Fact: Trees and shrubs planted in strategic locations can cool your house in the summer, and provide shelter from winter winds.
Getting started: To reap the most benefits from trees, you need to choose the right tree for your house. Use our selection guide to find a tree right for you, and consult our planting guides on how to ensure its long-term survival.
Fact: Native plantings require fewer chemicals and care and are better for the environment.
Getting started: Find the best plants for the moisture and light characteristics found in your yard using our searchable native plants database. The database includes all types of plants—trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses and more—and interesting attributes like fall color and wildlife benefits. Where to buy? Try these native plant purveyors: Edge of the Woods Nursery and Yellow Springs Farms.
Fact: Growing your own food is healthier, cheaper and carbon friendly.
Getting started: Pick the best spot, start small, and read up on the basics—from testing the soil to determining what to plant. This publication from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences is a good guide for beginning and seasoned gardeners. Need garden tools? Look at the products offered by Ames True Temper.
Fact: Raising egg-laying hens in the backyard provides a convenient source of protein and minimizes pollution associated with transportation.
Getting started: From coops to peeps, breeds to recipes, go here for the scoop on the fun and simple pastime of raising chickens at home.
Fact: Reducing the size of your lawn and increasing the area planted to trees, shrubs, and perennials saves time and money while benefitting wildlife and water quality.
Getting started: Review these helpful garden templates for examples of plants and planting beds that can be established over time, customized to the light and moisture conditions around your home.
Fact: Homemade compost enriches the soil and recycles yard and kitchen leftovers.
Getting started: Mix some "greens" with some "browns," add ample air and moisture, and mix in a serving of microorganisms. The result: dark, organic compost—a natural fertilizer and soil enhancer. Get the basics with DEP's guide to home composting. Composting is extra easy using a rotating-barrel composter, like Compostumbler.
Fact: A rain barrel stores water for the garden and lessens the destructive surge of runoff after a storm.
Getting started: A wide variety of rain barrels—from plain to fancy—are available for purchase at garden centers and hardware stores. Do-it-yourselfers can make their own with a plastic or wooden barrel and a few basic plumbing accessories. This brochure from the Lebanon County Conservation District provides an overview of the benefits, maintenance, and use of rain barrels. Pennsylvania-made rain barrels are available through Spruce Creek Rainsaver.
Fact: Bicycles provide a healthy, quiet, carbon-free alternative to automobiles.
Getting started: Cycling is easier than you think. Find a bike, grab a helmet, and plot the best route (and the safest) to where you want to go. The PA Commutes web site is a great place for biking—related information to get you on your way.
Fact: Public transportation is an affordable, convenient alternative to driving that cuts down on smog and CO2 emissions.
Getting started: Public transit options are available in every county in Pennsylvania. Visit the PACommutes web site to find bus and rail services, tips, and more.
Fact: Some motorized scooters can exceed 100 miles per gallon, making for a very eco-savvy mode of travel.
Getting started: Honda, Yamaha, Vespa, and other manufacturers make a variety of models that are easy to drive and easy on the planet. Limit your emissions to zero with electric scooters like those from the Z Electric Vehicles that are clean, green, and fast (with speeds to 80 mph).
Fact: Wind energy can be used to generate electricity for the home and it releases zero greenhouse gas emissions.
Getting started: A variety of horizontal and vertical wind power generation products are available for residential use. Learn more about small wind energy systems by reading this consumer guide. Try full-service companies like EECO for products and installation.
Fact: Light-colored roofs are more reflective and help a home stay cooler, using less energy for air conditioning.
Getting started: Metal roofs and reflective asphalt shingles are two options—both of which can be installed on existing homes. Federal tax credits may be available. Learn more at the EPA's cool roofs web page.
Fact: Observing the plants, birds, and other natural phenomena around your home can contribute to scientific knowledge.
Getting started: Go to our Citizen Science Investigator, or CSI PA, web page, find a program that interests you, and start collecting data in your own backyard.
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