How to Have an Eco Barn
Conserving resources and employing the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) is a top priority within the stable and yard everyday. By practicing simple switches and opting for the “greener” route, you’ll be amazed at how much energy and how many resources are saved on a daily basis. Start in your tack room and bathroom by making the switch to 100% recycled paper towel or toilet paper. While in the bathroom, take a look at your soap; a study by the FDA found that using anti-bacterial soap is no more effective than plain soap and promotes antibiotic resistance, so save your money. Your cleaning products in the barn can be detoxed too! Try using plain old baking soda for everything from scrubbing out dirty water and feed buckets, to sprinkling over wet spots on the floor of a stall to eliminate odour and and moisture before putting new bedding down. Use vinegar and water to clean windows and mirrors, and re-purpose old newspapers for the job instead of paper towels. Ditch chemical cleaners for all natural, eco-friendly options like Method® (which is our favourite).
Make recycling easy in your barn by providing blue bins (or blue muck buckets) around the high-traffic areas. Reuse and repurpose other empty containers from supplements etc. in your tack room or feed room to hold miscellaneous items and use old feed bags to hold garbage instead of wasting big black garbage bags. Ditch the tower of Styrofoam coffee cups by the coffee maker and bring down old ceramic mugs instead; the same goes for plastic cutlery too. Try to spot clean blankets with water and a stiff brush then let them dry in the sun, rather than bringing them to the laundry mat or cleaner every time. As much as we love the option of hot water in the barn (especially in the winter), it is not essential and use of it should be limited to conserve the amount of power going to the water heater. Encourage boarders or visitors to the barn to bring re-fillable water bottles and perhaps even have a water cooler for them to refill them at. Although it requires power from being plugged in, it will greatly reduce the number of plastic water bottles being used. Allow bucket baths only, using minimal soap (good thing EcoLicious products are so concentrated, you only need a little), and trying to bath in a spot outside that will disperse water down a grade into grassy areas.
Even with an indoor washrack, bathing in the winter should be discouraged, as it wastes water. Use EcoLicious’s Waterless Shampoo instead! On the topic of water, it is the most used and wasted resource in our barns, but we can control it by being conscious of our consumption. A great way to utilize the natural water store we get in the summer through rain is to install rain barrels or rain catchment systems with a length of hose running to outside toughs in the paddocks closest to the barns. If you use automatic waterers in your paddocks and pastures, make sure they are located on a high enough spot to allow for runoff to make it down into the grassier parts, and not collect in a low spot an create a mud hole. Keep your water troughs partially covered and in the shade to prevent evaporation loss and keep them insulated during the wintertime. Something I recently learned and was in awe of was to use goldfish in your troughs to keep them clean! They can live in the tanks year round if insulated there is more water than ice in the winter, which happens if we break the top layer of ice up for our horses anyway. Make sure your fishy friends have a cave of rocks on the bottom to hide from curious muzzles, and you will never have to feed them, as they live on the algae, bugs and debris in the tank. The guideline is 3-4 fish per 50 gallon tank.
Something I’ve seen neglected a lot inside the barn is the one thing that keeps our fragile partners healthy… VENTILATION. We must provide 3 levels of of ventilation and a large volume of refreshed air for those of us who have horses inside or on combined turnout situations. The first level includes roof ridge vents, open/well-ventilated eves, and cupolas that allow stale air to escape. Level two is windows and doors that can be easily opened (preferably with screens and grills if located int he stalls). Finally, level three encourages air to circulate at the lowest level in a barn and stall in order for ammonia, carbon dioxide and dust to escape the stalls. If your stalls are solid, even drilling a line of 2-inch diameter holes, spaced 4-6 inches apart and no higher than 12 inches from the ground, on your stall doors will help to allow this to happen. The temperature inside the barn should always be similar to the outside, to prevent shock and illness from the drastic difference between the two. The warmth of the horses body heat and respiration once inside the barn will keep it warm enough on cold days. However, it should never be warmed enoug
h to the comfort of people. It’s a waste of electricity, and should only be done if you can afford to heat incoming air and expel fouled air mechanically. If you must heat the barn because you live in extremely cold temperatures (raises hand*), then opt for in-floor heating in tack rooms, offices, and if needed, aisles and wash racks. It is the more eco-friendly option.
Lastly, manure management is a big deal when it comes to living as green and eco-friendly as possible. Pick stalls daily, pick up manure as it falls in arenas and aisles and sweep/rake barn aisles daily. Empty out manure buckets in the arena and pick up manure in turnout paddocks weekly. Pick up manure piles near waterers and feeding areas in fields and pastures monthly, and harrow pastures and fields once yearly to break up manure. By adhering to this timeline, you are giving less room for parasites and larva to form and be ingested by your horse, controlling pest populations, and add to your manure piles which will be beneficial in composting once broken down enough. The best method of composting in terms of efficiency, environmental impact and labour is multiple bin composting. For this you will need at least two separate compartments (3-sided enclosures) with access to the piles from the open side. Pile manure in the first bin until it reaches capacity, and once a month, turn the pile by hand or with a machine, while moving on to fill up the second (and possible third) bin. Ideally the first bin will be ready to be emptied and used on fields or sold by the time the last bin is empty, and the process continues. I have seen barns use diatomaceous earth as a natural dewormer, either feeding it directly to their horses or sprinkling it on manure in buckets and paddocks, or both. Paddock and pasture rotation is also ideal if you have the space, as it allows for grass to grow up a bit and manure to break down. By being conscious about our consumption of resources in and around the barn, opting for “greener” methods and reducing our waste, we can all make a difference on our carbon footprint and that is something we can all feel good about.
Check out the full line of EcoLicious horse care & horse grooming products at www.ecoliciousequestrian.com