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ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA—In downtown Asheville, Helia Environmental’s Green Man Gardens transformed a small house lot into a sustainable home site. The lot began as an overgrown yard with erosion and soil fertility problems. “Many homeowners now realize that they can find more sustainable solutions. Starting at home is an easy way to feel empowered,” said Lloyd Raleigh.

The process began with a client interview, to understand needs, wants, and dreams. Green Man Gardens researched the site, examining and mapping soils, water, current land-use, erosion, structures, vegetation, fences, boundaries, and more. This foundation of research showed the landowner possibilities that would help her achieve her vision.

“I moved into this house in November and the yard was completely barren and poorly planned,” said Michelle Rogers, the homeowner whose site was transformed. “Believing in the benefits of ‘local food’ and wanting to ultimately harvest as much food as possible from my yard, Lloyd helped me envision a plan to maximize edible planting. What I didn’t expect was that every corner of my .11 acre yard could be used effectively, and that it would also be a great place to hang out because of Lloyd’s ingenious design ideas. In just six months, Lloyd transformed my barren yard into a beautiful, productive, enjoyable space.”

Raleigh believes that any size project is important. His experience mapping ecoregions, watersheds, and larger sites helps him understand smaller projects. Working on small properties allows for greater detail and understanding.

Research also involves thoughtful planning within the client’s budget. Working with Rogers, Raleigh measured how much water could be collected for rainwater catchment and developed a low-cost drip irrigation system integrated with a rain barrel system. At the turn of a valve, dozens of plants can be watered with pure rainwater instead of chlorinated city water.

The client also wanted a forest garden that could provide a substantial amount of food and medicine every year. Helia Environmental researched suitable plants and incorporated them into the design.

Along an ancient trade route, Helia Environmental’s Lloyd Raleigh researched the human ecology of an area where Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim communities all co-existed. As part of a team assessing a potential new trekking route, Raleigh looked at the interrelation between humans and their environment, interviewing dozens of people and observing the environment for many clues about its use.

Barley Fields at Mudh Village, Pin Valley, Indian Himalayas

What are patterns in rare moth species habitat use? Conducting a study with other researchers, Dr. Paul Goldstein, Tim Simmons, and Mike Nelson, examined habitat requirements for rare moth species living in coastal sand barrens habitats. This principal components analysis shows how rare moth species (depicted as arrows with scientific names) relate to habitats (depicted as colored circles). Green, for example, represents forested habitats whereas orange represents Scrub oak shrublands where more moth species are found. This data has habitat management implications, for many important reasons.

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