re:Yard is a community program that awards lawns, gardens and yards for being more sustainable and reducing many of the environmental impacts from standard yard care.
The goal for the re:Yard certification is to encourage, support and celebrate a wide-variety of options to reduce and eliminate these impacts in diverse ways.
To get started read the guidelines below, click on each action to expand the fill text. As you read each section complete your Certification Form with the current status of your yard. Once you have filled out your form, submit it and we will get back to you with a yard sign indicating your current level of certification. As you complete addtional actions you can resubmit your form. If you have any questions about how to get started, please email us at email@example.com.
Site and Soil (S&S)
Intent: Encourage residents to better understand their yard along with the different features and elements within it so that effective and appropriate actions can be implemented for sustainability, performance and beauty.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: This site analysis will be extremely educational. Often you do not really understand your yard until undertaking an in–depth site analysis. The information you collect will be helpful for all other credits within re:Yard. For example, some credits require percentages of landscape features to achieve credits. If you have performed the site analysis, you will already have the information necessary to determine if you qualify for the credit. A site analysis gives you a chance to take inventory of what is and isn’t working for your space. This full picture view can transform your perspective on your yard, and what you may want to improve.
Implementation: Perform a site analysis to better understand your yard’s size, features, plants, animal habitats.
- The survey included with your deed paperwork provides an accurate layout of your property and your site analysis can be drawn right on top of a photocopy of your survey..
- Add tree locations, measure diameter of trunk at four feet from ground. Also measure approx canopy size. Note tree variety.
- Add fencing, walls, landscaping features, existing planting areas & beds, decking, patio, exterior stairs, children’s playground equipment, driveway, walkways, water features, water bodies (such as creeks, dry creeks, ponds, pools) porch and all other major features.
- All existing sustainable elements such as cistern, rain barrels or solar panels, should be noted.
- All site plans should have a north arrow to help you understand existing and potential sunlight availability.
- Water: Identify the high and low spots in your yard. Which way does water flow during storms? Include the path of water from gutters and off roofs. Note places where water over-saturation is a problem. Note areas that have irrigation systems installed or drainage measures.
- Add existing watering systems to site map.
- Identify plant types of yard such as turf grass, flower bed, ground cover, or shrubs.
- Identify features that provide shelter for animals such as birdhouses, bat houses or other areas that form natural habitat for species. If your yard includes chicken coops or beehives indicate as well.
For 1 Additional Point: Add the following to your site analysis:
- Walking distances to any jitney or public transit stops, open spaces such as reservations, parks or playgrounds.
- Include a general description of animals that move through or periodically visit your yard should be included. This may include deer, fox, raccoon, an assortment of birds and other species.
- 2 points – Create a site analysis of your yard
- 1 additional point – Add additional information about area surrounding your yard and wildlife
Related Credits: S&S Credit 5, S&S Credit 7, WW Credit 1, WW Credit 2, WW Credit 3, WW Credit 4, WW Credit 6, PA Credit 1, PA Credit 2, PA Credit 3, PA Credit 4, PA Credit 5, MR Credit 5, BY Credit 1.3, BY Credit 1.4
Operation and Maintenance: Once you have completed the site analysis, it would be useful to update it as changes are undertaken with any of the features identified in it. It is recommended that, at minimum, the site analysis is revisited every 3 to 5 years.
Intent: To eliminate polluting maintenance of existing lawn and/or replace lawn with lower maintenance alternatives.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: Synthetically maintained lawns use large amounts of water, fertilizers, herbicides and fungicides to maintain the sterile look of a ‘perfect’ lawn. Exposing birds, beneficial organisms, pets, and people to deadly risks. In addition, gas fueled machinery used to mow, blow and trim weekly adds a high decibel noise pollution to the community and the air pollution damage is approximately 4 times the rate of a car.
Options exist: Implementing organic, manual or electric methods of lawn care and replacing lawn areas with alternatives needing less maintenance, that use less water and no synthetic chemicals. You will save money not buying chemical applications and reducing water bills. Your community will benefit greatly from reduced noise, air, soil and water pollution effects.
Practice Eco Turf Management:
- Use manual push reel mower to cut the lawn and hand rakes to remove leaves. Electric tools produce less noise and air pollution, but do require fossil fuel use.
- Start implementing organic lawn maintenance.
- Rake out old dead grass (thatch) in the early spring
- Aerate lawn with a core aerator
- Top dress lawn in the spring and fall with mature organic compost, ¼” – 3/8” maximum.
- Spread lawn seed in spring or fall.
- Cut lawn 2” high April/May, 3” tall June – August, back to 2 “ September-November (using a push or electric mower).
- Mulch lawn clippings and leaves into lawn to provide beneficial fertilizer
- Water only twice a week for 40 minutes (1” of water/week) June – August IF no rain and soil is dry.
Read your lawn. Many plants can indicate the health of your yard. For instance, clover is found in soil with low nitrogen levels and plantain in heavily compacted soils. Allow clover to grow, it naturally takes nitrogen from the atmosphere and distributes it to the grass. Additionally, its deep roots make it extremely drought resistant and it stays green longer than turf grass during the dormant season.
To remove perennial weeds it is best to hand weed after a rain. Other methods include pouring boiling water or vinegar on unwanted weeds to eliminate them. These treatments need to be targeted, since it will kill any plant it comes into contact with. To be successful, lots of sun and several applications will be necessary. . Do not use herbicides or other chemicals.
Replace existing lawn with alternatives such as: grass seed mixes requiring less mowing and watering, such as a No Mow lawn seed, or grass-and-broadleaf seed mixes including blends for butterflies, low growing meadow, clay buster seed, deer-resistant prairie, or infiltration-wetland, etc. Select mixes that are easily maintained. Other alternatives include moss, sedge, clover, or non-invasive ground covers. Make sure that the lawn alternative will meet the specific conditions of your yard such as deep shade or poor drainage. All alternative must be native to your region to qualify for this credit.
Take a soil test to complete either recommendation (see S&S Credit 6). A soil sample analysis will describe what nutrient, mineral, and soil deficiencies you have and what improvements to make. These improvements will provide healthier conditions for your lawn and result in less maintenance. Be sure to request organic/natural recommendations from the soil lab. A simple pH test costs about $15.
- 1 point – Convert to non-polluting machines and organic methods of lawn care.
- 1 point – Convert 20% existing lawn to an alternative.
- 1 additional point if you convert 20%-45% or more to an alternative. Measure the existing square foot area of your lawn before and after changes to calculate percentage changed.
Operation and Maintenance: Improper grass seed selection, poor soil biology, and compacted soil results in weak, unattractive lawn. In order to eliminate dependence on chemical fertilizers, select the right grass seed for your site conditions, aerate lawn annually, and feed soil biology with grass clippings and light layers of mowed leaves in the fall.
Note: plantain, dandelion and other weeds are indicators of compacted soil. Plug or core aerators is your best ‘herbicide’. Owning an aerator can be expensive, so you may want to rent or hire a landscaper to assist you. The best time to aerate your yard is directly after a soaking rain.
Planting multiple grass species and alternatives to grass enhances the biodiversity of your lawn, making it less vulnerable to illness and insects.
Intent: To reduce the negative impacts of winter management of exterior spaces.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: Many conventional snow and ice removal products can affect wildlife, pets and human health. Too much salt can kill your plants, injure your pet’s feet and be corrosive to cars. Once the weather warms, excess salt will runoff into local water bodies and can create harmful conditions for wildlife and aquatic species. When you inappropriately use chemicals to remove ice and snow, the deicers will be tracked into your home on the bottom of shoes and boots. Once inside your home, children and pets may ingest them. These chemicals will also end up in our waterways once the snow and ice begin to melt.
Implementation: Snow and ice needs to be removed immediately to avoid potential danger or harm. Because of this, it is important to always have a supply of sustainable methods for seasonal management.
The easiest and most available sustainable option is to use rock salt, but not exceed the National Environmental Education & Training Foundation & Center for Watershed Protection recommended application rate of one handful per square yard. This typically keeps the salt level to a minimum and won’t kill plants in the summer.
- Alfalfa Meal is a super effective, natural, green ice‐melting alternative. It’s 100 percent natural, usually used as a fertilizer. It’s grainy so it will provide traction and is extremely effective when used in moderation.
- Sugar Beet Juice lowers the melting point of ice and snow, which helps to clear your driveway. It’s used to melt ice and snow on municipal roads. It’s safe for animals, people, metals, concrete and plants. It is effective with weather below negative 20 degrees Celsius.
- Sand or coffee grounds provide traction, and the darker colors absorb more heat to help to melt snow and ice.
- The tried and true practice of shoveling is highly sustainable. Cleaning the snow/ice off the surface as soon as possible and as thoroughly as possible will prevent it from becoming a big problem. It’s the most natural, environmentally friendly and green way to get rid of ice and snow this winter. Always consult a doctor when undertaking strenuous physical activity.
2 points – Most standard methods for removing ice and snow have negative impacts on your yard and the surrounding environment.
- Identify and implement sustainable efforts for the removal of snow and ice to maintain safe surfaces and access to entrances.
- Do not use chemicals to deice or remove snow or ice from surfaces
- Do not exceed the National Environmental Education & Training Foundation & Center for Watershed Protection recommended application rate for rock salt of one handful per square yard.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: If your garden is currently chemically dependent, it will take time to restore its biological life. But, in the long run, you will have a beautiful yard with less effort and expense. More importantly, your entire yard will be safe for children, pets and the local drinking water supply.
Pesticides are designed to kill perceived pest organisms – they are intentionally toxic substances. Use of insecticides (for insect control), herbicides (for weed control), fungicides (for fungus control), rodenticides (for rodent control), or other pesticides, potentially exposes birds, beneficial organisms, pets, and people to deadly risk. It is estimated that seven million birds die each year because of exposure to lawn pesticides. A recent study of pesticide exposure of children living in a major U.S. metropolitan area found traces of garden chemicals in 99% of the 110 children tested.
- To understand your existing soil’s health, submit soil samples for testing to the local county extension agent or a private lab. Soil pH test costs about $15, and combined nutrient and textural analysis less than $30. Be sure to request organic/natural recommendations
- Improve the organic quality of soil. Add organic materials when planting an individual plant and/or preparing a new garden. Compost, well-rotted manures, leaf mold or other sustainably derived organic materials. Note: Peat moss is not a sustainable option.
- Lightly mulch garden areas to enhance water availability, weed control, reduce soil temperature fluctuations and build up organic quality in soil. Use organic sources free of color dyes and as close a local source to your area as possible. An agriculture supplier is your best bet.
- Keep natural leaf litter in your shrub beds. Autumn leaf fall is a free easy source of organic material/mulch. Shrub beds benefit from the leaf cover since it decomposes into biologically active soil that provides nutrients and all the benefits of mulching. If you have an abundant quantity of leaves, you may need to rake to maintain a lighter layer. Move these leaves to shrub beds that have a thin leaf cover.
- Mow over light layers of leaves in the lawn and leave your mowed grass clippings, they add nitrogen, improve soil conditions, suppress disease, and reduce thatch and crabgrass. A mulching mower will improve the mincing of clippings and leaves and their even distribution.
- Aerate your lawn to get oxygen to plant roots and de-compact the soil in three steps
1. Prepare lawn for aeration by applying water to desired area (up to 1inch)
2. Aerate Lawn by using a mechanical or hand-powered core or plug aerator
3. Apply compost or sand to aerated area to enrich the soil and supercharge the results
- 1 point – Do not use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn and garden.
- 1 point – Add organic mulch to garden beds and/or leave and distribute leaf litter in shrub beds.
- 1 point – Leave lawn clippings at each mowing, mow a light layer of leaves into lawn.
Operation and Maintenance: Caring for soil health is an ongoing process. Test pH every spring with a do-it-yourself kit available at garden centers. Never dig or walk on wet soil, as that will compress it. And don’t leave soil naked: maintain the protective layer of a light layer of organic mulch (1”-2”) on all beds and borders and cultivated areas around trees and shrubs.
Keep monitoring your soil health, watch for soil that looks hard packed or absent of organic texture, and plan to make improvements.
Intent: To encourage property owners to learn about the condition of their soil and determine if it is nutrient deficient for their desired plants to grow.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: Soil testing is economically prudent. Knowing the appropriate application quantity of nutrients and/or lime can save money. Be sure to request organic/natural recommendations.
To apply optimal levels of nutrients or lime to your soil, it is necessary to know the existing pH and the availability of essential plant nutrients in the soil. Having too much or too little of these nutrients or limestone can be harmful to plant growth. Soil testing is an environmentally responsible practice. Applying fertilizer or other nutrient sources incorrectly can lead to nitrate or phosphorus contamination of our water resources.
Implementation: Soil testing can be easy and affordable. The laboratory you intend to test soil with will have specific instructions. In New Jersey, the Rutgers University New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station has a soil test kit that provides a step–by–step guide to execute the sampling.
To comply with this credit, you will need to complete a Landscape Level 3 Topsoil Evaluation. Results are within 5–10 days describing nutrients and pH content, and, if requested, organic content analysis, and organic care recommendations.
- 1 point – Undertake a lab tested soil test for your yard to evaluate topsoil nutrients, pH, soluble salt level, organic matter content, percentages of sand/silt/clay, soil textural class, gravel content. Request recommendations for nutrients and materials needed to improve the soil for the specific type of plants you want to grow.
Operation and Maintenance: Conduct a soil test once every two years, if your soil test reports severe deficiencies. This will help you learn if the nutrient and organic matter you incorporate into your soil are improving your results.
Related Credits: S&S Credit 4
Water Use and Water Quality (W&W)
Intent: Encourage the elimination of above ground irrigation for all yard care.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: Above ground irrigation systems use a tremendous amount of water that is wasted due to evaporation as the water moves through the air and by not deliver water effectively to targeted. Drip irrigation systems use less water by directly applying water to the roots of plants and to exact locations of the yard and no evaporation occurs.
Studies show that drip irrigation systems use 30 – 50% less water than conventional watering methods, such as sprinklers. Plant root growth is deeper, soil erosion and nutrient run-off is prevented, and fungal diseases are reduced.
Drip irrigation systems can be operated by a timer for automatic watering that pre-determines the amount and frequency of water depending on the season and need.
High efficiency drip irrigation systems can be 95% more effective than a majority of spray and sprinkler systems on the market today.
Implementation: For this credit, there is no requirement for installation of any type of alternative irrigation. Options such as drip irrigation and other sub-surface systems do satisfy this credit but are not required.
Plant selection and maintenance are required to keep a non-irrigated yard healthy and full. Through good practices of selecting drought tolerant plants, deep tilling of the soil before planting, improving soil biology, and keeping soil covered with mulch to reduce evaporation.
2 points – No above ground irrigation systems are installed in the yard such as sprinklers or spray systems. If above ground irrigation systems are installed, unplug system and abandon use.
Operation and Maintenance:
- Drip irrigation: Drip irrigation systems are low maintenance, are affordable and easy to install. An excellent guide is on the University of Colorado Extension site. However, to avoid failure of a system, specific issues need to be addressed on a regular basis.
- System should be inspected at the beginning of each growing season to determine if any lines have been broken, kinked, or clogged preventing water flow.
- Review and reset timer to meet seasonal demands of your planting. The amount and frequency of water varies depending on the season and the age of your plants. Newly planted areas will require more water than a mature planted area where plants have developed deeper roots and are more adaptable to dryer conditions.
- Make sure all hose washers are functioning correctly and replace as needed. Rubber washers dry and crack over time and cause leaks and water waste.
- No Irrigation: Maintenance is critical when opting to have no irrigation. You will want to determine that all plantings in your yard can manage both naturally wet and dry periods without any additional watering. In some cases, mulch can assist in keeping root systems wet and even temperature when rain is less abundant.
Related Credits: S&S Credit 4, WW Credit 2, WW Credit 3, WW Credit 4, WW Credit 5.1, WW Credit 5.2, WW Credit 5.3, PA Credit 4, PA Credit 5 and BY Credit 1.1
Intent: Reduce the amount of stormwater runoff from your yard.
Benefits and Issues to consider: Not only does reducing stormwater runoff reduce flooding etc., it also reduces pollution in our waterways. Sixty percent of the pollution in NJ waterways is caused by stormwater runoff. When water is captured in a rain garden, the compost, plants and soil filter and purify the water. This clean water recharges underground aquifers, from which 50% of NJ drinking water comes.
Easiest/ most affordable options:
- Rain Barrels – Rain barrels are certainly an easy and relatively affordable way to capture stormwater runoff from roofs. Barrels can be installed to the gutter downspouts to increase the catchment area. However, there are several downsides to using rain barrels. Retained water can be used for watering ornamentals and lawns but many experts agree that due to potential contamination from chemicals used in roofing materials, it should not be used on edible plants. Also, Essex County receives on average 48” of rainfall a year; to maximize stormwater collection, a rain barrel needs to be empty before each storm. Additionally, rain barrel use is not possible below freezing temperatures. Due to these considerations, Rain barrels ARE NOT listed in the New Jersey EPA Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual, accordingly rain barrels DO NOT qualify for this credit. Therefore, a rain barrel is better than nothing; but, a better option is a Rain Garden. If you are interested in rain barrels, this webpage from the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station is a good resource.
- Rain Gardens – Rain Gardens are depressions in the land which are planted with plants and capture stormwater, holding it as it gradually seeps into the ground. The plantings of native species are located in the garden according to water requirements. Not only do plants absorb water, but their roots help remove pollutants from the storm water runoff. They are a beautiful, effective and affordable way to capture stormwater.The average cost of a DIY residential rain garden is $3-$4 per square foot (not including the cost of the plants). To see a rain garden in action, visit the lovely one constructed by the Maplewood Garden Club adjacent to the Hilton Library in Maplewood, NJ.Two excellent rain garden resources are:
The Rain Garden Guide from The Native Plant Society of New Jersey.
The Rutgers Agricultural Experiment Station Rain Garden Brochure
More Advanced and Costly Options:
- Dry Wells – A dry well is a subsurface storage facility that receives and temporarily stores stormwater runoff from roofs of structures. Discharge of this stored runoff from a dry well occurs through infiltration into the surrounding soils. This link to the Drywell information page on the New Jersey EPA Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual is a very complete guide.
- Permeable pavers/driveways – Permeable or porous pavers and driveways allow stormwater to seep through instead on being drained off into the municipal storm drain. This link to the Permeable paver page on the New Jersey EPA Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual is a very complete guide.
- Green Roofs – A Green Roof a roof that houses plantlife. During storms the roofs capture some of the stormwater, which maintains the plant life and reduces runoff. Green Roofs are on the New Jersey EPA Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual, but listed as “reserved”, due to the high cost to water retained ratio.
1 point – Reduce the volume of stormwater runoff from your property via the use of rain barrels, rain gardens, dry wells, permeable driveways or other means of keeping stormwater from flowing into municipal storm drains.
New Jersey Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual http://www.nj.gov/dep/stormwater/bmp_manual2.htm
Center for Watershed Protection: www.cwp.org
Stormwater Manager’s Resource Center: www.stormwatercenter.net
Intent: To integrate irrigation options that conserve potable water.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: Landscape irrigation accounts for 30% of the 7 billion gallons of water consumed daily in the United States. Improved irrigation practices can greatly cut the amount of water used.
The cost of water is continuously increasing and will overtime be a larger percentage of the cost for maintaining your property.
Native plants take less time and money to manage, and require less fertilizer and water to keep lush and attractive.
Implementation: This action is for permanent irrigation installations only.
To receive credit for this action:
First, determine the current amount of water used for irrigation of your yard. This can be accomplished in two ways.
- Meter the irrigation system for a period of months or up to an entire year. It is important to measure water consumption during the midsummer months. An easy way to do this is to install a inline water meter that measures the amount of water coming out of your exterior hose bib or irrigation hook up. They are available online for around $50 and are easy to install.
- Calculate the flow rate of your irrigation system times the usage. For example, a typical drip irrigation system uses 30 gallons per hour. So if you run it for 20 minutes a day, 10 gallons of water is used. This method is less reliable than using a meter.
Second, make a plan to reduce potable water use by at least %50. (or %100 for extra point)
Reducing potable water consumption can be done using the following measures:
- Improve irrigation efficiency and effectiveness.
- Drip irrigation reduces water usage by %80 over sprinklers and hose watering.
- Gradually decrease irrigation frequency and watering time setting on irrigation system until you reach the lowest water settings the plants will tolerate, adjust as the seasonal heat increases water requirements.
- Install an electronic rain sensor to timer in irrigation system that shuts of system during rain storms.
- Plant species that need less water and increase or decrease the density of plantings. You can reduce water dependence through selecting plants that are adapted or native to the local climate and can go through both dry and wet periods without any irrigation.
- Reuse captured stormwater
- Use recycled greywater to irrigate non edibles.
- Redirect sump pump discharge lines to ornamental plants or into rain gardens.
- 1 Point – Reduce potable water consumption for irrigation by 50% over the current use.
- Additional 1 Point – Reduce potable water consumption for irrigation by 100% over the current use.
- Turf Irrigation Manual, fifth edition by Richard B Choater and Jim Watkins (Telsco Industries, 1994).
- North American Native Plant Society: nanps.org
- Native Plant Information Network’s Native Plant Database: wildflower.org/plants/
- Landscape Irrigation: Design and Management, by Stephen W. Smith (john Wiley & Sons, 1996).
- For rainfall data specific to your region,http://www.usa.com/essex-county-nj-weather.htm
Adapted plant species – plants adapted to site conditions, climate, and design intent such as cold hardiness, heat tolerance, salt tolerance, soil moisture range, plant water use requirements, soil volume requirements, soil pH requirements, sun/shade requirements, pest susceptibility, and maintenance requirements.
Invasive species – species that are not native to the ecosystem yard, garden or lawn location. This species typical cause negative impacts to the environment through aggressive growth that crowds out natural habitat and replaces the native plants with non-natives.
Native plants – species that are known to naturally occur within 200 miles of the site, and are known to contribute to the ecological resiliency of wetlands, grasslands, riparian buffers, and habitat for wildlife species of concern within the region.
Grey water – domestic waste water composed of wash water from kitchen, bathroom, and laundry sinks, tubs, and washers.
Intent: Provide an irrigation system for no more than 2 to 3 years to establish new perennial plantings, like trees, ground-covers, and shrubs.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: Some plantings, no matter how native or adaptive, will need initial watering to establish roots and strengthen. By incorporating drip (or other sub-surface) irrigation, your plantings can both establish themselves while saving water resources. Once the new planting is established, the drip irrigation is removed and cost savings for water utilities increases.
Irrigation systems that deliver moisture below the surface uses much less water than hose or sprinkler watering. Additionally, these systems keep the above ground part of the plant dry and water on a timer, both of which help keep the plant from being stressed and help it resist disease.
- When you are selecting plantings for any area of your yard, determine if they will need temporary irrigation to establish root structure. Install temporary watering system that will deliver moisture below the surface
- After irrigation is installed and used for no more than 2-3 years. it must be decommissioned or removed.
- 1 point – Temporary irrigation is solely used to allow plants to establish themselves and must be sustainable, such as drip or trickle system
- Additional 1 point – Remove temporary irrigation after planting is established, no longer than two or three years.
Operation and Maintenance: Regular attention shall be needed to guarantee high quality function. After the allotted time for usage, the irrigation is removed and no other maintenance is required.
It is important to create deep plant root systems in plants that will eventually have no irrigation., the amount of water each plant needs will vary according to it’s root depth. Ask your drip irrigation supplier to recommend fitting and timing for deep root growth.
Related Credits: S&S Credit 4, WW Credit 1, WW Credit 2, WW Credit 3, WW Credit 4, WW Credit 5.1, WW Credit 6, PA Credit 1, PA Credit 3, PA Credit 4, PA Credit 6 and BY Credit 1.1
Intent: To promote biodiversity and water quality by restoring, protecting and/or enhancing natural areas that neighbor open spaces, ecological habitats and/or other natural lands.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: The care of boundary lands of natural areas is critical to preserving native habitat and preventing invasive plant infestation such as, Barberry, Winged Euonymous, English Ivy, Pachysandra, Vinca, Norway Maple, Polygonium, Butterfly Bush, Imperata, Miscanthus and Pennisetum ornamental grasses etc.
Riparian and wetlands can create water quality benefits during rain events by filtrating and slowing down runoff. These areas act like natural bioswales directing and improving the quality of water. As stormwater flows across these areas they filter pollutants and contaminants from the runoff water before flowing into rivers, streams and lakes thereby maintaining life and health of the water bodies.
Edge conditions also play a critical role for animals moving from place to place. These areas offer shelter and protection from predators and provides alternative travel routes reducing road kill.
A compatible natural edge adds aesthetic value to your property and blurs the property line making the abutting natural landscape appear as part of yours. Studies show that healthy ecosystems that abut land can increase the value of the property by as much as 15%.
Implementation: Throughout Essex County, many homes and properties neighbor areas that have significant biological, ecological, or natural habitat importance. Some of these areas include the South Mountain Reservation, Fox Hill Reserve, Maplecrest Park and the East Branch Rahway River. Yards near these sites offer a unique opportunity for ecological enrichment and sustainability.
Determine the distance your yard is located from any of these areas or others that comply with the credit.
Research the ecological history of your yard in relation to the naturalized land type you live near. Select plantings, landscape features and other elements that restore and enhance the ecological value of your yard according to the ecological history.
- 1 point –
First, identify whether or not your yard near a natural habitat, preserve, reservation, federal/state/local park, river area, wetland and open space. Your yard must be within ½ mile radius to be eligible for this credit. You must commit a minimum of 10% of your total yard area to the ecological restoration to comply with this credit.
Second, determine what the ecological condition of your yard would be if it had not been developed for more than 100 years. This will likely mean determining the extent of your yard as an ecosystem such as a riparian, woodland or wetland areas.
- 1 point –
Then restore, protect or enhance the habitat type to a more natural and functional level. This will mean only using plants that would naturally occur AND removing hardscape in the area.
The area that is being improved does not have to be a minimum width to receive the point, but it is highly suggested that it be, at least, 3 to 5 ft. in depth. Work with a local ecologist or biologist to determine the best set of plantings as well as to identify the species that would most likely be attracted to the space.
Operation and Maintenance: The maintenance of ecological rich areas will need special attention. You will need to manage invasive plant and animals from degrading the enhanced status. You may need to grade and reestablish the topography.
Related Credits: S&S Credit 1, S&S Credit 2, S&S Credit 3, S&S Credit 6, WW Credit 2, WW Credit 3, PA Credit 1, PA Credit 3, PA Credit 6, BY Credit 1.1 and BY Credit 1.5
- Introduction to Riparian Buffers in Northern New Jersey Watersheds, No. 1, North Jersey Resource Conservation and Development, April 2002
- Citizen’s Guide to Wetlands and the New Jersey Wetland Rules, Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association, 2002
- Center for Watershed Protection resources, including T Schueler, “The Architecture of Urban Stream Buffers,” Watershed Protection Techniques 1
- Center for Watershed Protection, http://www.cwp.org.
Isolated Wetlands – Wetlands with no surface water connections to other aquatic resources.
Minimal Impact Site Development – Development that does not significantly alter the existing vegetation and hydrology of the vegetation and soil protection zone, such as trails, picnic areas, or boardwalks.
Wetlands – Defined by the Clean Water Act (U.S. Code of Federal Regulations 40 CFR 230.3) as “areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated conditions such as swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas.”
Riparian Buffer – A vegetated area near a stream or natural area which plays a key role in increasing water quality by filtering stormwater as it moves toward an associated streams, rivers, lakes or natural area. When healthy, these areas help shade and partially protect a targeted area from impact of adjacent land uses.
Energy and Air (E&A)
Intent: To encourage yard care that reduces, eliminates and/or sequesters carbon emissions.
Note: This is one of the more difficult actions in Re:yard, but it is also one of the most impactful.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: The accumulative benefits of all four points from this credit represent a dramatic reduction of carbon emissions associated from yard care. For example, one hour of mowing with typical gas-powered lawnmower equals driving your car for 200 miles. Most lawn care equipment is not manufactured with the same emissions regulations as cars, so higher amounts of air pollutants are emitted.
The use of human-powered mowers, trimmers, cutters and others will save you money. Most of these devices are more affordable than standard gas and electric powered options. Hand powered tools are quiet, safe and no associated fuel costs as well. Many tools do not need maintenance and are pollution-free. Moreover, these products perform at the same level of quality as fuel powered machinery.
The creation, management and use of site-sourced compost will have economic benefits. With leaves, cuttings and the appropriate kitchen waste, you can have rich compost at no additional cost. This can be used to create compost tea or standard compost for your yard. You will have the ability to maintain and fertilize your yard without chemicals while saving money on yard care.
To determine the baseline carbon footprint of your yard use the following equation:
- Total Size of Yard x .06tons = BASELINE CARBON FOOTPRINT
To determine the current carbon capture of your yard use the following equation:
- (Acres of Turf Grass x .46tons) + (Acres of Trees x 2.5tons) + (Acres of All other Plantings x 1.25tons) = TOTAL CURRENT CARBON CAPTURE CAPACITY OF YARD
To determine the current carbon emissions of your yard, use the following equation:
- (Acres of Lawn Mowed x .08tons) + (Acres of Total YARD treated with Fertilizer x .09tons) + (Acres of Total Yard irrigated with Municipal-based systems x .23tons) = TOTAL CURRENT CARBON EMISSION OF YARD
To Determine the Current Carbon Footprint of yard, use the following equation:
- TOTAL CURRENT CARBON CAPTURE CAPACITY OF YARD – TOTAL CURRENT CARBON EMISSION OF YARD = CURRENT CARBON FOOTPRINT
Reduce your carbon footprint via one of the paths listed in the requirement section below. Here are some tips:
Tips for Path 1:
- Use manually powered lawn tools. Modern non-motorized Reel Mowers are geared to make them easier to use. Electric mowers are good options for lawns that are too large for reel mowers. Replace leaf blowers with rakes, or better yet just mow over leaves with a mulching mower (like reel mowers) and let them feed the soil.
- If you use a landscaper, Select one that agrees to only use electric or hand powered equipment for your yard care.
Tips for Path 2:
Turf grass has a carbon capture capacity of approximately .46tons per acre per year. Native tall grasses, shrubs, bushes, wildflowers and other native species have varying capacity. On average these alternatives have an average carbon capture capacity of 1.25 tons per acre per year. On average, trees have a carbon capture of 2.5 tons per acre per year.
- Replace turf grass and other standard lawn grass with native alternatives and/or trees that enhance carbon sequestration of your yard by, a minimum of 20% as it relates to the area of grass.
- Alternatively, you can replace hardscape with grass pavers that correspond to increasing capacity by a minimum of 20%. Green roofs and green walls can be used to achieve this path and point as well.
Acres of Turf Grass x .46tons = Carbon Capture Capacity
Carbon Capture Capacity x 120% = Required Amount to Achieve Path 2
Tips for Path 3:
To determine the carbon emissions related to fertilizer used for your yard, calculate how much of your yard is treated. Because fertilizers are often applied to more than the lawn area, you will need to include any planted areas. According to studies from NASA, the uses of chemicals such as synthetic fertilizer emit, on average, .09tons of carbon per acre per year. Once you know the acreage of area in your yard that is treated with fertilizer, use the following formula:
Acres of Total YARD treated with Fertilizer x .09tons = Carbon Emissions from Fertilizer
Then, Carbon Emissions from Fertilizer x 20% = Amount of Carbon to Reduce. To reduce the amount of carbon related to fertilizer, you will need to determine the best way to eliminate some percentage of fertilizer in your yard. If you eliminate fertilizer completely or currently do not use any fertilizer, you will automatically receive this point.
To determine the carbon emissions related to irrigating with municipal-based systems, calculate the total acres of your yard that is watered and then use the formula below:
Total Acres of Yard irrigated with Municipal-based systems x .23 tons = Carbon Emissions from Irrigation.
Then, Carbon Emissions from Irrigation x 20% = Amount of Carbon to Reduce.
To reduce the amount of carbon related to irrigation, determine the best way to eliminate some percentage of irrigation in your yard. If you eliminate irrigation completely or do not have permanent irrigation, you will automatically receive this point.
Calculate the baseline and current carbon footprint of your yard by using the equations provided. Determine your yard’s carbon footprint compared to the baseline.
Improve your current carbon footprint with any of the four methods below:
- 1 Point – Do not use gasoline-powered machinery, tools or equipment for regular yard care such as lawn mowers, edging, weed cutting or leaf blowers. Items that qualify for this credit include electric-powered equipment as well as hand-powered tools.
- 1 Point – Replace lawn with plant species that increase the ability of your yard to sequester larger amounts of carbon. All plants must be native and/or adaptive species. The use of alternative species must improve your carbon footprint by a minimum of 20% compared to turf grass.
- The reduction of synthetic chemicals to improve your carbon footprint by a minimum of 20% as it relates to your current footprint.
1 Point – If you eliminate all synthetic chemicals uses.
- Reduce or eliminate tap water and determine how it improves your carbon footprint. The reduction of irrigation must improve your carbon footprint by a minimum of 20% as it relates to your current footprint.
1 Point – If you eliminate all irrigation from municipal-based systems.
Operation and Maintenance: Once you have achieved the reduction of carbon emissions and/or enhanced your yard’s ability to sequester carbon, it’s important to maintain the effort. Each selected method will require different maintenance.
- To maintain hand-powered tools such as a push reel mower, hand-powered edgers and other tools you will need to keep the blades sharp. You may find local merchants able to perform necessary sharpening for all your tools.
- Replacing turf grass with trees or alternative plants will require care that is different than grass. If coupled with xeriscaping strategies, you could eliminate the need of any additional water beyond what naturally falls on site. If you do need irrigation, rain harvesting or temporary drip irrigation could be an option. See the Stormwater Management credits for more information.
- You can replace all fertilizers with compost. If you decide to do so, you can purchase compost from local vendors. You can also make your own compost from yard and kitchen waste.
Related Credits: S&S Credit 6, S&S Credit 8, WW Credit 6, PA Credit 6, MR Credit 3, MR Credit 4, and MR Credit 6
- Is Lawn a Carbon Sink? http://nativeplantwildlifegarden.com/is-lawn-a-carbon-sink/
- Qian, Y, and Follett, R.F (2009) Carbon Sequestration Potential of Turfgrass Ecosystems. ASA-CSSA-SSSA Meetings. C5 Abstract.
- Lopez-Bellido, R.J., Lal, R., Danneberger, T.K., and Street, J.R (2010) Plant growth regulator and nitrogen fertilizer effects on soil organic carbon sequestration in creeping bentgrass fairway turf. Plant and Soil.
- Zirkle, G.N. and Lal, R. (2009) The Potential for Soil Organic Carbon Sequestration in Home Lawns.ASA-CSSA-SSSA Meetings. C5 Abstract.
Carbon Sequestration – Process of capturing and the long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2)
Compost – Organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled then used as a fertilizer and soil amendment. It is a key ingredient in organic farming.
Compost Tea – Liquid extract of compost that contains plant growth compounds and beneficial microorganisms.
Push Reel Mower – Lawn mower with no engine and needs no fuel such as gasoline, oil or electricity.
Intent: To improve the quality of air by reducing and/or eliminating pollutants related to yard care.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: Evidence has shown that synthetic lawn chemicals are harmful to children, pets, wildlife, bees, and water quality. Typically, these chemicals are removed from your yard through rain runoff.
Whenever you use high-powered blowers for your yard, you make these toxins air-borne. This means people inhale them, which can lead to illness. The noise, air and smell pollution created by the use of gasoline-powered devices will be eliminated by using alternatives such as electric powered equipment or hand-powered equipment.
In many cases, these options are easier to maintain, cost less to purchase and require less expense to run. Using equipment that do not cause fumes results in better air quality for your neighborhood and a higher standard of lifestyle.
Implementation: This credit allows for two points. You must meet the first requirement to be eligible for the point achievable in the second requirement.
First, eliminate the use of any equipment such as gas-powered leaf blowers, lawn mowers and other powered devices without enhanced emission retarders. Electric equipment may be used to satisfy this aspect of the requirement.
The power of a leaf blower can cause air-borne dust and particulates as well as cause noise and smell pollution. Do not use multiple devices when not necessary, and make guarantee mufflers and other methods to reduce sound are used.
Second, complete first requirement AND USE no chemicals for yard care.
- 1 point – Do not use any equipment that produces unfiltered emissions or smog-forming pollution.
All lawn care and yard activities shall not induce high levels of dust, fumes, smells or vibrations.
- 1 point – Do not use any chemicals or other additives that may become air-borne and have health or environmental impacts.
Operation and Maintenance: If you contract out your yard maintenance, seek out yard care professionals that are required to use equipment as specified in this credit. Alternatively, residents can purchase equipment that meets the standards for sound, smell, emissions and other aspects of the credit.
You can easily replace synthetic chemicals with organic compost and other non-toxic options.
Related Credits: S&S Credit 6, S&S Credit 8, WW Credit 6, PA Credit 6, E&A Credit 1, MR Credit 3, MR Credit 4, and MR Credit 6
Summary of Reference Standards: Small Engine Emission Standards, United States Environmental Protection Agency, EPA420-F-98-025, August 1998, Office of Mobile Sources
Plants and Animals (P&A)
Intent: To reduce the negative impacts of invasive species on the local ecosystems.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: Invasive species are linked to several ecological issues. They spread (delete with) rapidly and can crowd out endanger native flora and endangering native fauna’s natural food supplies and other vital resources. Some invasive species can destroy entire stands of forests, such as the Norway Maple has in the Northeast forests. They can cover riverbanks with a mat of vines stopping any native species from growing and inducing erosion and sedimentation that destabilizes river habitats.
The negative effects of invasive species can create problems with water quality, flooding and property values.
Nationally, more than 5,000 non-native plant species have escaped into natural ecosystems resulting in millions of dollars spent in control costs.
Implementation: Invasive and Exotic plant species have a disproportionate negative impact on local ecologies. They often become difficult to control and spread into natural habitats.
- DO not use invasive or exotic plant species in your yard. At a minimum, do not purchase or install any of the species on the New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team 2015 DO NOT PLANT LIST. (http://www.njisst.org). This includes cultivars and varieties of the plants listed. 1 point
- If you have existing invasive plantings, or have invasive species growing in your yard due to natural seeding, you must develop a plan to remove the invasive species and implement it within two growing seasons.
See the NJ Audubon Society’s Guide to Controlling Non-Native Invasive Plant Species on New Jersey’s Natural Lands in the Resource section below. Some invasive species will reappear in your yard, so it is important to have a plan to control the invasives that reseed or regrow back into your yard. 1 additional point
- 1 Point – Do not plant any invasive or exotic species in any area of your yard or site.
- 1 Point – Develop and implement a plan to remove all invasive and exotic plants from yard over a period of two growing seasons.
- 1 Additional Point – All removal efforts should shall not induce the spread of invasive/exotic species.
Operation and Maintenance: The best way to approach this credit is to make sure all new plantings are not listed on the 2014 DO NOT PLANT LIST, be sure to consult the list before purchasing any species for your yard.
Yards that achieve both points will need to develop a maintenance plan for preventing the return of invasive species. Because invasive plants are so tenacious, you will likely (if not guaranteed) have them return for several seasons. Removing invasives can be an extremely difficult, arduous and rewarding task.
- Eat the Invaders, http://eattheinvaders.org
- To identify invasive plants in your area: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Plants Database for invasive and noxious weeds: http://plants.usda.gov/ and http://plants.usda.gov/java/noxiousDriver
- NJ Audubon Society, Guide to Controlling Non-Native Invasive Plants
- Plant Conservation Alliance: http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/factmain.htm#pllists
- For management tools, see the Global Invasive Species website: http://www.invasive.org/gist/
- Center for Invasive Plant Management: http://www.weedcenter.org
Intent: To encourage the use of appropriate vegetation that is native to the local ecosystem that creates beauty and biodiversity for the region.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: Native species can be used for natural designs as well as formal and traditional yard layouts. Native species typically need less water, nutrients and maintenance to flourish and grow. They provide habitat for native fauna and construct a network of spaces that makes the overall eco-region stronger.
- First, determine the percentage of native species you have in your yard currently.
- Second, develop a planting list of native species to add to you yard and determine the quanity needed to provide the percentage you are targeting for this credit. It is highly suggested that 100% of all planted species be native.
- 1 Point – 50% of the vegetation of the yard must be native plants.
- 1 Point – 75% of the vegetation of the yard must be native plants.
- 1 Point – 100% of the vegetation of the yard must be native plants.
To calculate the percentage of native plantings, measure the amount of area the native plantings occupy and divide by the total planted area of the yard:
Surface Area of Native Plantings/Total Surface Area of Plantings = Percentage of Native Species Planted
Operation and Maintenance: Native plants take less maintenance, water and nutrients than non-native. Your yard’s attributes of sun, shade, topography and soil types will determine what natives will be successful. Work with a landscaping professional or native plants expert to determine how to achieve the desired percentage of native plants that best meet your goals for the look and feel for your yard.
Related Credits: S&S Credit 1, S&S Credit 2, S&S Credit 4, PA Credit 1 and PA Credit 6
Summary of Reference Standards:
- New Jersey Strategic Management Plan for Invasive Species, The Recommendations of the New Jersey Invasive Species
- Council to Governor Jon S. Corzine, Pursuant to New Jersey Executive Order #97, 2009.
- The Native Plant Society of New Jersey, http://www.npsnj.org
- S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Landscaping resources page, http://www.epa.gov/greenacres/index.html
- Native Plants Factsheet, http://www.epa.gov/greenacres/nativeplants/factsht.html
- The North American Native Plant Society, http://www.nanps.org
- The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Native Plant Information Network’s Native Plant Database http://www.wildflower.org/plants/
Intent: To encourage the growth of edible foods and increase access to locally produced fruits and vegetables.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: Growing some of your own food is a fun and rewarding way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Implementation: It is easier than most people imagine to grow some of your food at home.
- Start small and add to your garden each year.
- Grow vegetables and fruits that do well in this area. Here is a great resource guide from Cornell University on what annual vegetables and fruits grow well in the Northeast. http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scene0391.html. If you grow nothing else, NJ tomatoes are the stuff of legend. Our acid soils and climate are great for growing this beloved fruit.
- Select plants for sun level and season. Select the best location within your yard for food production. Determine if the types of plants will need full sun, partial sun or partial shade. Most seed packets will provide valuable information for spacing of seeds, soil depth and sun quantities. Follow the instructions as best as possible. Most commercially sold seeds are for spring, summer and early fall, however, some food producing plants can be grown during the colder months of the year.
- Invest in some perennial fruits. Happily, this is the garden state and a wide variety of fruits can be grown here, including Blueberries, which adore NJ soils and grow with almost no help once root systems are established. Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries are also easily grown organically here. More difficult, but still doable for more advanced gardeners, fruit options include cherries, plums, apricots, and peaches. Apples and pears are very difficult to grow in New Jersey and it is almost impossible to get appealing fruit through organic means. It is very important to do research on varieties that do well in the area and whether or not the specimen needs a pollinator, another variety of the same fruit that is needed for pollination.
- Plan sustainable irrigation. Most food plants, annuals in particular, need irrigation to maximize food production. Drip irrigation is a great, affordable way to water edibles sustainably. Additionally, drip irrigation is usually installed with a timer which helps reduce the risk that you will get busy for a couple days and have the entire garden dry up, which is often cited as the reason for failure among beginning gardeners. For more information see the Re:yard irrigation actions (with link).
- If using raised beds, skip the pressure treated lumber in favor of cedar or non-treated framing timbers. Pressure treated lumber contains chemicals that are not suitable for use in the food garden. Cedar garden beds last around ten years. Untreated lumber, a considerably less costly option, lasts at least six years and its life can be extended by the use of drip irrigation which prevents the wetting of the wood during irrigation.
- 1 point – Grow some food plants
- OR 2 points – Use %10 of overall yard space for growth of edibles
- OR 3 points – Use %20 of overall yard space for growth of edibles
Great resources for beginner food gardeners:
- The Essex County Cooperative Extension of the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station http://essex.njaes.rutgers.edu/
In addition to the wealth of information on the website, they host a Master Gardener Helpline, where volunteer Master Gardeners are available to answer specific questions.
- Weedless Gardening, Lee Reich, Workman Publishing, NY – A concise, but comprehensive guide for food gardeners including the topics of composting, drip irrigation, organic soil preparation and plant care.
Intent: To encourage local production of foods beyond the vegetable garden.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: Caring for some of your own food producing animals is a fun and a rewarding way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Implementation: All housing and treatment of animals must comply with the Certified Humane guidelines such as free-range, organic/vegetarian feed (as appropriate for species) and other requirements. Residents should comply with all local, state and federal ordinances, regulations and laws related to livestock, beekeeping and other animals.
Yards are an ideal location for food producing animals. Some towns and villages have restrictions against specific types of species, so check with your local government before investing in housing animals.
2 points – Use portion of yard to house and sustain food-producing animals such as bees and chickens, which encourages local foods and reduce impacts of shipping foods from long distances as well as non-organic farming practices.
The New Jersey Beekeepers Association, http://njbeekeepers.org
American Beekeeping Federation, http://www.abfnet.org/
Intent: To provide and/or create habitat and safe corridors for specific wildlife that is endangered or threatened.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: To have a functioning ecosystem, conservation biologists have found that a full range of animal species must be present to make all the gears of nature perform correctly. By addressing your yard as a location for critical activities of these listed species, you are providing a niche for nature to work the right way.
Engage your neighbors and gain additional points. This offers you a chance to educate and foster a deeper sense of community.
Implementation: There are numerous listed endangered and threatened species in New Jersey that include birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, fish and invertebrates. http://www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/tandespp.htm
Work with an ecologist, conservation biologist or other professional to help determine the appropriate species selection. With them develop a plan and method for implementing the habitat planting and features needed for the species to thrive in your yard. Continue to work with the professional through the implementation and maintenance of project.
Identify a specific wildlife species to be provided for in your yard. It must be an appropriate and realistic choice for its size and location needs.
- 1 Point – Dedicate a minimum of 10% of the yard to providing the necessary area for breeding, feeding and/or sheltering for the animal.
- 1 additional Point – Dedicate a minimum of 20% of the yard to the necessary area for breeding, feeding and/or sheltering for the animal.
- 1 additional Point – If the species you selected is listed as endangered and/or threatened AND will greatly benefit from a safe and appropriate wildlife corridors that will connect disjointed habitats, you can designate your project as a wildlife corridor by creating your habitat corridor along the length of any portion of your property. The corridor must be designed, planted and maintained to address any specific needs for the targeted species that would use the corridor.
- 1 additional Point – You may have a unique opportunity to connect your habitat corridor to an adjoining neighbors property and continue the corridor on their site. The corridor must be contiguous and not be broken by walls, fences or other types of obstructions.
- 1 additional Point – If you are able to have 3 or more neighbors join in creating an unbroken wildlife corridor.
- 1 additional Point for getting neighbors to join you in this effort. (Neighboring homes do not need to be part of the re:Yard program)
Operation and Maintenance: The maintenance of habitat will be dictated by the species the area is targeted for. Establishing a strong working relationship with an ecologist, conservation biologist or other professional to maintain and operate your yard in the most effective way that can enhance the comfort and safety of the species.
Related Credits: S&S Credit 1, S&S Credit 2, S&S Credit 3, S&S Credit 4, WW Credit 6, PA Credit 1, PA Credit 3 and BY Credit 1.1
Summary of Reference Standards:
- Best Management Practices for Wildlife Corridors, Northern Arizona University, Paul Beier, Dan Majka, Shawn Newell, Emily Garding, January 2008
- Principles of Wildlife Corridor Design, Center for Biological Diversity, Monica Bond, October 2003.
- New Jersey’s Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, Conserve Wildlife, Division of Fish and Wildlife, http://www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/tandespp.htm
Materials and Resources (M&R)
Intent: To encourage the use of sustainable materials for yard care and outdoor building projects.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: Using sustainable materials in new projects does more than reduces the carbon footprint of your yard. By only purchasing only sustainable materials, homeowners are creating a worldwide market in which issues of responsible sourcing of materials and health of workers are valued.
Implementation: For all new projects:
- All woods should be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. For landscape features like arbors, decks, fencing and other permanent items, select wood products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, an organization which certifies sustainably sourced hardwoods and protects the rainforest and other sensitive areas from deforestation. More information about the FSC is available at https://us.fsc.org/
- Eschew vinyl in all its forms. Fences, siding, gutters and other exterior water controls, even decorative elements can be made of vinyl. While vinyl certainly off-gasses a small amount of carcinogenic material while installed, the real concern is the tremendous danger it presents to workers and in the communities where it is manufactured.
- Vinyl resources: EPA Vinyl Toxicology report, http://www.epa.gov/ttnatw01/hlthef/vinylchl.html
- Natural Resources Defense Council, http://www.nrdc.org/health/files/vinylChloride.pdf
- For other Materials: Do research on all materials that you are bringing into your yard. Make sure that the materials are condidered safe for both your family and the workers who manufacture them and, in the case of harvested materials, sustainalby sourced
2 Points – Purchase only sustainable mateirls for new projects in your yard.
Intent: To maintain a fully sustainable yard.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: Proper pruning maintains the health and longevity of plant by removing broken, diseased, dead and crowded conditions. All these conditions prevent proper air and light to circulate around plants. Sustainable maintenance is not about letting the yard go wild; it is about properly managing it in ways that provide a healthier yard. This means pruning, mulching and weeding according the plant’s natural growing patterns and to the intent of the overall design of the yard.
Implementation: All activities for maintaining the site/yard/lawn such as pruning, weeding and mulching will be undertaken via sustainable practices.
1 point – for practicing all of the practices below.
- Pruned scraps shall be composted or bagged for appropriate reusable collection.
- Weeding will not include any chemical options.
- Mulching will be undertaken with materials that are locally sourced and do not risk spread of invasive species or toxic additives.
Operation and Maintenance: Practices such as mulching, and maintaining optimum growing conditions for lawns, beds and gardens lessen weed presence in the yard. The maintenance of your yard has to be a holistic strategy that helps build soil quality while reducing the intensity and frequency of cultivation needed to accomplish adequate weed control.
When using chemicals and planting plants and lawns in areas where they will not thrive, you are actually encouraging weeds. Moving toward a more sustainable yard by growing the right plants for the existing conditions, utilizing weed barriers, practicing good soil preparation with proper cultivation tools and shading annual weed seeds in the summer will act as a natural herbicide.
Related Credits: WW Credit 1, WW Credit 2, WW Credit 3, WW Credit 4, WW Credit 5.3, WW Credit 6, E&A Credit 1, MR Credit 6
Summary of Reference Standards:
- Composted Mulch for Sustainable and Productive Viticulture, Campbell, Angus; Sharma, Girji, cycled Organic Unit, Sydney, Australia.
- Principles of Sustainable Weed Management in Organic Cropping Systems, 3rd Edition, September 2011, Mark Schonbeck, Independent Sustainable Agriculture Consultant, Editor of The Virginia Biological Farmer
- Activist’s Toolkit, A Guide to Promoting Sustainable Lawn and Landscape Care in Your Community, Safer Pest Control Project, http://midwestpesticideaction.org/
- Recycled Organics Unit (2003). Buyers Guide For Recycled Organics Products. Information Sheet No. 6.2 Benefits of organic matter in soil. Recycled Organics Unit, internet publication: http://www.recycledorganics.com
- US Composting Council (1996). Benefits of Compost. The Field Guide to Compost Use. USA EPA (1997). Innovative uses of compost. Erosion Control, Turf Remediation, and Landscaping
Intent: Use sustainable options to feed and condition your soil
Benefits and Issues to Consider: Composting is one of the best ways to improve the nutrient quality of your yard.
Implementation: Replace use of synthetic fertilizers with compost, nitrogen fixing plants and, when needed, organic soils amendments.
1 Point – Amend soil with compost, “clip it and leave it”, organic soil ammendments
- Compost: Composted material is the best all around soil amendment. Ideally residents will have homemade compost from their compost bins, but if they need to supplement with store bought compost, there are 4 types.
- Leaf Mold– good for water retention, low in nitrogen.
- Composed Manure and
- Vermicompost– High in nitrogen, need to be mixed with soil or another kind of compost to reduce risk of plant burn from an excess of Nitrogen. It is important to remember that an excess of nutrients, even from high nitrogen compost, damages plants and pollutes run off water. Follow the instructions for distribution rates as listed on the bag.
- Mushroom compost is a good all purpose compost usually premixed with soil to balance nitrogen levels.
Great resources for using compost: Rutgers New Jersey Agriculture Experiment Station Compost and compost tea page.
- “Clip It and Leave It” This sustainable lawn care practice keeps lawn healthy and reduces lawn work. Leaving lawn clippings in place is a great way to return nitrogen to the soil, removing the need for fertilizers. Additionally you can mow over leaves in the fall and leave them as well to increase the water retention of the soil. The only caveat is that if you have the type of mower that dumps grass in thick stripes, you will need to evenly distribute it with a rake. Check out the Maplewood, NJ “Clip It and Leave It” Brochure for more information.
- When needed, use organic soil amendments. If your soil test shows a lacking nutrient or mineral you can add organic soil amendments. Here is a great article from Mother Earth News about which amendments to add for different deficiencies.
Avoid peat moss: Although peat moss is a natural soil amendment, consumer use is outstripping the regrowth capacity of peat moss bogs. Leaf mold is a great substitute in the garden and ground coconut husks are a great replacement for peat as a seed starting medium.
1 Point – Plant Nitrogen Fixing plants in your lawn or garden
- Nitrogen Fixing Plants: Certain plants “fix” nitrogen in soil. They don’t add nitrogen to the soil but take the nitrogen that is already there and make it usable by other plants.
- In the garden, legumes like pole beans and bush beans are great choices. Move them around the garden each year to increase the available Nitrogen throughout the garden.
- In lawns, seed some Dutch clover into the grass to fix Nitrogen for the grasses
Intent: To promote the use of materials derived from onsite and/or local sources for landscaping
Benefits and Issues to Consider: Transportation of materials has a large energy and carbon footprint. The use of local and site-sourced materials can reduce that carbon footprint impact on the climate from shorter distance transportation. If you source as much as possible from your yard or town’s public works site it will eliminate almost all of the carbon emissions associated from transportation.
Buying local materials has a positive impact on local economies and offers unique options for yard components.
Implementation: When selecting materials for landscape improvements and furnishings, find options that come from within 250 miles of your yard. In some cases, you can use materials from your own yard. If you have a town yard that accepts large waste keep an eye out for furniture, metal scraps, wooden palettes that are often made of oak, and garden furnishings that others don’t want and recycle or re-purpose.
Local manufacturers and artisans produce outdoor furniture and other furnishings like arbors and fencing from local or re-purposed sources.
Stone, rock, sand, plants and soil can be harvested and derived from local sources and your yard.
1 Point – Select 50% of materials for yard care, landscaping features and outdoor furniture that are derived from yard or from local sources.
Operation and Maintenance:
Depending on the type and use of local materials, the ways to maintain them will differ
Intent: Promote the use of non-toxic, non-synthetic yard care to manage weeds and pests.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: Fertilizers and other chemicals make your yard unsafe for your family, pets and neighbors. Stormwater carries the toxic materials into the environment and pollutes waterways and ecosystems. Once in the water, aquatic species will ingest them and become diseased. If consumed by people, they too can become ill. The elimination of these materials will stop the cycle of poisoning of the environment and make fish such as wild salmon safer for consumption. The cost of your yard care can be reduced with a more natural and sustainable approach.
Implementation: The implementation of this credit requires that you strive to eliminate toxic synthetic chemicals from your yard care regimen. There are a variety of ways to manage weeds naturally. Pulling a weed from the roots is the most effective form of eradication and is most easily done after a heavy rain when the soil is loose. Some noxious weeds, such as poison ivy and knotweed, should be disposed of with household waste in a sealed bag, while other common lawn and garden weeds can be composted. As an alternative to pulling weeds, a mixture of white vinegar, dish soap and salt can be applied in a similar fashion to synthetic pesticides. The mixture should only be applied to the weed and not nearby plants. A repeat application may be necessary.
3 points – All lawn, site and/or yard care is conducted without any synthetic chemicals, herbicides or pesticides of any kind.
Operation and Maintenance:
Alternatives for harsh chemicals have been developing for years, making growing a sustainable yard easier than ever. There are many ways to keep pests at bay without resorting to toxic synthetic chemicals, however, if you currently use synthetic chemicals, your soil and plants will need time to replenish their natural defense mechanisms, a process that can take 2-3 seasons. Many of the credits in this rating system are geared to helping you rethink your yard. By using the related credits, and using the most appropriate and sustainable plants and practices you can have an beautiful, non-toxic yard.
To insure success in the transition to a non-toxic yard:
- First, maintain soil health. This is an important step. Healthy soil produces healthy plants, and healthy plants are less susceptible to disease and pests.
- Second, use companion plants. Combine plants with other species that enhance each other. For example, basil has been known to protect tomatoes. Use high-density of plants and intermingle other plants to create permaculture-like habitats. Monocultures are much more likely to be affected by pests and disease.
- If you have a plant that regularly is affected by pest and/or disease consider removing the plant from your yard as a certain way to remove the problem.
- Finally, select plant-derived pest control. Garlic oil spray and Neem oil are made from concentrated plant oils. They can be used to repel insects, snails, termites, birds and other pests without creating toxic conditions.
WW Credit 1, WW Credit 2, WW Credit 3, WW Credit 4, WW Credit 5.3, WW Credit 6, E&A Credit 1, MR Credit 6
Beyond the Yard (B&Y)
Intent: Encourage stewardship and cleaning of our local storm drains.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: A clean storm drain prevents flooding, improves traffic flow, and maintains pedestrian access, especially for children and the elderly. Clean storm drains improve the water quality of our streams and rivers.
Implementation: Before and during a storm, remember to periodically check and clear the storm drain. Use a rake to remove leaves and garbage from the storm drain opening and gutter and place the material in a trash bag. Clear from curbside, not out in the street. Watch out for traffic. Be careful of standing water to avoid slipping or stepping on sharp objects.
1 point – Adopt a storm drain on your street to help our town maintain our infrastructure, especially during fall months when rain increases and falling leaves block drains.
Operation and Maintenance: Periodically check and clear the storm drain.
Intent: To create a community of people that learn, grow and have more sustainable yards.
1 Point – Open your yard to visits at least once a year to give others a chance to see what a sustainable yard can be.
Implementation: Work with your local green organization to be part of future eco-tours that invite people to a list of homes and locations that have sustainable features. Provide some type of information such as a one-pager or brochure to visitors to help them understand what you have done, the re:Yard credits you have received and what you intend to do in the future to continue developing your sustainable yard.
Operation and Maintenance: You will need to update any informative sheets as you increase the number of sustainable efforts you are undertaking in your yard. You will also need to stay in touch with the local organizations that hold and organize the eco-tours.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: Sustainable yard care will only grow if others can see how easy and rewarding it is. There are numerous opportunities in Essex County to have people visit your yard.
Intent: To educate the community about sustainable yard care practices.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: The development of a case study for your yard will help cultivate a community of people with greater knowledge of sustainable practices. As the community of people grow, so too will the movement for more sustainable practices.
Implementation: Generate a case study that can be used for educating the greater community about sustainable yard care. This case study shall include image, text and a list of sustainable practices used from this guideline. It will be posted online for others to see the potential of sustainable yards.
Requirements: The re:Yard program has an ongoing effort that is called “How I Did It”. The program works with yards that are certified to create rich case studies that illustrate how others can easily and effectively implement green practices. The case studies focus on the credits within the re:Yard certification. They are created in easy-to-understand language and have photographs of sustainable examples from the yard.
1 Point – Create a case study
- Include a short biography of person(s) responsible for the managing and/or making decisions about what green features are included in the yard.
- A full checklist of credits and points for the case study should be included. The case studies will be uploaded to the reyard.org website for maximum opportunity to help others create a greener yard.
Operation and Maintenance: At different times throughout the future, the case studies will need to be updated
Intent: To develop rich, metric-driven data to show the impact of sustainable yard care.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: The impacts of re:Yard achieve both prevention and reduction of harmful effects on the earth.. Good, rich and up-to-date data will provide a strong background for how sustainable yard care can create real and measurable benefits to the community, individuals and neighborhoods.
Implementation: Upon selection of this credit, you will provide useful information that will help others better understand methods to become more sustainable members of their greater community.
1 Point – Provide information about credits you have successfully achieved through the re:Yard program. Information such as; monthly photos, water use metering, plant schedule and list, progress of plant growth, stormwater retained and/or detained and other helpful knowledge. Information will be submitted for posting on the re:yard website.
Operation and Maintenance: The maintaining of good records will be helpful to make this credit easy and fun. It is suggested to create digital folders for the different credits obtained, as well as images of the yard and the green components implemented.
Intent: To develop large scale impacts to improve watershed quality through yard care
Requirements: Learn what watershed restoration is, the major and minor watershed your yard is within and develop a comprehensive plan that will be implemented in your yard to restore and improve the watershed. The plan must be completed within the time period of 18 to 24 months. Short and long-term goals must be identified with timeline for implementation.
Implementation: Define the major or minor watershed your yard occupies. Are there creeks, tributaries or other water bodies near your yard? What is the best way to improve and enhance the quality of a watershed? And why are watersheds important? These are the questions that will be answered throughout the development of this credit. Most states have a watershed management plans. You will need to first determine the major and minor watersheds your yard is located.
This will be extremely helpful in discovering what steps will need to be taken for you to comply with the plan. Many of the credits within re:Yard will assist you in achieving the requirements for this credit. It would be best to coordinate the credits with the action items for your watershed
Operation and Maintenance: Once you have the plan of action, you will need to achieve short and long-term goals. The ultimate guide is to complete all action items within 18 to 24 months.
Benefits and Issues to Consider: The benefits provided by healthy watersheds are numerous and include reduced vulnerability to invasive species, climate change, and future land use changes.
Healthy watersheds with natural land cover and soil resources also provide vast carbon storage capabilities, offsetting greenhouse gas emissions.
Healthy watersheds provide habitat for fish, amphibians, birds, and insects. They form stream corridors that provide a key connection across the landscape for animals and birds.
Aside from the reduced costs of restoring impaired waters, there are many other economic benefits to protecting and conserving healthy watersheds. Healthy watersheds preserve recreation opportunities such as fishing and water-related recreation and contribute to tourism. Vulnerability to floods, fires, and other natural disasters is minimized, thereby reducing costs to communities.
Similarly, by protecting aquifer recharge zones and surface water sources, costs of drinking water treatment may be reduced. A survey of 27 drinking water utilities’ treatment costs and watershed characteristics finds that for every 10% increase in forest cover of the source area, chemical and treatment costs decrease by 20%.