Going green

Whatever your beliefs about climate change, EPA over-reach or the use of fossil fuels, there is one thing we all should be able to agree on. Our world is becoming more populous every second of every day.

In 2010, 6.9 billion souls roamed this planet. In just 25 years, population growth experts say it will balloon to 9.6 billion, a 38 percent increase, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and reported by the Pew Research Center. Numbers in the United States are projected to expand from 312 million in 2010 to 401 million in 2050, the report says.

During those 25 years, India is expected to surpass China as the most populous nation. As population surges, more sidewalks to walk on, the need will come for more vehicles, more places to park them, more roads on which to run them. Building new car parks and highways bring challenges to our environment as much as carbon fuels. Terrain paved over allows runoff that can ultimately damage our waterways.

The surface of a parking lot is known as an impermeable surface, which is simply defined by Merriam-Webster as “not allowing something (such as a liquid) to pass through.” Applying the word to hardscape surfaces such as a parking lot, it means that rainfall that would normally be absorbed by tree canopy, soil and grass cannot be absorbed. That also means that anything on the hard, impermeable lot — dirt, chemicals and the like — is washed off and into creeks, streams and, ultimately, in to our rivers. But something that can be done to mitigate that is being tried out right here in little ol’ Beckley, West Virginia.

The Raleigh County Commission on Aging utilized “green” thinking with its recent construction of a “permeable” parking lot.

Going back to Merriam-Webster, permeable’s definition is “having pores or openings that permit liquids or gases to pass through.” And that is just what the new lot does.

Divided into two sections, one the standard impermeable, the other permeable, the differences seem barely noticeable at first. But upon closer inspection, you will see it. The impermeable side is slick and shiny; the permeable side is bumpy and porous. The former has a top coat of sealant; the latter does not. And that is what allows rain to seep slowly through its surface and infiltrate the ground or run across the back of the lot into a basin.

It’s simple, isn’t it. Honestly, aren’t most things that are beneficial?

The Beckley Sanitary Board told The Register-Herald that it loves seeing this sort of low-impact development. It encourages other business to think “greenly,” while the board practices what it preaches. Rain gardens popping up around the city are part of that green thinking as are bioswales, landscape elements designed to remove pollution and sediments from surface runoff water.

The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va.

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