The web tools help you do six important activities:
- Footprints--Help property owners balance natures carbon, water, nutrient and pesticide cycles along with enhance habitat for birds and wildlife.
- Estimate the number and size of trees and shrubs to plant--help designers know what to plant and where
- Water and energy conservation--save money
- Budget –-Plan the build-out of your yard and demonstrate long term savings
- Results--Measure your success
- Native Plant Selection Search Engine- Identify native plants by size, color, and site conditions
All living things within an ecosystem interact with each other and also with their non-living environment to form an ecological unit that is largely self-contained and able to regenerate itself. Humans impact natural cycles in different ways. The ecological footprint is a measure of human impact on the ecosystems. It compares human demand with the ecosystem’s ability to regenerate. It represents the amount of biologically productive land and water area needed to regenerate the resources we consume and to absorb and render harmless the corresponding waste.
Balancing natural cycles is often referred to as cycle neutrality. Neutrality means we put back as much as we use. Only then does our footprint become zero. This means our actions have left the natural system in balance and sustainable. Best practice for organizations and individuals seeking ecological neutral status entails reducing or avoiding negative impacts first so that only unavoidable impacts are offset.
Five good measures of stewardship refer to how we manage our habitat diversity, water, nutrients, carbon and use of chemicals in our yards. These are Designing With Natives measures of our ecological footprints. The measure for each natural cycle is different; however, all cycles are interconnected in some way.
Each cycle is based on square footage measurements in your yard. Each measure is related to land cover—trees, shrubs, native grasses and flower beds, turf lawn and impervious surface. These cover types affect cycles by their influence on water runoff and infiltration, carbon storage and absorption, nutrient loading and use of pesticides.
The horizontal and vertical structure of your yard and the percentage of native plants impact habitat value. Google Earth allows you to measure with your computer. Once your measures are complete, multiply width x length and you can answer the following questions. Designing With Natives web tools. The web tools provides several valuable pieces of information and provides a dashboard for planning your yard. Start at the top and work your way down the icons. As you plan and design your yard you can change inputs and see how impacts change.
Habitat is based on a score of 1 to 10. For water, carbon, nutrients and pesticides a neutrality scale has a dial to show how neutral you are currently. As you add trees, shrubs and square feet of flower beds or reduce lawn or impervious surface, the dial moves one way or the other. Once you enter your measurements into the system, the website shows how many trees, shrubs or square feet of flower beds you will need to reach a neutral status. It is just that simple! In the case of carbon neutrality, you may need to plant more trees than you have space. The offset process allows you to pay others to offset your demand by planting trees on your behalf in parks or other natural areas.
Ecological Footprint Quiz. www.myfootprint.org