20 Ways to Create a Restorative Home and Garden
Saving energy is important; so is producing human energy. In The Nature Principle, I make the case that, because of the restorative power of the natural world, bringing more nature into our lives can contribute to our mental and physical health, creativity, and productivity. Whether you’re building a new home or retrofitting your existing home and garden, here are a few tips for applying the Nature Principle:
1.Bring the outside in. Create “living walls” of ficus, hibiscus, orchids, and other plants or an indoor vertical vegetable garden with grids for planting and automatic drip-irrigation systems. Such walls can reduce indoor air pollutants.
2.Use ecosensitive “natural” decorations, such as twig furniture, a dresser made of reclaimed wood, robes made of sustainable bamboo fabric.
3. Use trees, live or dead, as decoration in high-ceilinged living rooms.
4. Record nature sounds and fill your house with them.
5. Use fluorescent lights that adjust throughout the day via light sensors at the windows, Also, try motion-sensitive light switches, sensor-regulated water taps and soap dispensers, waterless urinals, and water-saving toilets.
6. To protect wildlife, add bird-warning elements to windows.
7. Combine solar panels with skylights. Install them over water gardens and other living features.
8. Reduce your lawn. Replace it with bird-attracting plants, trees, and bushes. (Lawns are now the largest irrigated crop in the United States.)
9. Plant an organic vegetable garden or plant fruit trees.
10. Install a beehive, or raise chickens or ducks for eggs. Some cities are loosening regulations to encourage yard farming.
11. Create nature-rich, calming places to sit, read, think, and converse.
12. Plant a butterfly garden; help bring back butterfly migration routes.
13. Space-restricted urbanites can use dwarf tree varieties and mini-gardens to transform small balconies and windowsills.
14. Install a chlorine-free natural swimming pond cleaned by regeneration zones: aquatic plants, rocks, loose gravel, and friendly bacteria that act as water filters.
When building a new home
15. Design natural landscapes to look good from the curb and also from inside the home.
16. Place the house in sync with the sun’s movements so that sleeping and waking are in accord with available light: place large windows on the south-facing wall for passive solar heating, but also for a view of nature.
17. Whenever possible, use local materials to reflect the nature and history of the region.
18. Install a super-insulated green roof that can last 80 years (compared with the 40-year average for conventional roofs).
19. Design for natural airflow and air-conditioning with appropriately placed windows and high ceiling fans for natural ventilation.
20. Homes built with cordwood masonry (lumber set in earthen mortar), cement mixed with recycled-paper pulp, aerated concrete or straw-bale walls can be so energy efficient that they need no air-conditioning.
Richard Louv is the author of THE NATURE PRINCIPLE: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age, now available in paperback. He is chairman emeritus of the Children and Nature Network and 2012 spokesperson for the CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year. For more information on his books, go to www.richardlouv.com. For a free online Field Guide to the New Nature Movement, see http://richardlouv.com/books/nature-principle/field-guide/.