Environmentally Friendly Landscaping

When most people see a beautifully landscaped urban park, promenade or walking trail amongst a grey, concrete city, they immediately assume that it must be a positive for the environment.

While some green space is better than none, more often than not landscaping is not done in a particularly environmentally friendly way.

From water hungry, non native plants to poor irrigation systems and hardscapes that interrupt the natural flow and infiltration of water, there are numerous issues with your average urban landscaping project.

Luckily, with an increasing focus on more environmentally sustainable cities, more attention than ever is being given to ensuring new and existing landscaped areas are designed with the natural environment in mind.

If your project can meet the standards set by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) you can receive useful tax breaks or credits that will improve your bottom line.

So what can you do to ensure your next landscaping project is as environmentally friendly as possible? Let’s start by taking a look at just a few of the easiest ways you can improve your eco friendly credentials.

 

This project in Brea, California used Organic Lock for their permeable pathways

Six Ways You Can Make Your Project More Sustainable

There are countless methods available to landscape designers looking to make their project more sustainable, but some are just out of reach due to the time and cost involved.

The following six ways of making a project more environmentally sound are not only super effective, they are also economical and may in fact save you money on installation and maintenance in the long term.

1. Use The Natural Landscape to Your Advantage

Humans have a way of riding roughshod over nature and this is also often the case with landscape design. Rather than working with the contours of the land, designers are too quick to destroy or heavily modify minor slopes at great expense.

While flat areas have an appeal, nothing can ever truly replicate the beauty of nature’s natural contours. Destroying the natural shape of the land can also interrupt the areas ability to drain and retain water during rain events [1].

By working with the contours of the land mostly as you find them, you can often save money fixing drainage problems of your own creation!

2. Reduce Grassy Areas

Large areas of grass have for a long time been a key feature of urban parks and gardens, but despite being lovely and green, areas covered in turf are rarely good for the local environment.

Large grass covered areas are not natural for most areas and require a large amount of water and expensive irrigation to maintain. In addition, in many locales to keep that grass lush and green, chemicals must be used which can end up in stormwater or local waterways due to run-off [2].

Keeping these areas to a minimum saves water, reduces run-off and minimizes maintenance costs for your client in the long term [3].

3. Use Native, Drought Resistant Plants

Another great way to keep water usage on your project under control is to use local, drought resistant varieties for any gardens.

You will save on the installation of extensive irrigation systems and use less water long term. There will be the added benefit of attracting local wildlife, while your gardens will look great even during times of drought [4].

4. Use More Permeable Hardscapes

If you are removing grass cover, then it must be replaced with another surface that is both useful and visually appealing. A leading choice is permeable hardscape due to their durability, ease of installation and affordable ongoing maintenance costs.

While traditional hardscapes often have a negative impact on natural drainage and infiltration, permeable alternatives such as aggregate stabilized with Organic-Lock™ maintain natural water flow while providing a usable and natural looking hard surface [5].

Hardscapes, especially stabilized aggregates are much easier to maintain and as long as you have chosen a permeable material, they are environmentally sound.

5. Consider Drainage

Drainage is a massive hidden cost in projects that can be greatly reduced with the right choices elsewhere.

As mentioned already, keeping natural slopes and maintaining ground cover can help, while also installing aggregate stabilized with Organic Lock can maintain natural infiltration without the risk of erosion.

There are also sustainable drainage systems available which capture and recycle stormwater for use in irrigation in the area [6].

6. Install Smart Irrigation

The installation of a smart irrigation solution is a no brainer if you are looking to create a sustainable project. Traditional sprinkler systems are highly wasteful with water, literally flushing your money down your expensive stormwater drains!

Smart irrigation systems use drip lines or small, directed sprinklers linked to sensors that measure local conditions and even take into consideration weather forecasts. With this system in place, the irrigation is only automatically activated when there is an actual need, greatly reducing water usage [7].

All of the above can help you design an amazing sustainable landscaping project. However, you will also need to consider material choice if you want to achieve a high environmental rating from LEED.

Choosing the Right Materials

Material choice is a big consideration, as in the past landscaping materials have been shipped over long distances, meaning the project has a large and unnecessary carbon footprint [8].

For top level LEED certification, you must ensure that as many materials as possible for your project are locally and sustainably sourced.

This is most often a problem with your hardscapes, as concrete is notorious for its carbon footprint [9]. It is for this reason that stabilized aggregates, such as decomposed granite combined with Organic-Lock™ are an ideal choice, as these aggregates are much easier to source locally and sustainably.

Make Your Next Landscaping Project Sustainable

Not only is creating a sustainable urban landscaping project a great thing for our environment, it is also the best way to keep initial and ongoing costs under control.

With the tax breaks associated with LEED certification and government rebates, as well as the lower maintenance costs for expanded hardscapes and drought resistant plants, well designed sustainable projects make economic sense and look great.

Consider designing your next project to be more environmentally friendly and see the benefits for yourself!

References

[1] Haiman, T. (2017). What is sustainable landscape design? Todd Haiman Landscape Design. https://www.toddhaimanlandscapedesign.com/gardening-resources/what-is-sustainable-landscape-design

[2] Crain, R. (2018). Removing Lawn to Make Way for More Habitat. Habitat Network. http://content.yardmap.org/learn/removing-lawn-to-make-way-for-more-habitat/

[3] Talbot, M. (2016). More Sustainable (and Beautiful) Alternatives to a Grass Lawn. NRDC. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/more-sustainable-and-beautiful-alternatives-grass-lawn

[4] Yubing, F., McCann, L. (2015). Households’ Adoption of Drought Tolerant Plants: An Adaptation to Climate Change? Agricultural & Applied Economics Association and Western Agricultural Economics Association Annual Meeting. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3bb3/a0249612eb71230b0a22dfdded6be228494f.pdf

[5] Frazer L. (2005). Paving paradise: the peril of impervious surfaces. Environmental health perspectives, 113(7). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1257665/

[6] Rossi, A. (2019). SUSTAINABLE URBAN DRAINAGE SYSTEMS. Rees Architects. https://www.rees.archi/new-blog/2019/4/8/sustainable-urban-drainage-systems

[7] Ogidan, O., Abiodun O., Adegboro, O. (2019). Smart Irrigation System: A Water Management Procedure. Agricultural Sciences. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/330196672_Smart_Irrigation_System_A_Water_Management_Procedure

[8] Rufty, T., Rees, R., Hamon, N. (2010). Carbon footprints of urban landscapes. Lawn and Landscape. https://www.lawnandlandscape.com/article/lawn-landscape-0810-carbon-footprints-urban/

[9] Timperley, J. (2018). Q&A: Why cement emissions matter for climate change. Carbon Brief. https://www.carbonbrief.org/qa-why-cement-emissions-matter-for-climate-change