Greenspace: Environmentally friendly new year's resolutions

Rain barrels can help slow the flow of rainwater from your property.

With the new year upon us, it's time once again to make those resolutions for a better 2015. But unlike your resolution to work out every morning before the sun rises or call your mother twice a week, there are some resolutions that should be easy to keep because they are both fun (not that phone calls to Mom or a pre-dawn sweat in the gym aren't fun) and great ways to preserve our natural resources.

So, with the help of experts from Rochester Public Utilities as well as Kevin Strauss, education coordinator for the Zumbro Watershed Partnership, and Megan Duffey Moeller, stormwater educator for the city of Rochester, here are some ideas for great resolutions for 2015.

• Plan to visit a river, pond, lake or stream at least once a month to hike, snowshoe, ski, picnic, fish and explore. "People who spend more time recreating outdoors tend to be happier, healthier and less stressed," Strauss said.

• He also suggested finding a way to slow the flow of rainwater from your property. Using rain barrels and rain gardens to capture rainfall and keep it from washing sediment and pollution into our storm sewers helps keep our lakes and streams cleaner.

Moeller agreed and added that rain gardens with native plants — with their deep root systems — can help pull water into the ground rather than let it run across the landscape toward bodies of water. "Divert your downspouts to vegetated areas where it can soak into the ground," she said. "Water running across hard surfaces, such as driveways, sidewalks and roads, has no opportunity to soak into the ground. Instead it runs to area surface waters, picking up pollutants along the way."


• Strauss recommended joining a local conservation group that works to protect rivers, wildlife or natural lands right here in Minnesota. "Clean, healthy natural ecosystems help clean our water and air naturally, store floodwaters and provide great wildlife habitat and create great recreational lands," he said.

• Moeller asked that homeowners keep an eye on grass clippings and leaves along the curb line and driveway. "Lawn debris will be carried to waterways where it will decompose into nutrients that will cause algae blooms," she said.

She added that property owners need to remember that when it comes to lawn chemicals and winter deicers, using less not only saves money but it means less product will wash into the watershed, Moeller said. "Over application of the products will cause them to run to our rivers and streams in the next rain event or spring thaw," she said.

• Finally, RPU encourages everyone to take advantage of rebates, such as solar rebates and Conserve & Save rebates, for electricity and water. For more information, go to .

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