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“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” The words of Joni Mitchell sing out to future generations, relevant today as ever. Parking lots are a growing menace, accumulating oil, grease, and other pollutants that can’t be absorbed by the thick pavement. Covering more and more of this country’s open space, but there are alternatives (not often considered) that help reduce the risk of losing “paradise.”

Innovative space reduction is the first line of defense against the growing asphalt wasteland. According to the EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, (NPDES), American families and businesses typically use more space than is required to store their vehicles. For instance, the typical range for a single family is 1.5 – 2.5 spaces, when in reality the actual parking demand is only 1.11 spaces per dwelling unit.
The NPDES suggests using “alternative pavers.” These alternatives include materials such as porous asphalt, wood mulch, grass, etc. Using these suggestions are helpful in allowing water through to the ground, or storm drains, which later get filtered before returning to the earth.
Pavement contributes to the urban heat island effect, which is created when the heat radiates off the lots, creating a warmer metropolitan climate. Allowing for a smaller, permeable parking encourages drivers to conserve natural land. Future generations may enjoy creative parking solutions, but for now, families and businesses should consider reducing their lots to a more economical size.