Turning Brown to Go Green

by Greg Larkins

We always pride ourselves on having one of the nicer yards on the block. Something I inherited from my father, who had my brother and I always doing yard work while all the other kids were playing down the street. I thought then that when I grew up and if I had kids, I’d never make them do this. Fast forward a couple decades, and that’s exactly what our two boys were forced to do.

Fast forward another few years and we found ourselves empty nesters. No more free landscaping. The grass went longer between mows, and uninvited rodents decided to drill tunnels, leaving yellow tracks that rival the freeway system in L.A. Maybe if we just water more, the tracks will magically
disappear…didn’t happen.

Enter the California drought and with it much higher water prices per unit, and a new appreciation for
how this will affect our kids and their kids’ futures. Time to reevaluate how we use water and make
behavioral adjustments. Our biggest drain on water was landscaping. That was easy to figure out. The challenge was what to do about it…there goes having one of the nicer yards on the block.

*New landscape completed mid-August 2021
Months/Year    CCF’s used     Gallons used
Sep/Oct 2020          17                      12,716
 Sep/Oct 2021            6                       4,488

As destiny played out, the Santa Clara Valley Water District upped the ante on their Landscape Rebate Program, offering residents twice the amount back than previously offered, to convert to low water use designs. We decided it was the perfect time in the summer of 2021 to make a change, but the process was not without its challenges and frustrations. We selected a landscaping company that was on the District’s approved list, however that does not mean they will want to comply with all the District’s requirements. Their interest is not necessarily aligned with getting your full rebate, which is the reason you choose them in the first place.

With some cajoling and ground-standing with the landscaper, we did get 100% of our rebate and a
landscape that we truly love. We went from a landscape that was about 70% grass lawn to 100% native plants and shrubs, black lava, and pavers. It was not cheap, but with the rebate, and the money we’re saving on our water bill (our water usage from year to year has been reduced by 65%*), we look at it as a great investment that didn’t destroy our vision of having a nice yard on the block and in some way, the future.

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