A well-designed and maintained River-Friendly Landscape can help conserve energy
Properly placed trees can save on
Properly sited shade trees can cool summer building temperatures by providing
direct shade from the sun and by cooling the ambient air temperature through evapotranspiration. When
mature, they can reduce interior building temperatures by as much as 20 degrees,
reducing summer cooling costs by 25-40%. During the winter, properly placed
trees can also provide protection from cooling winter winds.
- For maximum shading benefits, plant trees to the west of a building.
- Deciduous trees can reduce energy needs by providing shade in
the summer and allowing the sun in during the winter.
- Evergreen trees provide the best protection from winter winds.
- Select trees that are appropriate for the soil type, water use, and
exposure. If possible, select trees that have low water requirements.
- Plant larger trees at least 20 feet, and smaller trees at least 10 feet,
from the house foundation.
- For more info go to the following websites:
University of California.
- Get free shade trees by calling SMUD’s shade tree program at
1-888-742-7683 or going to
www.smud.org, search "shade tree".
Parking lots and streets are significant sources of heat and pollutants
(parked cars emit hydrocarbons that contribute to the formation of ground level
ozone). Shading them reduces the heat stored in or reflected from them —
resulting in more comfortable cars and improved air quality.
- Select and plant trees that are appropriate for the site in terms of
soil type, water use and exposure.
- Choose as large a tree as possible but be sure it will be allowed to
grow to its natural shape and size in the allotted space.
- Choose trees with root systems that do not damage pavement.
- Select light colored, reflective concrete paving materials.
- Consider shading paved areas with photovoltaic arrays.
Limiting the sun that shines directly on your air conditioner will keep it
cooler and running more efficiently — reducing the energy it uses and your
Shade your air conditioner (being careful not to obstruct the airflow) by:
- choosing a shrub or tree appropriate for the soil and microclimate, or
- building a freestanding arbor with deciduous vines
Where outdoor lighting is necessary, design it in a way that minimizes energy
use and “light pollution.”
- Identify lighting goals and determine lowest acceptable levels.
- For security, use motion sensor lights instead of all night
- Specify full cut off luminaries (no horizontal light leaves the site)
for all exterior light to prevent casting beams onto adjacent properties,
right of ways or the night sky. Visit
www.darksky.org for a list of fixtures approved by the International
Dark Sky Association.
- Use only compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) and high pressure sodium
bulbs for outdoor building
- Specify photovoltaic or 12-volt lighting where possible.
Maintaining your landscape with hand powered equipment as much as possible
will protect your health, as well as the local air and water quality.
- When buying or upgrading power equipment, choose the smallest, most fuel
efficient, lowest emission equipment required to get the job done.
- Minimize the use of gas-powered blowers.
- Keep power equipment well maintained.
- Recycle debris on site to minimize fuel consumption for hauling.
It takes energy to transport products long distances. You can do your part to
conserve energy and reduce air pollution by choosing local materials whenever
- Consider the source and embodied energy of all materials in the
landscape, including stone, gravel, plants, lumber, furniture, etc. Use
local stone, for example, rather than limestone shipped from the Midwest.
- Select smaller container stock to increase the number of plants per
delivery. Smaller plants also transplant better.
- Use recycled and less highly processed materials, and avoid
petroleum-based products, including synthetic fertilizers.
Click on any section to learn more
Here are some more in depth articles on specific RFL topics that you might
find of interest:
RFL Inspiration Garden
Mulch, Grasscycling, and Compost
Fertilize Naturally — Is Feeding
Frenzy Really Needed?
Plant Trees, Save Energy!
Right Plant, Right Place!
Take Action to Save Water Outdoors…
Lawn Care: How Green is Your Grass?
Rethink Your Lawn
Pests Bugging You?
River-Friendly Pest Control
Managing Common Pests
Interview about RFL (MP3)
Choose California natives first
Don't Blow It!
Reducing Outdoor Asthma
Watch the YouTube video
Flow - Make Your Landscape Act Like a Sponge"
to learn about the importance of landscaping to stormwater quality.