ~Yard Trimmings ~Green Leaves ~Manure ~Kitchen Waste: egg shells, coffee grounds, tea and tea bags and vegetables
Browns (Carbon) ~Wood Chips ~Sawdust ~Paper Towels ~Dried Leaves ~Shredded Paper ~Straw/ Hay
Hint: The compost pile should be at least three feet wide, three feet deep and three feet tall. The size provides enough insulation for the organisms to remain warm and happy.
What is a Green Roof? A Green Roof is a roofing system that utilizes vegetation to absorb rain water and reduce heat absorption. Green roofs reduce storm water runoff, conserve energy by providing insulation, reduce the heat island effect, extend the life of the roof and improve air quality.
There are two types of green roofs: extensive and intensive. “Extensive green roofs have a soil depth of 1”- 5”, depending on the soil make up of the soil mixture. The weight of extensive roofs range from 15 to 50 pounds per square foot. Intensive green roofs require a minimum of one foot of soil depth to create a roof garden that contains trees, shrubs and perennials. The system consists of multi layers of rubber or vinyl moisture and root barriers, organic media, and integrated irrigation and drainage systems.”
Another solution is Porous Paving Material which reduces pavement. “Reducing or minimizing impermeable surfaces such as pavement is another way to reduce storm water runoff and allow water to soak into the ground. If you cant reduce the hard surfaces, you might consider installing porous paving.”
One of the easiest solutions is to plant trees, either in your yard or around your community. “Trees ‘breath’ carbon dioxide and ‘exhale’ oxygen. They help reduce heat by creating shade and soak up excess water near our homes and in our towns and cities.” Planting and conserving shade trees can improve air quality as well as to save energy. The leaves and needles of trees have surface areas that absorb pollutants and release oxygen. They can improve water quality by capturing and storing rainfall in the canopy and releasing water into the atmosphere through evapotranspiration. Trees can also conserve energy and lower home cooling bills by blocking windows, doors and roofs from the sun.
“Whether you plant trees around your home and property, in your community, or in our national forests, they help fight global warming. Through the natural process of photosynthesis, trees absorb CO2 and other pollutant particulates, then store the carbon and emit pure oxygen.”
“Planting the right trees in the right places conserves energy and reduces your energy bills, while helping to fight global warming. Large deciduous trees planted on the east, west, and northwest sides of your home create soothing shade from the hot summer sun and reduce summer air conditioning costs by up to 35 percent.”
There is also another solution called native plants. Native plants are those that grow naturally in the region. Supporting landscaping with native plants helps save energy and water, creates a natural area for children to play, and provides food and shelter for birds, butterflies and other desirable wildlife. It also improves air quality by reducing erosion and runoff.
“Native plants in the rain gardens and in landscaping in general are preferred because they are best adapted to soil and temperature conditions in a particular area. They have adapted to local conditions so the native plants often require less fertilizer and watering than exotic species. Once established most native plants are resistant to most pests and diseases. Also native plants provide the food and shelter of native animals. In regions with heavy clay soil, deep rolled native plants can break up the soil better then typical varieties of lawn grass and improve clay soils permeability.”
Rain gardens are a slightly depressed garden that receives and holds storm water run off and removes pollutants. Rain gardens recharge local ground water, improve water quality, protect waterways and enhance sidewalk appeal. Once a garden has become established, maintenance is minimal.
“Building a rain garden in your own yard is probably the easiest and most cost efficient thing you can do to reduce your contribution to storm water pollution. By capturing rain water from your roof, driveway, and sidewalks and diverting it into a great looking rain garden where it can slowly soak into the ground, filter contaminants and keep quantities of clean water from going down the sewer system you’ll have a great looking garden that puts water in its place.”
“Rain gardens are one very good option that helps to lower the impact of impervious surfaces and polluted run off because they are low- tech, inexpensive, sustainable, and esthetically beautiful.”
“A rain garden is a shallow, constructed depression that is planted with deep-rooted native plants & grasses. It is located in your landscape to receive runoff from hard surfaces such as a roof, a sidewalk and a driveway. A rain garden can be thought of as a personal water quality system because it filters the runoff from your roof and lawn and recharges the groundwater. Rain gardens are a beautiful and colorful way for homeowners, businesses and municipalities to help ease storm water problems. There is a growing trend by municipalities and homeowners to incorporate natural processes to help relieve flooding and pollution.”
A Rain Garden will:
• Filter runoff pollution
• Recharge local groundwater
• Conserve water
• Improve water quality
• Protect rivers and streams
• Remove standing water in your yard
• Reduce mosquito breeding
• Increase beneficial insects that eliminate pest insects
• Reduce potential of home flooding
• Create habitat for birds & butterflies
• Survive drought seasons
• Reduce garden maintenance
• Enhance sidewalk appeal
• Increase garden enjoyment
Another solution that isn’t the most popular way or easiest way is to build stream buffers. Stream Buffers are natural areas along the edge of streams and waterways. They help protect our waterways by filtering pollutants, providing flood control, alleviating stream bank erosion and mitigating stream warming.
Lancaster County Conservation District focuses a big amount on watersheds in Lancaster County. “A watershed is the area of land that drains to a specific body of water, whether a stream, pond, lake, river, or ocean. A watershed area can be as large as many states or as small as a backyard. Everyone lives in a watershed.”
According to the Lancaster County Conservation District in Lancaster County there are over 1,400 miles of streams and creeks. Of this total, nearly 50 percent of these streams are impaired or polluted according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Add to this total the number of stream miles that are not polluted, but will be affected in some way by increased development pressure, storm water issues, or land use changes in the coming years. One can see how the water quality of Lancaster County could be considered in jeopardy.
Green Infrastructure Benefits
There are three benefits of Green Infrastructures:
1. Environmental Quality
~ Preserves natural resources such as flood plains, steep slopes and wetlands.
~Recharges and protects the quality of surface and ground waters.
~Provides natural storm water management services including flood protection, erosion control and pollution reduction.
~Reduces energy use and captures carbon dioxide, thus helping to counteract global climate change.
~Conserves native communities and provides habitat for species of concern.
2. Community Health
~ Cleanses the air we breathe and the water we drink.
~Promotes outdoor recreation and exercise through activities such as walking and biking.
~Brings people into contact with nature providing important psychological benefits.
3. Sustainable Economy
~Strengthens the economy through improved quality of life, increased property values and increased economic activity.
~Conserves resources that support the economy.
~Supports hunting, fishing and other forms of outdoor recreation.
~Encourages tourism ~Preserves rural land uses such as agriculture forestry and resource extraction.
~Reduces cost associated with engineered “gray infrastructure” systems required to manage and treat storm water and waste water.
What Can People Do To LIVE Green?
Rain Barrel Workshops are one of the programs that LIVE Green presents in the fall and spring. The workshops take place at the Lancaster Environmental Center. Watershed specialist Mathew W. Kofroth will present information that will include the nature and impact of urban storm water pollution. He will also offer design solutions including rain gardens and bio-swales to compliment the installation of rain barrels. The program cost fifty dollars which includes a 60 gallon gray rain barrel.
Home energy workshops are presented by LIVE Green as well. Just like with the rain barrel workshops, home energy workshops take place in the fall and spring. They call them residential out-reach programs. An expert in the program comes to your Lancaster city home and goes over everything from the design of a home to water and electric bills. They show home owners where they can really save money and give the best tips to lower the cost in the long run.
According to Fritz Schroeder and LIVE Green some of the five basic ways to live a more green everyday life is to drive your car as least as possible, because walking, public transportation, car sharing, car pooling or riding a bike is better for the environment and cheaper. Eating out less will save a lot of money in the long run. Be aware of leaving things plugged in and over using electric in your home. Buy more locally grown food from the area. Since Lancaster has such a great selection of farmers markets it’s an easy step. Just remember that food travels on an average of 1,500 miles before landing on a plate. Lastly just being aware does a lot, being aware of energy efficient ways in your everyday life. Just a simple way to think about it is to think Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
LIVE Green In The Future
LIVE Green has many goals for the future but the first one will be to hold more residential workshops due to the fact that the Lancaster City electric cap will be coming off this spring. This will effect residential and institutional locations. Rates for electric bills will be going up by 26 percent to 30 percent of an increase. Local industry and jobs will all be affected by this change. Energy cost are going to continue to go up over the next ten to twenty years and never come back down again. By having these workshops LIVE Green will get the chance to prepare institutions and residents for the long run. They are hoping for the workshops to run from February to April which is when the cap will be lifted.
LIVE Green is hoping to gain more partners in the future to help them sponsor more of the workshops and projects they would like to run in the future. Some of their current partners are the Lancaster County Conservation District, Susquehanna Association for the Blind and Vision Impaired, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, Lancaster County Parks and Recreation, and the Chesapeake Bay Commission. They are looking to have a comprehensive tree plan for Lancaster City. The hardest and biggest challenge for LIVE Green is to maintain funding for these workshops and programs. Without funding and more partners nothing is really going to come about with these plans. Applying for grants for new programs locally, regionally and possibly even state wide is a priority for LIVE Green. The more people learn about LIVE Green and everything they are about slowly it will start to spread and people will really pay attention to how important all of these issues are.
LIVE Green was recently featured in two local news reports: WGAL ran “Troubled Waters: What Can You Do To Reduce Pollution?” a segment that emphasizes the impact rain gardens and rain barrels have on reducing pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. Then Lancaster Newspapers published a segment that explains the LIVE Green Rain Barrel program and workshops.