A solar system is no- to low–maintenance once it is installed because it does not have any moving parts. Regular rainfall tends to help keep the panels free of dust, salt deposits, and other debris. Otherwise, periodic cleaning may be needed to make sure the panels are clear and able to capture as much sunlight as possible. Some installers offer maintenance services with the purchase of a solar array. Many also allow you to monitor how much electricity your system is producing online in real time, so any changes in normal production levels may help you detect problems. More FAQs on solar PV
LED bulbs are 75 – 80% more efficient than incandescent bulbs, which means in order to save the same amount of money by turning off incandescent bulbs, you would need to have your lights off 75 – 80% longer than you would if you had LEDs. For example, having an LED light bulb on for 4 hours uses the same amount of energy as a traditional incandescent bulb does in just 1 hour.
Rip rap is a hard barrier that will prevent erosion, but it does not help maintain a healthy pond. If you have turf grass down to the water line, then a No Mow Zone is a good start in preserving the shoreline, because it restricts heavy mowing machinery from compacting and eroding the bank. Still, when the grass is trimmed with handheld trimmers, care must be taken to keep the grass clippings out of the pond. Ideally the No Mow Zone is densely planted with a variety of native shrubs and grasses which have root structures that are better able to hold the bank and can “clean” runoff from adjacent yards and roads. A No Mow turf buffer is a first step (good) and planted buffers are the next step (better). See the Healthy Ponds Guide for details.
Several retailers, like Best Buy, Staples, and Amazon, offer free recycling programs and/or drop off locations for many types of electronics including cell phones, TVs, computers, cameras, and other equipment. If you are replacing a larger item, like a TV or major appliance, sometimes stores will haul out and recycle the old one for a small charge. If the item still works, consider donating it to a local Goodwill or other charity. For example, groups like 911 Cell Phone Bank, Medic Mobile, and Cell Phones for Soldiers accept cell phone donations.
There are a couple different ways to get started with composting. If you live in an apartment or condo without a lot of outdoor space for a compost bin, your best bet would be to join a community composting program offered by groups like Sunshine Community Compost. They provide all of the training and supplies and they also manage the compost pile for you. All you have to do is collect your food scraps at home and drop them off at one of their compost stations. Plus, you get the added benefit of being able to take home fully processed compost to enrich the soil of your patio plants! If there is no compost station near you, you can also work with the organization to get a compost station started at your building. If you are looking to start a compost bin or pile in your own yard, there are several discounted starter kits and “composting 101” classes to help you learn what you can compost and how to maintain your compost pile in a way that is odorless, pest-free, and makes “black gold”!
There are numerous farmers markets, seafood markets, and local farms and ranches up and down the Suncoast that feature locally grown fruits, vegetables, seafood, and meat year round. Visiting a nearby market or farm is one of the best ways to find what produce is in season and support your local economy.
As many gardeners could tell you, Florida’s climate is very welcoming to pests, which can make gardening a challenge. However, there are a few tricks that can help you avoid resorting to harsh chemicals:
While there is no solution to completely eliminate mosquitoes in Southwest Florida, there are things you can do to keep populations a bit more under control. Adding fish, tadpoles, or copepods (tiny crustaceans) that eat mosquito eggs or larvae can help reduce overall numbers. Adding pond vegetation that provides shelter for these animals will also help them thrive and consume mosquito pests. When selecting plants for your pond, consider avoiding those that encourage mosquitoes, like cattails, water lettuce, and water hyacinth. Choose plants, like pickerelweed, duck potato, tapegrass/wild celery, or swamp milkweed, that attract dragonflies, which eat mosquito larvae.
No. Many mosquitoes need standing water to lay eggs. If you landscape in a way that allows water to soak into the ground or into a planted area, like a rain garden, the conditions will not be favorable for them to breed. However, it is important to keep an eye on potential areas that do collect standing water, like a bird bath, empty tire, or watering can. Flip these over after a rain or empty them out every 5 days. Bromeliads are a particular favorite for mosquitoes as well because they can hold water for several days after a rain. Flush them out every 5 days or treat them with Bacillus thuringiensis israeli (i.e. BTI mosquito bits) to get rid of larvae. Make sure your gutters are cleaned out and do not store water either. Keep yard material away from clogging storm drains and report standing water in areas, like roadways, that usually do not have water.
Eat Local is not a panacea for feeding the world. People living in many places must import their food. Florida is fortunate to have great growing conditions for many types of crops, though not everything we like to eat. In Florida, supporting existing local farms and ranches helps keep those lands in agricultural production providing green space rather than converting to suburban sprawl. Farms and ranches can provide valuable ecosystem services like water storage and filtration, wildlife habitat, and sequestering carbon. Eating locally produced food also contributes to the local economy, builds resilience, and community. But, in order to feed the world’s burgeoning population, we need to increase efficiency and intensity of food production globally and optimize distribution and storage. Increased efficiency and intensity can decrease the total production acreage needed and help protect natural lands from being converted to farmland.
Ultimately, the net environmental impact of where we get our food depends on i) the local growing conditions and the intensity of practices needed to make that farmland productive, ii) how far the food must be transported to market, and iii) what the alternative land use would be for that farmland if it weren’t under production. A full life-cycle analysis is needed to thoroughly understand the dynamics of our local and global food systems. Whatever the calculations, the bottom line is that sustainable agriculture practices are needed on farms large or small, close or far.
The Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMPs) are a science-based training program for members of the lawn care and landscape maintenance professions, collectively known as the Green Industries. Developed by the UF/IFAS Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program, the GI-BMPs teach environmentally safe landscaping practices that help conserve and protect Florida’s ground and surface waters. These practices cover both the establishment of new turf and landscapes and the care of existing turf and landscapes, including construction activities, irrigation, nutrient management, and pest management. All lawn or landscape professionals who apply fertilizer as part of their business must complete the BMP training and be certified in fertilizer application. Look for the GI-BMP certification sticker on their trucks, and if you don’t see it ask.
Stormwater runoff from neighborhoods is the number one source of pollution in local creeks and bays, mainly because there is simply so much rainwater that flows off properties and picks up pollutants along the way. However, there are several ways to reduce the environmental impact of your yard:
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