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July 24, 2012
Can Parking Lots Become More Ecologically Friendly?

Parking lots are not generally regarded as ecologically friendly or even neutral because they seldom are. MIT Professor Eran Ben-Joseph's recent book, Rethinking a Lot (The MIT Press, 2012), points out that parking lots may not only eyesores, but are hazardous to the environment as well.

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Parking areas devour land in this country with estimates in the range of three to eight nonresidential parking spots per car—that's a landmass of about the size of Connecticut and Vermont combined.

Parking lots contaminate surface water with oil, gas, antifreeze, and other toxic waste, which is then swept away by rainwater into drains, public water supplies, streams, and rivers. Garbage littered lots attract rodents and are breeding grounds for bacteria. Dust and small particles are picked up by the wind and pollute the air as well as the water.

"We are well aware that environmentalists and parking lot owners and property managers are concerned about the contamination of water and air that's spread by a single parking lot, never mind the many within a community," said Gina Vella, president of Universal Site Services, provider of commercial sweeping and power washing services.

Ecologists believe that as the population increases and the number of vehicles needing parking space increases, society has to rethink the negative impact of parking lots on the environment, and how to design, construct, and maintain them to be more attractive and less hazardous to the health of citizens.

"Property managers are starting to look to porous paving that allow water to penetrate through the permeable materials into the ground below. We are also seeing property managers interested in adding vegetation buffers, not only to make parking lots more appealing to the eye, but also to absorb water runoff," Vella stated, adding that the property managers are also looking into adding plants, trees, shrubs, or landscaped ditches, known as “rain gardens,” to catch and absorb rainwater.

So with the right equipment and operation, a parking lot can be cleaner, greener, and more environmentally acceptable.

Has your company done anything to "green" parking areas? Tell the BLR Green Team at

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