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4 Ways to Green Your Pool

And no, we’re not talking about algae!

July 1, 2018

There is nothing better on a hot summer day than a refreshing dip in a swimming pool. 

But not to rain on your pool party, did you know that pools can actually hit the trifecta of environmental destruction? Yup. Between the high water use, high energy use, and the harmful chemicals, pools cause a lot of damage to mother nature. However, our friends at Sierra have put together four simple tips to turning your pool green -- without growing any algea!


1. Cover up!

Save water and energy with a pool cover, especially in in hot, arid settings, like Southern California and Arizona, where pools can lose a ton of water to evaporation. Covers also keep pools clean, which reduces pumping (see tip #2).

A pool should be covered when it isn't being used, but we know that's not always realistic. So maybe consider extending the “off season”— keeping the pool covered a few extra weeks each year can save hundreds of gallons of water.


2.  Prime the pump

Pool pumps use a lot of energy. In fact, some pumps guzzle more electricity than a handful of your favorite household appliances. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimated in 2008 that pumps in the U.S. are responsible for 10 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually—the equivalent of 1.3 million cars.

Pool service pros recommend pumps run six to 12 hours per day, which is long enough to push an entire pool’s worth of water through a filter! However, as any pool owner knows, most of the nastiness is at the top of the pool. Try running a pump for less time and see if you notice any difference. Or, look into a variable speed pump that can be programmed to meet the specific needs of your pool, and save you hundreds of dollars each year. Also, consider a pump certified by Energy Star.


3. Go natural

A pool's smell is probably among the world's most easily identified odors. The powerful mix of chemicals is used to kill bacteria and algae. Besides affecting your skin or eyes, those chemicals also carry significant transportation and manufacturing impacts. Chlorine’s manufacturing, for instance, leads to mercury emissions. And once dumped in a swimming pool, chlorine may contribute to local ozone pollution.

Saltwater pools have been gaining popularity as an alternative to chlorine, but here’s an even better solution: natural pools. These pools, more common in Europe than the United States, rely on natural biological processes to purify the water. The best use aquatic plants native to its given area, and thus act as part of the local ecosystem.

“It’s the same process that Mother Nature uses to clarify and purify water,” says James Robyn, president of BioNova Natural Pools, a New Jersey-based network of landscape architects, designers, and architects that implement natural swimming pools. “What we do with a natural swimming pool is we use that same process that Mother Nature uses, and we do it in an optimal fashion, so we do it very efficiently.”

Depending on how comfortable you are swimming with reeds, you can get different models of natural swimming pools. Some separate the plants from the main swimming area, while others integrate them, creating a pond-like aesthetic.

Unfortunately, natural pool installation tends to run at about twice the cost of traditional pools, according to Robyn. However, they will save you money on electricity, as most pumps are not pressurized, and thus use much less energy.


4. Or, go partly natural

If you don’t have the funds, or desire, to convert your pool into a fully natural swimming hole, you can still rely on plants to reduce the need for chlorine and other heavy chemicals. Minneapolis-based Creative Water Solutions sells sphagnum moss for use in swimming pools and industrial operations. The moss limits bacterial growth and absorbs some metals. In contrast to natural pools, the moss is submerged, so as to maintain that classic swimming pool aesthetic.