What your drought-tolerant landscape could look like

Drought-tolerant landscapes are an idea whose time has come. Many homeowners in Austin get this. Here’s a look at several non-lawn lawns that may inspire you. While they almost all require getting rid of that pesky turf, they’re easy to maintain later on. Most importantly, they’re not overly thirsty.

How to reduce water use in the United States

Americans consume a lot of water as a result of their food and lawn choices. Read Danielle Nierenberg’s blog about how we can lower the stress we’re placing on dwindling water supplies. Ms. Nierenberg, co-founder of Food Tank, has traveled the world, studying food and water scarcity, and can tell you how many Kenyans survive on the same amount of water consumed by one American.

Save nature and free time — install a Pocket Prairie

Are you weary of mowing, weeding and fertilizing that yawning stretch of lawn? Consider installing a patch of native prairie. A Pocket Prairie can reduce your thirsty conventional turf, replacing it with native grasses and flowers. You’ll be feeding butterflies and birds, and cut down your grass mowing obligations, perhaps to zero.

A flush of excitement greets composting toilets

It’s been a strange week. I’m blushing, because wherever I go, I am confronted by flushing.

First came news that actor and green activist Ed Begley is endorsing two composting toilets. Leave it to Ed to go where no man has gone before.

I am glad that Begley continues to push the envelope. I assume he’ll be installing these at home, and he will find that composting toilets are at least as easy to incorporate as those stationary bikes he uses to power the TV. I confess I don’t watch the Living with Ed show, but I am a fan of his green advocacy. Another product he’s endorsed, Bayes Waterless Car Wash, has become a favorite at our house. We save untold gallons of water, avoided sending contaminated runoff into the sewer system and still end up with sparkly cars.

Water: How We Can Save It

By Shermakaye Bass

While some Americans insist on pampering thirsty lawns and water-greedy flora – and engage in other water-siphoning practices – innovative means of conservation are cropping up all over the United States, out of necessity or sheer eco-sense. Some can be easily applied by individuals; others require input, or even a policy change, from water-service providers.

“In Marin County (CA), where I live, they take a fairly clever approach that’s driving behavior change. They tell you on your water bill how your water usage compares to last year’s,” says Jason Morrison, a water expert at the eco-driven Pacific Institute in Oakland, CA. “It’s information that’s very easy to read. You can also compare your usage to the county average and to the town average. That kind of information motivates people. Those kinds of policies allow people to become actively involved in utilities issues.”

Something else that’s helped California, as it fights to stay afloat during a drought, is the tightening of specs on new construction, for instance, requiring low-flow plumbing for all new homes. (Old-fashioned toilets use 6 gallons per flush, while the smart and modern ones only take 1.6 gallons or less.)

Water utitilies around the country are finding similar opportunities in conservation.