One year we had a lot of snow pile up and blow through screens, so Bill got the idea to stretch plastic over all the screens to keep precipitation out of the house for the months of the year we weren't using it. We quickly realized, however, that the plastic cut the wind and allowed us to enjoy the screen house's forest view on warmer, sunny days during the colder months.
At the end of the cold season, we try to save all the plastic we can for reuse, but the sad truth is that most of it can't be used on the screens a second time. This year, we looked into putting up something that could be reused. Polycarbonate sheets, or Lexan, are recommended for greenhouse use—which is close to what we're doing. Though the material can be a nightmare when tossed into a landfill where it won't biodegrade, Lexan can be recycled, and there are more and more places accepting it for recycling these days. Better yet, it comes with a 10-year guarantee for clarity. Using the Lexan for 10+ years seems like a more sustainable plan than putting up new plastic every year.
The downside? (Besides it being made from fossil fuels and not being biodegradable...) The sheets are expensive! Almost $200 for a full sheet—and we have a lot of screening to sheath. Glass would be another (and more ecological) option, but it's heavier and more likely to break in our forest setting, where falling branches are a regular occurrence.
So, we decided to buy a few Lexan sheets and see how cutting them and installing them worked. (The rest of the windows are covered with plastic this year.) Bill was pleased with how easy polycarbonate cuts, but we discovered that it left behind a coating of tiny plastic particles on the ground. We vacuumed up everything we saw; then, unfortunately, those particles made their way to the landfill. (But not directly into our little stream!)
This spring, we'll build a rack under the deck to store the Lexan until it's time to reinstall it in the windows come November. And, if we're happy with the windows we've cut sheets for this year, we spring for more Lexan next fall and finish the job. Fingers crossed, we'll be using the screen house even more of the year when this project is finished...and we might even be able to winter over a few more herbs.
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