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Can Your Driveway Help the Environment?

Summer's longer, dryer days and warmer temperatures offer perfect conditions for repairing or replacing driveways and sidewalks. But before you start pouring concrete, consider this -- driveway paving materials fall into two main categories: solid-surface, which are smooth, seamless and usually made of asphalt or concrete, or paving materials such as gravel and crushed stone. However, an option gaining in popularity is driveways made of permeable paving materials. Using these materials can accomplish much more than just saving you money on a new driveway.

Permeable paving allows water to flow through it, rather than being diverted to the nearest sewer. Rainwater that falls off roofs, runs down hard impermeable driveways and fills rivers, ponds and municipal water systems may start out fresh -- but as it travels, it picks up debris from the roof, oil and fertilizer from the driveways and sidewalks, not to mention a wealth of garbage from the streets. This means added pollution to our waterways and extra work for water treatment facilities. The beauty of permeable paving is that water is actually absorbed through the paving before it can reach our water sources. With many permeable paving options you can save money and be environmentally responsible.

Permeable paving products run the gamut from high tech to low. One of them is grass. Like a path worn in the woods, grass that is constantly worn down by vehicles will form a natural and permeable driveway. Two thin paving strips can provide a path for car tires. You can also use permeable material such as gravel for the strips. Paving strips might seem a rather antiquated approach but in fact they have been gaining new appreciation as people look toward sustainable construction. Paving strips are showing up at a lot of new, energy efficient homes.

One of the most common methods of creating permeable driveways is the use of loose stones and gravel. Gravel has been supporting traffic of all kinds for centuries but a modern addition is the use of plastic grids. These are created using recycled grids or blocks that form a hard driving or walking surface, while allowing water to flow through freely. They are long lasting, easy to install and maintenance free. Grids can be filled with sand and soil or gravel.

Another approach to constructing permeable driveways is to use what are called open cell concrete blocks to create permeable pavers. They function much like the plastic grid systems. The open cell concrete blocks allow water through, yet they can handle heavy loads. The open cells are filled with topsoil and grass and eventually the blocks themselves become hard to distinguish. There are also exciting new types of concrete and asphalt that actually allow the water to soak through. Permeable concrete and permeable asphalt were developed specifically to allow pavement-style parking and driving surfaces, while still addressing environmental concerns.

With so many effective options, permeable driveways and walkways have become an extremely viable option that can be easy on both the budget and the environment.

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