Tips Before Taking Out Your Greenway Lawn

California residents know that having an environmentally friendly lawn is important during this ongoing drought. However, before you dig up the lawn and make changes, have a plan in place. I did, but I also learned a few lessons along way. Here, I offer some insight that might save you from headaches.

Knowing I could do more to save water beyond our low-flow showerheads and low-water toilets, the L-shaped greenway lawn bordering the street was fair game for saving on weekly waterings.

Deciding to go lawn-less, I had two goals:

1) Save water.

2) Save money by having lower water bills and by reducing gardening expense by selecting every-other-week maintenance for my remaining landscaping.

Before deciding how to go about the task, I did a fair amount of internet research. I looked around my neighborhood, snapped photos and figured out what I wanted to do. I spoke with my gardener and a landscaper, and I checked with the city to learn about suggestions and rebates.

The easiest (though not cheapest) route was to remove the grass and plants completely. (Your city may require a percentage of planting in order to qualify your project for rebates). Just four bubbler sprinklers now support two, native, drought-tolerant trees in wood-chip planter areas. The remaining greenway contains decomposed granite with intermittent three-piece pathways of bouquet canyon stone.

The good news: I am saving water and money (though it will take a while to recoup my investment).

Not-so-good news: I need to tuck away some money to improve my design because it didn’t work out exactly as I envisioned it.

What you can learn from my mistakes:

1)    Think about the daily foot traffic along your greenway. If you have a lot of pedestrians, consider how they might impact your landscaping choices. In my case, once the rains began, the decomposed granite proved to be an irresistible target for footprints and gouges. In all fairness, passengers exiting cars along the no-longer-greenway had no choice but to step onto the wet surface. In retrospect, it’s not the ideal surface to use in this much-traveled space.

2)    Consider how a zero-plant greenway will affect your home’s curb appeal. I have abundant plants surrounding my home; nonetheless my initial reaction to losing the border greenery was “uh oh.” Incorporating even a few drought-tolerant plants along the greenway would introduce some height variation to the border; I’ll plan to purchase a few when the budget allows.

All said, once my new trees mature and I’m able to install enough stone and a few plants to eliminate the foot traffic and curb appeal issues, I’ll feel good about having made changes that are water-wise, functional, and attractive.

Sign up for SGA’s newsletter to keep up with the latest in community-based social marketing and behavior change.

Protests and Progress: How Action Inspires Change

It’s impossible to tune into the news right now without hearing about the thousands of people across the country who are demonstrating. On so many levels, this is a good thing.

By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the grand jury decisions—one in Missouri, the other in New York—not to indict two white police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black men. We could go on for days discussing every tiny bit of information about both cases, but for a moment, let’s focus on the reaction: protests. People have channeled their disbelief, anger, frustration and fear into action.

Action is a powerful antidote to fear, and it’s an essential component of behavior change. When we listen to the news, we take in a lot of scary information. From climate change and terrorism to racism and poverty, we can easily become overwhelmed and paralyzed by problems too big for any one of us to solve on our own. As a result, many people shut down or deny the problems exist altogether.

But when highly fearful information is coupled with a plan of action, suddenly we have a way to alleviate the sense of danger. Empowerment replaces denial and hope overtakes desperation. We’ve seen this time and again in community-based social marketing campaigns.

Say I created a recycling campaign that informed people that every day the US generates enough trash to fill 63,000 garbage trucks, and left it at that. It’s a pretty staggering fact and it would likely cause shock, fear for the future, powerlessness and ultimately shut down. But if I also told them how they could reduce their trash by drinking from reusable cups, recycling everything possible and starting a compost pile, I would give them something to do. And that action has the power to overcome the fear and helplessness and create lasting behavior change.

The grand jury decisions are a lot like the 63,000 garbage trucks full of trash for many people. The peaceful protests and demonstrations (not the looting kind) are inspiring, because people have joined forces to confront their fear and plant the seeds for real change.