While many locals have adopted sustainably sound practices into their daily lives swimmingly, we—as a generation that favours convenience—have a tendency to let things slide a little when we clock out for some well-deserved island time. But as summer approaches and more and more Lower Mainlanders turn to cabins and cottages to spend their weekends, it’s important that we continue our eco-minded work in these spaces, too.
“Often at your cottage or vacation home, you can kind of let go of that hectic, everyday lifestyle,” explains Joan Bartley, coauthor of the recently released Greening Your Cottage or Vacation Property: Reduce Your Recreational Footprint, “so it gives us a chance to refocus and rethink in nature and this beautiful setting.”
Ahead, Bartley shares a few of her top tips for greening up your summertime space. These don’t include the recycling and composting that you should already be doing, of course.
Eco pest control
Whether it’s ants, mosquitoes, or rodents, chances are you may be battling some pests at your cabin. However, rather than turn to pesticides or other poisons—some of which may linger in and cause harm to our soil and waters—Bartley suggests looking for alternatives.
Small preventive measures such as ensuring all foodstuffs are tightly sealed, utilizing screen doors and windows, and not leaving stagnant water out can do wonders for eliminating creepy crawlies. “Fly-swatting also works,” adds Bartley. “It’s still easy enough to do.”
If you’re looking for an organic and biodegradable pesticide option, diatomaceous earth—a silica-like sedimentary rock—works by dehydrating bugs. Both food-safe and horticulture-safe varieties are available at home-and-garden stores.
An easy way to conserve water—and energy—in any home is by collecting rainwater for future use. Systems that involve filtration and purification stages may be installed to provide homeowners with drinkable water, though a less expensive option is a rain barrel that may be placed under gutter downspouts.
Although this water is not potable, it can be used for purposes such as gardening or cleaning around the cabin. Barrels are available at home-and-garden shops at a myriad of price points. “They’re very easy to install and there are lots of do-it-yourself kits available at retail stores,” says Bartley.
It may also be worth investing in a leaf catcher, which helps separate foliage from water once it’s travelling in your gutters. “It’s cheap, and it saves a lot of bacteria from building up because you’re not taking all the dead leaves and whatnot into your rain barrel,” explains Bartley.
If your cabin or cottage needs a little work before hosting friends and family for the season, consider some revamps that will help decrease your energy consumption. Double-paned or triple-glazed windows efficiently keep warm or cool air in, for example, while an effective ceiling fan can stand in for energy-sucking air-conditioning units.
“Not all climates really need to have air conditioning,” says Bartley. “Passive cooling and ventilation can be very effective at cottages in many locales.”
Low-maintenance and fireproof, metal roofs also prove a good investment if you’re due for a replacement. “They’ll far outlive any shingle or shake roof,” adds Bartley, “and they’re ideal for rainwater attachments, too.”
Meanwhile, when furnishing your vacation home, look for natural and reclaimed materials at secondhand shops or repurpose items from your own residence. Opting for items that may be easily repaired and shopping local are also important. “That’s certainly a way to shave down our carbon footprint,” says Bartley.