Choosing drought-tolerant plants isn't the only way you can make your backyard friendlier to the environment. If you're building or upgrading your patio, consider conservation with every change.Here are some sustainable choices for a patio overhaul.
1. Permeable pavers
Permeable concrete pavers are made from porous concrete and installed with small spaces between them that allow water to soak through rather than run off, so your patio floor won't send rainwater onto the street and into the sewers. Permeable pavers cost more than regular concrete pavers, but they're touted as more "green" because they allow the little rainwater that falls on an Arizona patio to seep into the soil,recharging groundwater.
If runoff is a big problem in your yard, get rid of some of the hard surfaces. Replace little-used patios and other slabs with soil, which will soak up much of the rainwater, and with plants and trees that absorb the water through their roots.
3. Desert plants
Landscape around the patio with native, drought-tolerant plants that need little watering. A lush, green yard might absorb more rainwater than a stone patio, but it creates an equal problem: You'll need to water it so much to keep it healthy that you can still send water onto the property next door.
4. Patio covers
A durable patio cover will help you keep cool on hot summer days by blocking sun rays that can leave you sweltering and overheat your patio floor. A few options: oversize acrylic awnings that won't let rain through; flat shade screens for patios too low to create the pitch necessary for a fabric patio cover; a permanent aluminum cover.
5. Smart irrigation
Invest in a "smart" irrigation system for your yard. The latest lawn-and-garden irrigators are programmed to shut off the water when it rains and adjust the amount of water they deliver based on the temperature and how much your plants actually need on any given day.
Replace traditional flood lights and porch lights with LEDs (light-emitting diodes) and shy away from incandescent and halogen outdoor lighting. LEDs cost quite a bit more than standard light bulbs, but they last so long you might never have to replace them. Plus, they use so little electricity that you might see a difference in your utility bill.
7. Solar lamps
For ambience after dark, mix solar fixtures in with low-voltage outdoor lamps on the patio and in the garden. They burn about 1/10th as bright as low-voltage lighting, but you can skip the wiring and cut the cost of a deck-lighting job by using solar lights. You'll pay more per fixture for a solar light than for a typical incandescent lamp, but you'll save on wiring and power supply, so the cost comes out about the same for both.
8. Garden in containers
If you're short on yard space or just don't want to spend a lot of time tending to a large garden, plant your annuals and vegetables in containers on the patio. Build the containers from travertine, pavers or another material that matches your outdoor decor if you don't mind leaving them in permanent position. Tip: Figure out how the container will drain before having it built. You can build in drain grates if your containers are permanent.
9. Energy Star appliances
Buy energy-efficient appliances for your outdoor kitchen. Check for the Energy Star label so you'll know you're buying a refrigerator or other appliance that won't send your electric bill soaring.
10. Efficient patio doors
Replace the sliding-glass door that leads from the house to the patio with an energy-efficient model. Your new door should be heavy-duty, snugly fit the opening into the home, and carry the Energy Star label.
11. Eco-friendly patio furniture
Choose used wood furniture or new furniture with an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label. Or create built-in benches from natural stone.