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Green Homes

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Collect Rain With Style

Photo: Southern Liberties, LLC

The Philadelphia Water Department would never utter an unkind word about traditional rain barrels, but the sleek, ultra-modern version (they call it a "rain column") by local company Shift Space Design is making rain collection a whole lot more attractive. The stainless steel, 58-gallon tank isn't cheap (one online retailer has it listed at $1,800), but it sure is nice to look at. It even has its own name: Fitzwater. More detailed photos and specs here. (There's also a 12-gallon version named Wallace.) For the rest of us, a blue or green plastic barrel may just have to do.

The rain column pictured above (in the backyard of Montrose Green, a Philadelphia rowhome/eco-design utopia) is actually part of a collection system; the column on the left is connected to trickle rods that water the planter below.

Read more about rain barrels and check out our Rain Barrel Map to see where Philadelphians are collecting runoff and keeping our streams and rivers clean.

You're Invited: Stormwater House

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Thinking about making your home greener but don't know where to start? Wondering about the incentives and barriers to environmentally friendly improvements such as green roofs and downspout planters (pictured above)? Join the panel discussion tonight at 5:30 at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Auditorium at 20th and Arch. The event is free and open to the public; however, registration is requested. Panel guests include PWD's Glen Abrams, Michele C. Adams (Meliora Environmental Design), Shanta Schachter (New Kensington CDC) and Nancy O'Donnell (Philadelphia Green).

If you can't make it to the event and are considering a retrofit to make your home greener, check out our the Residents section of our site, which features 10 project ideas, how-tos and design guides.

Tree Planting Tips

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Trees are not only beautiful, they also clean the air, stabilize soil and create habitats for birds and other critters. A well-planned tree planting can reduce energy costs by shading your house in the summer and blocking cold winds in winter. There are many different tree species available at nurseries and home improvement centers, but which tree is right for your spot? In order to avoid problems down the road, it's important to consider the characteristics of different tree species.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) has developed the Plant a Tree online brochure to help you choose and plant wisely. If you’d like a deeper understanding of tree biology, proper tree care and working in your community, check out the PHS’s Tree Tenders program. Another option for Philadelphia property owners is to submit a street tree request form to Philadelphia Parks and Recreation. An arborist will check out your site and determine if your property is a good spot for one of their free street trees.

After the jump, some basic tree planting steps to get your project in the ground.

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