Sustainability Starts in Your Own Backyard

Heather Ginsburg

The term sustainability has different meanings for everyone. But there are many things we can all do together to help make our city more sustainable — and we can actually start in our own backyards.

When you hear the word sustainability, what does it mean to you? There are many things we can do to help make our city more sustainable — and we can actually start at home. While that means something different to each of us, if we all move towards being sustainable in our own way, it all adds up, and it is all-important.

Personally, moving towards being more sustainable at home means planting and doing things with our yard that are useful and beneficial to my family, to wildlife, and to Mother Earth. For my family, grass is not useful. My kids prefer chasing butterflies, picking flowers and digging in the dirt.

Our wildlife garden creates an environment for learning and enrichment for our family, especially our children. Our garden also helps repair our earth by creating habitat for pollinators and shelter for many creatures. My kids also learn how valuable water — our most precious resource — is and that we do not use it carelessly. Instead of an irrigation system, we only hand-water plants to get them established or during extremely dry periods.

There are more important things than having a lush green lawn and planting that seed early is important. Of course, a grass-less yard is not for everyone. My backyard looks “messy,” really messy sometimes, but to us it’s useful. If you prefer a more manicured look, consider a native sedge “lawn” in the shade or a native buffalo grass lawn in full sun.

In fact, two yards featured in the fall 2015 WaterSaver Landscape Tour are lovely examples of the tasteful use of sedge and buffalo grass for lawns. Lawn alternatives are beautiful and use a lot less water than the most popular turf grasses. And they look better too!

Another way my family puts our land to good use is by keeping hens. I’m often asked, “Why chickens?” My answer is simple, “Why not chickens?” Hens allow us to have fresh eggs all year — I haven’t bought eggs in more than five years — and natural pest control and fertilizer for our garden as well. Chickens don’t take up a lot of room; in fact, our coop and chicken yard are in the back corner of our property where a huge area of dying grass used to be.

Be sure to check with your HOA before building your coop! Currently, in San Antonio, you need a permit if you plan to have more than three hens, so be sure to contact animal control for current regulations, as well as to get an inspection and permit paperwork started if you do plan to have more than three.

Above all, have fun creating your own sustainable yard that’s useful for you, and good for the earth.

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Monterrey (Quercus polymorpha)