We’ve got way too much driveway on our yards. We need to really rethink the conventional wisdom and consider removing as much as possible. The less we have the better – less blacktop means more space for gardens, flowers, play, grass, lounging and bring nature to our doorstep. Maybe you love asphalt and if so, this might not be for you. But if you want more green space in your yard, the number one thing you can do is get rid of your driveway.
In my experience with homeowners, most people only use about 30% of the blacktop for everyday parking. The remaining drive acts more like an abandoned road leading to the messy garage. The one caveat is that many towns and cities have very specific requirements for driveways that demand you keep all of your blacktop! But those laws are making things worse not better.
Our driveways are, literally, putting us underwater. Of all the environmental impacts that drives contribute to, none is more impactful in this era of climate change as how they amplify downstream flooding. Blacktop doesn’t allow water to pass through it so every drop of rain that hits it runs right off into municipal storm drains. This rain that travels into storm drains, commonly called runoff, adds up to millions and millions of gallons of water spilling to nearby creeks and rivers during storms. When a storm drain gets clogged, that runoff from our driveways will filling our neighbors’ basements, and in extreme cases, can cause death. However, even when the drains work correctly, the additional runoff flood downstream.
Take NJ as an example. Every year between 30 to 50 inches of rain falls in the state. So one simple square foot of asphalt produces up to 30 gallons of runoff each year. If your driveway is 1000 sqft, that’s 30,000 gallons of water running off your property that doesn’t have to. Multiply that amount of runoff by the number of houses in, say a small town like South Orange, NJ, and that’s nearly 220,000,000 gallons of runoff per year into local tributaries. And that’s based on historic rainfall. Precipitation is projected to increase over the next five to ten years, meaning only more runoff from our little streets beside our house that we don’t use.
With less than a handful of projects over the last 2 years, we’ve successfully transformed around 4300 sf of blacktop into more naturally infiltrating surfaces that offset over 125,000 gallons of runoff per year. That’s pretty freaking cool. The fact is that these once bleak underused roads are now an essential design element for better living. If you don’t use your driveway, remember that removing it adds quality and style to your house. To show you just how easy and beneficial it can be we will highlight 2 of these projects over the next few days.