Thursday, May 22, 2008
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Illinois EPA encourages Illinoisans to adopt conservation practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

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[May 22, 2008]  SPRINGFIELD -- Spring is typically a time when homeowners till the soils to prepare for bountiful summer vegetable and flower gardens and a time when landscapers begin to manicure lawns into picture-perfect landscapes. In preparation, Illinois Environmental Protection Director Doug Scott encourages Illinoisans to adopt green gardening and landscaping practices that are not only beautiful, but that also keep greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

DonutsAccording to Scott, gardeners could help maintain the health of the planet and their pocketbooks by planting native species in their yards. "By planting prairie grasses and native trees and shrubs, gardeners will not only create natural shade and wind block to reduce the homeowner's energy bills, but they will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change," said Scott. "This type of conservation practice is yet another option for green thumbs to reap what they sow."

Native plants also adapt to their surroundings more easily, reducing labor and water usage.


Plants absorb from the atmosphere, then use sunlight and water to create carbon molecules like sugars and plant tissue. As plant roots die, the carbon molecules in the roots remain underground unless they are exposed to the air through tillage or other disturbance. Therefore, grasslands are an excellent storehouse of soil carbon. If managed properly, soil can remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere more economically and quickly than any other method. Land management practices such as planting prairie grasses and native vegetations increase soil carbon, restore the land, prevent erosion, improve biodiversity and increase productivity.

Planting hardwood trees as a conservation practice is one of the best ways to control carbon from being released into the atmosphere. Trees require minimal maintenance and also play a big part in fighting against climate change. One tree will absorb 1 ton of carbon dioxide -- a major greenhouse gas, which contributes to global warming -- in its lifetime.

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Contrary to popular belief, while typical yard grass is pretty, it's not always greener. Short-rooted turf grasses, which typically cover entire yards, require frequent mowing and regular applications of water and fertilizer. Though readily available, relatively inexpensive and quick to stabilize, they do not have the sustained drought tolerance of native prairie grasses, such as switchgrass, big bluestem and Indian grass.

Native prairie grasses could be used to combat the challenging task of controlling erosion, because they develop extremely deep roots. They are hardy plants that need less mowing, fertilizer, pesticide and water, thus benefiting the environment and reducing maintenance costs. Native plants are adapted to local conditions, so they are more likely to be self-reliant and more resistant than the native vegetation is to an invasion by non-native or woody vegetation.

"By adopting conservation practices and landscaping the yard this summer with trees and native prairie grasses, one person can make a difference in the global fight against climate change," said Scott.

[Text from Illinois Environmental Protection Agency file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]



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