Yard waste is a man made problem that has no parallels in nature. Through excessive watering, fertilizing and pest control we promote excessive and unnatural growth in our yards. This results in the production of large amounts of waste that often cannot be handled by any means other than disposal or burning.
Disposing and burning create problems. Disposal costs money and necessitates transportation of waste. Open burning hurts air quality and leads to serious health problems in those with respiratory difficulties.
There is often a backlash against disposal costs and these costs are used by some as a rationale for open burning or illegal dumping. There are those that believe that free yard waste disposal would solve all of the yard waste problems, however the reality is that yard waste disposal costs money. Yard waste composting is contracted out to the lowest bidder on the open market and the resulting costs must be paid. If the disposal fees were to be removed, the only other source of revenue to pay for the program would be property taxes and taxes as a yard waste funding source would create two main problems. The first is that there would be little incentive to look for other solutions such as composting or Zero Waste landscaping. The other is that it would be inherently unfair, with the low impact resident paying for the wastes of the high impact resident.
The best and most sustainable long term solution to the yard waste problem is the elimination of yard waste. The landscaping scheme in our yards are essentially aesthetic decisions. The ideal of the perfect green lawn is driven more by current fashion than practicality. A wide spread conversion to more natural landscaping aesthetics would virtually eliminate yard waste and the need to handle it. A Zero Waste landscaping movement would also save fuel needed for lawn mowers, reduce the need for outdoor watering, thus lessening pressure on our municipal water systems and reduce by vast amounts the herbicides and pesticides that we use to keep out lawns picture perfect.
Ecological bio-diversity would be enhanced by more natural landscaping schemes as beneficial birds, insect and reptiles flourish in a natural environment. There is also a fantastic opportunity to restore some of the original ecosystem of our region, for example, there are some gardeners who are recreating Garry Oak meadows in their yards using many natural plants and flowers that have been threatened by development on the east coast of Vancouver Island.
For ideas on natural gardening, download our Environmentally Responsible Gardening in the RDN guide.
Also check out some of these web sites:
- Water-wise gardening; design and planting strategies
- Grow Me Instead - Plant Guide - by the Invasive Species Council
- Building a Rain Barrel - easy step-by-step on how to build a rain barrel
- Great Plant Picks for the Pacific Northwest - Plants lists for drought tolerant species
- Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation - Water Saving Tips for Your Lawn and Garden
- Native Plant Society of British Columbia - Information on Native Plants of BC.
- VanDusen Botanical Garden - Information on water conservation, native plants, and waterwise gardening.
- Healthy Lawns - Health Canada resources