Friday, September 11, 2009

Building Green one driveway at a time...

There are a lot of new driveways slowly getting built around the city these days. More calls and questions about permeable paving and our ecogrid then ever before. I'm really pleased to see Torontonians are looking at the ecogrid for their driveways. Although we're getting a lot of calls from people who are looking at fixing up their driveways with the e40 - I've been answering more and more questions about alleyway parking areas.
I walk everywhere - don't own a car - which isn't really necessary for me personally in the city of Toronto. It means I get to see a lot of back alleyways, cross a lot of parks, and see things at a walking pace.
And wow do I see a lot of alleyways here in Toronto that are really in need of fixing up. The City of Vancouver really seems to get it .... terrafirm has done a lot of work with CoV. And then Chicago is really making the move too. Hopefully Toronto will get the idea - because to be honest - its much much easier to build a green driveway then to build a green roof.
Usually parking areas in the city are fairly small - and some are terribly neglected. A lot of the houses in my area are 50-90 yrs old. The laneways are about 50 yrs. And most of them are crumbling chunks of pavement, broken asphault and deterioating cement. If they aren't that - they are probably like my landlords: compacted gravel and weeds.

There's a pretty simple solution for most laneways, alleyway parking and parking pads. Dig up the old stuff - excavate it out - put down some fresh gravel, some e40 (or e50) Ecogrid - fill it up with more gravel. It lasts indefinately. Think about that.. eliminate ruts and potholes - and don't worry about it for 20 yrs. Now that's sustainable green living! (plus hey - its 100% recycled materials - and it can be recycled too - not bad!).

Or better yet - look at building a green parking area. Most of the time you only park there at night. The grass has hours of sunlight in the day. It soaks up the rain and gets rid of the mud. Suddenly, that ugly patch of concrete becomes a green spot. Put in one of the new low-mow grasses so you don't have to worry about cutting it as much - and now there are some really sturdy, drought resistant grasses that are tough.

Thats the plan too. Turn the driveways of yesterday into green areas. As far as a company goes, really, its a simple and beautiful idea. Simple to install. Simple design.
It would likely save so very many of the trees too. I've spent most of the past weeks talking to various tree-companies. yay for Arborists! They usually look at our ecogrid - like the e50 - and realize how it works. Smart bunch. I think they have the best grasp of what permeable paving does - and how easy it is. I've been impressed. Maybe its something about the trees and finding a solution that works so well with the ecogrid? I suspect so.
Whenever I walk through the streets and alleys of Toronto - I have become keenly aware of the pools of water. I look at them and see the standing water - or see it slowly finding its way into the drains. Its a shame. That water heading to the stormwater drains could be filtered - it would go through the permeable paving grid - and sink into the soil. The ground would eventually filter it. All those trees would get a bit more water - which is why I guess the arborists get the solution so quickly.

So that's part of my life. The rest of it is making steampunk jewelry - recycling watches, computer parts and whatnot - but the other half is talking about digging up driveways. To be honest I scratch my head on this one... but hey. Its green. So I'm happy.

But to be honest... I love talking to people even after having done 10 yrs of tech support - and this really feels different. I know that when someone commits to replacing their crappy asphault driveway and replacing it with Gravel - or GRASS! - then I feel like the world just got a bit greener. And of course it has.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Busy Summer for Green Driveways with Ecogrid

Wow, what a busy summer!
And what did i Miss this morning???!

Was there a meniton of EcoGrid or something on CANADA AM today? hopefully! How exciting .. maybe it can be possible - getting rid of asphault and putting in GREEN! Its great if Canada AM mentioned our EcoGrid!

Alas, I slept through it if so.
Still.. tis the Busy Season starting now...

We've suddenly been swamped with calls from Ontario, people saying they heard about ECOGRID - or about permeable paving - and green driveways! I'm guessing it was green driveways - but really I also had 2 calls today from landscapers who were looking at erosion control. Well, its great to know our product is getting out there - getting found... and is going to be used to build some new green driveways around the GTA too.

This time - late August through Sept and October is probably one of the best times for people to put in a green driveway. The cool nights are just optimal for putting in grass.

I had to personally do two deliveries around the GTA last week - and had a fellow come and pick up some EcoGrid permeable paving at my Dad's house in Etobicoke. We had stashed a hundred or so square feet of the stuff - since dad was going to re-do the wet, muddy spot in the back yard. We're likely going to put in some gravel pathways too = Instead a guy really needed it ASAP - and picked it up.

I didn't realize how busy it was going to get for the last month plus - but likely, because of the rain we've been getting - there is a lot of interest in permeable paving here in Toronto - actually all throughout Ontario - for our EcoGrid. I don't know if that has been the primary reason or if it is just a general interest in people building green driveways?

One of the more intersting deliveries was to a fellow who is going to be putting in coloured gravel - a red gravel. He's so keen on installing it, we ended up talking about his plans for an hour. I can't wait to share some of the photos with you all. Not that I think anyone reads this blog.. lol.

This past month here in Ontario we've had some of the worst thunderstorms I've seen in a while - and lots and lots of rain. My father - who lives in Etobicoke - has always had problems with the back yard. Every spring we'd get a bit of flooding - and it would take about an hour or more to soak into the ground. In the spring - when there's ice and melt - it takes even longer. We've now got the solution and it really didn't take long to see the results. We put down a small layer of gravel, some soil and then the EcoGrid - and filled it in. Dad said that 2 wks ago when there were those massive thunderstorms and tornado warnings - he went out after and inspected it. He was incredibly happy to see - NO Water! lol. basically, for the first time that section of the back yard wasn't a muddy mess for 3-4 hrs. He did say it was a bit spongy - but not with that pool of water we used to get.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gravel Driveway Repairs - long term solutions

I love the look of a nice gravel driveway. Actually here in Toronto - there are a ton of alleys with stretches of gravel. Often time some of the stores around here have small gravel parking areas in behind the streets. Too bad most of them are falling apart.

There's a simple repair that can be done with gravel driveways and gravel parking spots - which involves getting someone to come along and regrade it. This basically levels out the surface. Or you can do the "fill in" method for annoying pot holes. Pot holes are usually formed by weak spots in the underbase or in the surface. So you can buy gravel and fill those in.

Most gravel driveway repairs involve tossing down more gravel. Every year - you can add more gravel - which keeps it looking nice.

But realistically - these are "patch jobs". They don't solve the basic problem. Erosion. Potholes. Gravel migration. As rain water settles into an area it starts to erode the soil ... and as you drive over the areas the gravel compacts. Compacted gravel means that the water no longer flows through - and your gravel driveway is no longer a permeable surface. Water won't flow through it.

So what can be done?
And is there a LONG TERM solution or are you stuck paying to repair your gravel driveway forever?

Yes, it can be done...
with a bit of excavation and some ecogrid - and then more gravel. Usually, a "fella" with a bobcat can do some excavations for you - and at incredibly reasonable rates.

- excavation
- gravel
- ecogrid
- plate compactor
- some strong backs for hire (or enough pizza and beer to make the job fun)

What you are excating for is to make space for a new sub-base - a drainage base - and the grid.
What you want to do is excavate out your old gravel. Its probably pretty well mixed in with the soil... and if you've got pools of water or it takes a while to "soak in" then your driveway is compacted.
How far you should go of course really depends on the area - and its good to consult with a local soil engineer if you can. If you are going to fix it ... Fix it Right! A good sub-base preparation will save you money and time. Level it out and then add in your new gravel. (if you are really concientious you should either salvage your old gravel - or at least get it to a recycler!).
Actually - the excavation is the most difficult step - and that's where the "fella" (or gal) with a bobcat saves you time - and will help it be done right.

Some of the gravel you purchase will be for the sub base. A good sub-base will usually be a mix of gravel - and you can usually talk to the people who are selling the gravel about what you are doing. They will likely be experts and can advise you. Your sub base is a gravel drainage layer which is usually a clear or washed gravel of varying size. The better the preparation of the sub base the easier the grid can be installed. Here's your chance as well to level it all out before you put on your grid... You can rent a hand push roller

NOW the hard work is almost completely done... the rest is easy as pie.

For Residential driveways the midweight grid product will work best. Its 1.5 inches deep (40 mm) - and designed to withstand car traffic. It has re-inforced edges - so unlike roll grid products - you don't have to worry about it moving around and fraying at the edges. After all - you will build this once - and it will last for decades. You can park your future eco-car on it a decade from now!

Installing EcoGrid is ... literally - a snap! The pieces are 13in square (just over a foot). We send them out in larger sheets - so its already pretty much ready to be assembled. There are install instructions - but it is simple - can send you the install guide for grid, with some tips and tricks.

Believe it or not the job is nearly done. Order up your pizza for those 2 people who are helping you. The grid installation can be done (depending on the size of your parking area or driveway) in an hour or two. Sometimes less.

You can rent a plate compactor of various sizes from your local rental place like Stephensons. They basically will flatten out the grid incase you didn't snap it tightly - and help level your surface. You only do it once on the area.

Now you've got your base done - and the grid is down - and the pizza is on its way. Hand out a beer or two and then spread out the gravel. I personally like the look of red gravel. But its up to you. You fill in the grid (again you can consult the guide for some tips). Its a good idea to keep an inch or two ontop.


In a matter of a day you've repaired your gravel driveway - or your parking spot - and you have a long term solution. The EcoGrid stops the gravel from compacting back into the soil. This pretty much eliminates your drainage problems. There won't be mud or muck.... EcoGrid has a special base that's designed to keep the gravel in place.

And to answer the NUMBER ONE QUESTION:
yes. You can shovel it. Yes, you can plough it. Yes, it can be snowblown.
You treat it like a regular gravel driveway!
All those people who have gravel driveways already know about plowing. You just don't snowblow it all the way down to the grid. Leave some of the gravel in place .... its great for traction then.

AND to answer the Number 2 question...
the reason some gravel driveway get icy is because the water is sitting there - it stays in those potholes in the spring and makes a mess. EcoGrid stops it from compacting - and then the water flows away from the surface. Gravity at work.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Permeable Pavers vs Blacktop aka Asphalt driveways - Thinking Green - an alternative driveway solution

Almost every day I talk to people and inevitably the A-word comes up:
"I'm thinking of putting in an Asphalt Driveway...
"I've got an Asphalt Driveway and I want to get rid of it"
"How does EcoGrid compare to an Asphalt Driveway?"
"My wife/husband wants a blacktop driveway but I like gravel..."
"This stuff is more expensive than getting an asphalt driveway, right?"

So lets take a look at some basic information.

What is Asphalt:
Wiki has this to say - asphalt aka blacktop aka bitumen - "asphalt (or asphalt cement) is the carefully refined residue from the distillation process of selected crude oils." bitumen is used as a binder (5+%) in the making of asphalt. Again, wiki gives us some insite as to what that means. "Most bitumens contain sulfur and several heavy metals such as nickel, vanadium, lead, chromium, mercury and also arsenic, selenium and other toxic elements."

Not anything that really should be used in the vast quantities that it is, imho. From an Eco-perspective, this really isn't a great choice. But realistically, most people will go with the familiar and not think too deeply about what products are best for the environment.

For many people it comes down to price. What will save them money. That is why I get so many calls that want to talk about blacktop vs grid. So lets put aside the environment for a minute.

What does it cost????????

Now as much as I'd love to say a sq/ft of EcoGrid is XYZ price - I'm not going to do that - because as sure as faith what will happen is someone will say "according to your blog you wrote the price is XYZ and I don't care if that was 4 years ago!!! It's on the NET!" Prices go up and down, yes down. But mostly they go up. :) So you can go to and contact them for the latest price.

How does it compare in PRICE to EcoGrid????

Well first of all, I don't know what the local prices of an asphalt driveway might be. Believe it or not the costs really vary from company to company and across the country. Call up a local company and find out. Then send us an email at TerraFirm and we'll give you a quote. Or call 1-866-934-7572 and leave a message.

Now here's the trick....

So when you call up Yer-local-asphalt guy and ask him he'll say, "oh its XY price". And then you go to the EcoGrid site and ask and maybe I'll call you and say its ABC price. And then you think ABC is more than XY. Or about the same. ... and that's as far as most people think.

Here's where the hidden price costs you money - and why pinching a penny means you're losing your pounds:

1. Asphalt needs drains. And curbs. And likely its going to need ditches. That price is not going to be included when you call up the company. Its likely that the longer your drive, the higher the price. And having spent a few hours on the phone with many people - there are more and more cities requiring drainage for parking lots... especially for small parking lots. And drains are expensive to install. And maintain. And if its not done right there's silt and muck to worry about when the drains clog up.

2. Now that you've priced the asphalt with the drains, and curbing and perhaps decided to dig the gutters yourself (or decided you'll skip those - which can lead to long term problems)... What's next? So you've got your blacktop laid down. Don't forget you can't drive on your new asphalt driveway for a few days. So first there is the PITA factor.
Six months is what it takes to cure before you should seal it. And yes... you should seal it.

- so factor in sealant in your costing factor. And wait... before you seal it you need to clean it (at least if you plan on doing it right). You shouldn't just wash it off... you actually should buy specialty cleaners. That's another cost. Here's some info on sealing your blacktop chosen from a random site. Plan on doing it every 2-3 yrs.

3. If its a new blacktop driveway or parking area you should also factor in the costs of the gravel underbase. Ideally it will need to be around 10 inches plus deep. Of course that depends on your soil etc. That's a lot of gravel and excavation... but really you want this chunk of blacktop to last.

So now you have an idea of what your real costs are - at least a ballpark - then you should look at what a grid system costs:

1 . No drains needed. You can either stagger the grid for curves and/or cut it to shape.

2. If you go with gravel - you might need to brush out the gravel - and after a few years perhaps top it up. You won't need anything near the costs of topping up a non-grid gravel driveway because the grid stops it from compacting and scattering all over.

3. If you go with grass - well you'll have to cut the grass. And water it. And for a while, just like a brand new lawn, you will have to reseed bare patches. Some landscapers suggest you over-seed for the first year or two so that weeds don't get established. Since you've done some ground prep to lay the gravel - there's less chance for weeds anyway.


Asphalt cracks. If its not done right then it sinks in spots, cracks and starts falling apart. I'm sure most work out okay, but I've walked across many a parking lot full of cracks, water pools and missing chunks (especially around drains). Don't ask me about repairs to an asphalt drive - but I'm suspecting they need a lot more patching and maintenance.

EcoGrid won't crack or splinter. The EcoGrid is environmentally neutral in accordance with DIN 38412 UV and frost resistant too. If you need to pull up a section you can... sure its a bit difficult because its tabbed together but it won't be the huge project that repairing an equal section of asphalt can be. Plus you don't need to be an expert to install or pull up a section. (one of the few reasons I can think of "repairing" would be if you actually need to change your design - ie: expand or make it into a gravel driveway ... or turn a section into grass).

All in All... after all this info...


and you know what... EcoGrid is the best engineered permeable paver and soil stabilization product available today. And that's why i'm doing this. Because i honestly believe its a good, simple way to help people find a good way to make a great choice.

City Parking lots - why asphalt?

Flying over a city gives you an overview of how our land is being used. Of course there are miles of asphalt in the streets and the thousands of cars. If you live in a large urban center then you see the towering buildings, the condos and houses. If you are looking for green spaces your eyes search out the parks. Sometimes you can pick out some tree lined streets. Google Earth of course means you can see it all from the comfort of your chair.

Now just imagine for a second that all the stretches of parking lots were green. That every parking lot you drove into was either gravel or .. gasp ... grass. Take an image like this:

View Larger Map and just imagine what it would look like if it was green.

Personally, I think there should be more legislation in place to offer incentives for companies to build greener. Generally, once you factor in the costs of putting in asphalt - the drains needed, the curbing, the gutters, the very deep base needed (6-10 inches sometimes of gravel) - you're not looking at a cost savings. Then consider the repairs.

A lot of US states and local bylaws are requiring changes with parking lots. In the image you see above part of the lots just aren't being used. They sit there waiting for Christmas or Thanksgiving rush. You can see those sections - far off in the distance. They are often called overflow parking. 90% of the time they are empty.
Thousands of miles of empty parking just waiting for a small time frame for use.

Why not make those grassy places? it would mean that there are hundreds of square feet per parking lot that would DIRECLY help the environment.

I think that's what I love about the EcoGrid. Its simple. There's no need for huge drainage systems. The grid goes down, the water flows through. Plant grass. Plant seedums. Mow it or use a low maintenance grass - and all those Big box parking lots suddenly aren't ugly. They are directly impacting the environment - but this time in a positive way.

Friday, June 12, 2009

5 Simple Ways to Live Greener - Eco-Landscaping ideas and tips!

5 Simple Ways to Make your Outdoor area Greener!

I was reading an article on Green Driveways/ Green Patios. There were a lot of suggestions and that led me to looking at more articles. More articles and more suggestions. I've put together some basic suggestions... simple, inexpensive and yet - greener! I figure most people are intimidated by the Big Projects. They would love a green roof but are worried about their existing structure. They don't want to rebuild a roof. Too much money! They probably have done some of the basics: They garden. They compost. They've planted a tree. All great things.

So what's the next step? One of the tough things to do is to come up with simple ways to make your outdoor space a greener place. So here's a few suggestions. I'm looking at simple, green solutions, that won't cost a regular homeowner to have budgetary fits.

Water is a valuable resource that can easily be overlooked by most of us. Turn on the tap and it flows out. But when you've got mud or erosion problems then you can look at water as your enemy. My top, easy water conservation tip? Use a Rain barrel. Prevent stormwater runoff from your property - catch the rain from your roof and use it when you need it. There are mosquito-proofed rain barrels available. Check out River Sides for some fantastic suggestions! A 1-inch level of rainfall on 1,000 square feet of roof with eaves and a downspout produces 600 gallons of water. You can also choose to filter that water that falls on your driveway and all the little non-permeable surfaces. Which of leads to tip #2...


Get rid of the cement! Cement and asphalt are non-permeable surfaces. When it rains the water runs off to the sides or down straight into the drains. All the pollutants from your car don't get a chance to be filtered naturally by the soil. Typical pollutants from cars are things like: motor oil, copper, and zinc. (study by Univ. of Washington, Center for Water and Watershed Studies Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering on permeable surfaces).

By installing a permeable system like ecogrid you can quickly and easily fix up a parking area that has been a mess. You can then decide to use grass or gravel. Gravel (which won't compact because of the grid) is a great enviromental choice. Ecogris is also perfect to stablize your lawn, allow you to park your car - or have an extra space for guests to park. Now, instead of looking at an ugly slab of concrete you can replace it with a low maintence grass. It is like a regular lawn - so you quickly have some great options. Its a great way to green up the area, provide overflow parking and give you the chance to make a huge difference in a quick and easy fashion.

A "living driveway" is a beautiful thing.


Check out your local Craigslist and search for "gravel" or "soil" - there are always listings in the summer and spring for people who are getting rid of smaller quantities of materials. You can get river rocks, gravel and topsoil at a fraction of the cost. Sometimes its leftover from a project or someone else's reno's. Check out your local FREECYCLE too.

If you are using a "new" material - find out what is the recycled content. Is there an option you can use? Can whatever materials then be recycled?

Here's a shocker...


Patios in general are a lot less maintence and often a lot less cost - then a deck. Decks - which are often wood - take a lot of upkeep. The wood is often pressure treated, and chemically treated to resist bugs. You can spend the money you would have spent on a deck project with landscaping. You can put down a green patio! Use something lightweight and lower costs for your patio like the el30 EcoGrid - which is perfect for landscaping but will not hold water like a slab of concrete would. You can get creative with the ecogrid design - planting mosses, seedums and grass as well as mixing it with gravel too. The area doesn't restrict you to using just grass. I've seen some lovely work done with river stones as well. If you are going to build a deck do think about using eco-friendly sealants.


There are lots of winged friends around - birds, bats and bees - that are all part of our eco-system, and all are suffering to a degree whenever we take away part of their homes. If you plant a Living Driveway - you are already helping out.

But there's a few simple things:

- A winter bird bath! Birds are often desperate in the winter for water. For about $40 you can get specially designed heaters to keep the water from freezing. Its amazing to see how many birds will come to drink and bathe in the "dead" of winter.

- A Bat House - a great simple way to control insects! Forget the zapping noise. Let these shy little creatures find a space to thrive. Bats consume huge quantities of night-flying insects (like mosquitoes). Male bats love smaller bat houses, so you don't have to invest in a huge Bat House. A nice selection is here.

- Befriend a Bee - Build a Bee Home - I got a bit startled a few years ago when I'd first planted my deck garden. It was spring and there were large, mostly-black, agressive bees around! I thought at first of ridding myself of them - RAaaaaaaaaaaid! But decided to find out what kind of bees they were. Turns out these were carpenter bees - which are all buzz and little-to-no bite. Most of the agressive ones are males - who actually don't have stingers.

Why not think about creating a home for carpenter bees. They love wood (which is often the #1 reason they get killed off) - but dislike painted wood. So paint up the wood you want to protect and then in nice shady spots - give them a home. Everyone knows that Honeybees are worth protecting - but so are carpenter bees. Simply paint/protect the areas where you might have problems with Carpenter bees, and in that shady spot - nail up a piece of untreated wood.

Another type of bee - the Solitary Bee - can also use a home. Find out more about them here, and consider your winged friends.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Permeable Paving Solutions - exploring the options

As far as I'm concerned there are really 4 options for paving "green". Some, in my mind, are a lot less green than others. Only one looks really green. The others look more traditional. It would be - in my mind - a great thing to mix some of the options if we can't seem to rethink paving everything over entirely.

1. Grid - like EcoGrid or other grid systems - that has large spaces which allow the "green" to grow through. They are easy to lay down - at least EcoGrid is - and don't need special knowledge to install it. You can seed the grids with grass or use them with gravel. They are often made with recycled materials - in this case 100% recycled - but you have to check the specs. These grids act like a support structure for vehicles - distributing the weight. After a rains, the grids allow water to gradually absorb into the soil below.. watering the grass. Out of all the systems it seems the greenest... looks greenest. Can be installed by anyone who has master the fine art of putting together Lego.

2. Permeable Pavers = blocks of stone or brick - that can be laid out in a pretty pattern. They look solid but the water actually should flow between the blocks. Of course they don't look green, but they are what many people think of when they think of a permeable driveway. They can crack and shift a bit, and are more costly to install. I personally wouldn't install them myself.

3. Permeable Concrete. Well its a step up from regular old concrete! Again, it won't look as green as green can be. I've never actually seen it in use. Since the composition of permeable concrete is different it does require special installation. There is a great article here on pervious/porous concrete installation. There needs to be a lot of care with the ground prep and to quote the article on it "Because pervious concrete has a low water content, special attention is required during transportation and placement."

4. Permeable Asphalt - which for me falls to the bottom of the barrel of green choices. (sorry - that's a pun there since asphalt is scraped from the bottom of the barrels after all other petroleum-based products have been refined.) Despite the fact that its a better mix of materials its still ASPHALT. I am glad that it gets reused and all - but its still a step up from an impermeable surface. It looks more traditional - familiar - but asphalt is still ashpalt. Here's some great info on asphalt - what's that stuff . Not very nice. Not very green.


So lets talk about what you'd need to look at if you are doing a green or gravel driveway with option #1 - choosing the Grid to create a "greener" driveway.

Now I'm going to talk about what I know. About 7 or 8 years ago when I heard about grid use for parking lots it just seemed like an idea that wouldn't stand up. Plastic? Grid? What was wrong with a nice neat, black driveway like Dad had? It also seemed too radical. I envisioned something like plastic snow fencing, that could be rolled out, but that isn't what it really is like. (Well, there are some roll products which have their uses but if its for a parking application or walkway, or even a parking lot you'll need strength es).

Most grids come in sheets - large squares that allow you to lay them ontop of a gravel or soil/sand mix depending on what you plan to use them for. Most grass will need a few inches beneath a grid in order to grow. Some grass has deep roots - and the grass needs to grow through the grid and down into the soil to get established. The grid will protect the root base and act as a filter for rainwater. It doesn't matter if you place down grass or gravel - that layer acts the same way. Water seeps through into the base and then continues on its journey back into the ecosystem.

A few Important things to check for when you are looking at redoing your driveway and looking for grid:

#1. What kind of edge thickness does it have? If you plan on parking on it this will be an important factor. Ideally, if you have an edge, it needs to be reinforced - a bit of extra thickness that will make sure it doesn't slid/slip around. If you can pick up a sheet of a grid product and bend it - then think of what will happen when your car drives over it. So you need something with a bit of flex - BUT you also need to make sure it the grid won't splinter or crack when the cars turn or back up on it. Look for a grid with a good solid edge and you'll save yourself having to replace it.

2. Ease of Install:

Can you do it yourself or will you need to hire someone? This is the number one reason I think that EcoGrids are better than cement pavers. It costs a lot less ... and it won't cost a forturne to get installed. Personally, I would suggest a combination of both unless you like to shove dirt and gravel. A contractor can come in and regrade your surface, or simply excavate down a few inches. Another person will come in and dump the gravel. This part is suprisingly cheap. A small driveway can be excavated in a matter of hours. Someone who can run a bobcat will show up and be done quickly. Once the base layer is installed, (flatten it out too!) the grid goes down.

The diagram here is actually for horses = so the footing diagram shows a deeper layer. If you were putting down grass then you don't need such a high topping.

3. How Green is it? Is it recycleable? How much is made of recycled plastic? Personally, if I'm thinking green - I want to make sure it can be recycled - and has as high a content of recycled plastics as possible. Otherwise you're adding new plastic in. Rather defeats the purpose.

4. Does it crack or splinter? Can it be maintained like a regular gravel driveway

5. What temperature range is it designed for? If you live in the south or the north there's a huge difference. Is it environmentally neutral?

6. Is it available in different weights? Is there heavy duty stuff for trucks? Is there a light weight product? Is there a difference in how it gets used - is one for landscaping and one for driveways or is it all the same? What is the best weight for your application? For EcoGrid there are the technical specs available here.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mud Control for Horses - oh those muddy paddocks!


Behold - the MUDDY Horse Gate

You know what's rather funny? I'm so allergic to horses I can't get within about 10 feet of them... but then I'm not the horse expert. I leave that to the pro - JX.

JX's the horse guy... and if you think of the word, "cowboy", and imagine someone from those old Marlboro Ads (sans the cig) - then you're probably thinking of JX. Just tuck a blackberry in his pocket and give him a couple of Catahoula Leopard Hound mutts... and there he is. When he's not cowboying he's probably working with grid.

And this guy knows more about horses and mud control then probably anyone in North America. When we get a call about someone with muddy paddocks, someone looking to fix up their farm or ranch, someone who wants to talk to a horse expert - they'll get probably end up talking to JX. Last week it was a fella designing a show ring and a woman who was building stalls.

There was also a guy who wanted to put down grid around the barn and still be able to drive a tractor through the area. He was in North Carolina - and had a few horses, a bunch of dogs and a small "farm". I'm not sure what he was farming but we spent a while talking about the mud issues. Even small tractors can compact an area around a barn pretty well, and the pathways sounded like a disaster.

The problem with compaction is pretty simple. The soil gets harder and more compacted as we walk, drive, trample on it. A lot of people throw down gravel which works fine for a while.... but then that gets compacted. So they put down more gravel. And so on and so on...

That's what makes the permeable paving so brilliant... and so simple. Put down gravel. Put down some grid. Put down more gravel. Drive over it, walk on it, ride your horses over it... and stop worrying about it. For the guy I spoke he's getting the heaviest product - because he needs to back up the tractor - so he's going with the e50. He said he's going to put in some gravel in one area and put down a sand soil mix in the rest. Maybe plant some grass along the edges.. sounds like it will be clean and stable - and get rid of the mud problems too.

The grid product basically stops your walkway from becoming one muddy, mucky mess.

Anyway, it looks like the equestrian side of the grid business is really starting to catch on. Its great that people are looking for long-term enviromental paving solutions.

I guess I can show up a BEFORE and AFTER photo of one of the projects that JX did, because it really doesn't look like much - lol. It looks actually kind of boring - until you realize what it looked like before. And then you think about what it looks like years later - and then its more obvious. :D

The rather Boring but much cleaner, unmuddied horse gate.
I think there might be some more photos and stuff over on the Equestrian Web site - Equestrian Solutions
Since i'm no horse expert - I'll leave that to the professionals.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Help! the Dogs are Digging up my Lawn..

So its something I'd not really considered... dog runs.
We had a lot of the usual calls this week about people wanting to put in their green driveways - actually more about them wanting green parking areas, so it was the week of discussing permeable paving solutions - talking for ages about green parking pads.

Then i got a call... quite funny really, "Can you help me? My dogs are digging in my lawn!" and her tel #. I pictured myself flying out with a big stick and protecting the lawn...
but then we got another dog call..

Then suddenly everyone's dog must have started digging up their lawns. Seriously! What's with the dogs? Maybe the muddy spots are nice and cool? Are the dogs as happy as I am about the summer?

I understand though - and we've used EcoGrid for dog yards before - and it makes sense. The people i spoke to had large dogs - one woman had 4 dogs! 4! and although they don't dig a lot - they keep running around and making a mess of her lawn. Anyway, she's going to put permeable grid down - mostly in the wet, mucky area - and then hope the dogs won't mess it up too much.

Her original solution - putting down a all-cement yard - makes me wince. I can only imagine what that would be like - its a small yard - but all cement? eep. Adding another 600sq/ft of cement into the world. Sure it might look okay for a while - until it cracks and gets stained - but it would be so bad for the environment. All that cement just holding the water, letting it sit there - and the heat? wow.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Up to my boots in mud

Interesting day yesterday. I love talking to people across Canada and the US. Yesterday it was a man who loves boats. This year is the 400th Anniversary of Dutch Arrival in New York Harbor - which i didn't know. :) So this fellow is looking for a solution for some boats ramps.

I've never really thought much about boat ramps though I know we've used the EcoGrid for boat ramps. I guess dragging your boat into the water - or driving it down on a ramp - pretty much tears up the soil. We'll be doing some testing with him - but I know this will help. Lay down some gravel, put down the grid, more gravel = and he'll have himself a boat ramp. I'm going to keep checking back over the next few years to make sure it works well for him.

Last night I walked home a few extra blocks because the weather was just perfect. It kept threatening to rain in the evening but it didn't happen. I noticed that there are more than a few laneways - alleys - and parking pads here in Toronto in desperate need for repair. I wish I could go over and talk to these people about considering using the EcoGrid like they did in Vancouver. They really have it going there - especially in the alleyways.

There's a few spots where the leaves and soil have collected around the drains - and all I can think of is the volume of storm water rushing into the drains. A few weeks ago all the frigging drains were plugged up in the local alley - so there were these big pools of water.

Its such a simple solution = they could put down grid. Grid n' Gravel maybe? I think that would be a good solution - because it doesn't take the maintenence of a regular gravel drive / area. Basicially the water would soak right through the grid / the gravel - and return back to the soil instead of forming big puddles. Then the drains wouldn't flood out.

Dang, I wish I knew who to talk to about this stuff. sigh. Sometimes I feel if i could just sit down and talk to the people they'd get it. heh.
Green Girl from TerraFirm Enterprises,
out for the day.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Unpaving paradise - taking out that parking lot - environmental driveways

Now here's the thing about working for a company that is committed to providing people with an alternative driveway solution = I don't drive! lol. :D I spend a lot of time working to provide people with a better enviromental solution to a driveway or parking lot. Or in some cases helping them solve their erosion problems. But like everyone - I know someone who drives - and almost every house has a blacktop driveway. I just don't need to drive so I don't own a car.

I've been a geek girl for 10 years - 8 years basically in Tech Support for a backbone provider in Toronto. Then I quit recently to go work for TerraFirm Enterprises - basically because I was burnt out of tech support and I have known about this company for years. The owner has been asking me to come work for him.. and now I am.

So what's with the driveway? I mean almost every house has one - even if you are like me and renting - and no one drives... there are still driveways and parking lots. Usually those blacktop stretches of deterioriating asphalt paving, with cracks running through the surface.

If I think of driveways I think of my dad's drive: busted along the edges, with some dips that form little pools of water. Basically it seemed to be asphalt, concrete or gravel. Those were the choices. At least with EcoGrid there's a choice.

I'd never really thought of Green Driveways - and my experience with gravel driveways wasn't better. They were those dirt drives with bits of gravel embedded into the surface with the larger pools of water after it rained. Blarg. Of course that was many years ago - and now a good gravel driveway is actually a sound environmental choice... as long as it doesn't compact. That is where the EcoGrid comes into play.

Anyway, seems like they've been using EcoGrid stuff in Europe for around 20 years. Hello? There's an eco-friendly alternative to asphalt and concrete surfaces? You mean you don't have to have end up dumping all the rainwater back into the storm sewer? really? Who'd a thought.

Well, I always felt sad when the paved paradise to put up a parking lot. At least now with the EcoGrid - maybe we can start digging up the parking lots and coming up with a green solution. It might take another twenty years but it would be nice to leave our children with a greener environmentally-friendly parking spot to put their non-gas cars on. :D