5 property maintenance techniques that harm the environment

Lawn sprinkler

Chances are, you go to the cottage to be closer to nature—to get away from the smog and chaos of the city and spend a little time surrounded by peace and quiet.

But what if your little piece of paradise is actually hurting the nature you depend on the recharge and refresh? Not such a good strategy. Property maintenance at your cottage has the potential to do serious environmental damage, and here are some of the biggest offenders.

1. Using pesticides and herbicides. Anything you put on your lawn or garden eventually ends up somewhere else—in the lake, wildlife, and plants that surround your cottage. While some pesticides and herbicides aren’t available any more, some still are, and many have pretty dire consequences for the environment.

Solution: Think about losing the lawn. Seriously. You’re at the cottage, not in the suburbs, so embrace the natural landscape around you and work with what you’ve got—dramatic rock formations, native plants, and a wild charm. The average lawn uses six times more hazardous chemicals per acre than commercial farms. If you’d like a garden, encourage a meadow to grow, plant shrubs, or grow vegetables in raised beds. Wouldn’t it be nice to take mowing the lawn off your never-ending cottage to-do list? Here are some ideas for what to plant instead.

2. Using chemical fertilizers. Even something seemingly innocuous like lawn fertilizer can encourage the growth of algae in lakes, leading to an upset in the ecosystem. If you fancy being able to fish for the foreseeable future, use an alternative to chemical fertilizers.

Solution: If you have to fertilize—though you should consider embracing the lawnless lifestyle instead—use homemade compost, which has the added benefit of keeping your table scraps out of landfills. If you’re growing vegetables, investigate companion planting tips to keep veggies healthy and pests at bay.

3. Mowing your lawn with a gas mower: Aside from being loud, gas mowers burn fuel inefficiently, belching pollution into the air.

Solution: Aside from getting rid of your lawn completely, think about investing in a good push mower. You’ll cut noise, cut fuel use, and get a little exercise while you’re doing your chores, meaning you’ll really have earned that nap down on the dock. Also, leave your grass clippings where they are—they’ll add nitrogen to the lawn and will encourage earthworms.

4. Using too much water in your garden. Particularly if you’re on a well system, watering the garden can be a real drain on your resources. Plus, watering takes up valuable time that could be spent reading, fishing or tackling that 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

Solution: Plant a hardy, low-maintenance garden with plants that won’t wilt at the first feeling of drought. Daylilies, yucca, sedum, and lamb’s ear offer colour, texture, and height. Relying on native plants like milkweed and black-eyed susans will provide food and shelter for butterflies and birds. Get a rain barrel to collect water for the garden if you don’t want to give up your pots of impatiens completely.

5. Disposing of leftover paint, varnish or stain after a project. You probably know better than to dump any leftovers down the drain or into the lake, but simply dropping off paint cans at the dump won’t help the environment either.

Solution: Pack up leftover paint cans and bring them back to the city, where you can drop them off at a transfer station that’s equipped to deal with toxic substances. If there’s one on your way home, even better.