Sustainability has become a primary concern for many people as they start to look at making home improvements. If you need a new driveway, you may be concerned about the effects of paving over such a large area. Pavement prevents rainwater from soaking into the ground where it can benefit plants and enter the groundwater system. It can also result in future stresses on landfills as driveways are torn up and replaced. The following are a few green driveway options that you can prevent these issues and create a greener driveway.

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Opt for permeable paving

Permeable paving gives you the benefit of a firm surface to park and drive your car upon, while also allowing water to soak through and into the soil. There are several permeable options:

  • Solid paving – this looks like regular paving except there are small joints between the cement tiles. Beneath these tiles is a plastic grid that allows water to trickle through these joints and into the soil below.

  • Green paving – green paving consists of pavers that have an open grid design. Once installed, grass or other durable plants are grown inside the grids. Water can drain through and the grass cuts down on the heat sink effect of the paving.

  • Porous paving – this asphalt product looks just like traditional asphalt, but it has a more porous mixture that allows moisture to soak through.

Consider gravel curbing

Runoff from the driveway is another concern. You don't want water to sit on the driveway and cause damage, but you also don't want it running into the street to be lost to evaporation. Installing a deep gravel border on either side of the paved driveway can solve this issue.

This method requires that the driveway is constructed to have a gentle grade on either side from the center, similar to how roadways are built. Then, a deep gravel-filled trench is used to curb either side of the driveway. Ideas for planting along a driveway include plants that grow well in gravel, like lavender, ornamental grasses and yucca, can be added for additional beauty.

Combine different materials

A combination of different materials works exceptionally well in long driveways designs because it helps add a more distinct look to the site.

One popular way from the past that is making a comeback is to only pave the “tire treads” of the driveway, leaving the area in the center planted with grass or low-growing plants. Concrete or paving stones can be used for the solid surface, while the center can be left with only plants or you can use permeable paving.

Another option is to integrate gravel joints into a concrete driveway. These consist of trenches in the concrete that are filled with gravel, usually along the borders of the drive or cutting across it at intervals. Colorful gravel can be used to create an interesting design.

Make the most of what you have

There's no need to tear up a driveway just because it currently looks bad. Sometimes the greener option is to repair what you have, using an asphalt coating or other option.

For asphalt paving, having it sealcoated every two or three years gives it the appearance of a new surface and it also prolongs the life of the asphalt. If there is extensive cracking and damage, have the cracks filled and then schedule a resurfacing. This is where a thicker layer of fresh asphalt is applied over the old, making the driveway look like new. You can even opt for coloured asphalt to add to the visual appeal.

Concrete can be sealed against water damage, which prolongs its life. If the concrete is badly stained, consider having it painted or acid-dyed instead of replaced. When major damage is the concern, the driveway can be broken up and recycled into permeable pavers instead of carted to the landfill.

Choosing surfaces for driveways that are green and sustainable isn't just an environmental choice. It also provides you with more aesthetic choices so that the driveway becomes an extension of your home's landscaping.