Long-term sustainability is something that we all need to contribute to for the effort to be effective. A surprising amount of your daily activities harm the environment. Even having and using a yard can have a significant environmental footprint through factors like runoff, water usage, and space usage. However, you can reduce this impact by engaging in sustainable landscaping.
Benefits of Sustainable Landscaping
The benefits of sustainable landscaping include:
- Reduction of toxic chemicals: An integral part of sustainable landscaping is the reduction of harmful chemicals, such as those found in harsh fertilizers and pesticides.
- Improved soil quality: Measures such as soil amendments can reverse damage to the soil, and a healthy lawn can begin to contribute positively to the local environment.
- Reduction of water usage: Reduction of water waste benefits you by reducing costs and reducing the strain on local water sources.
- Reduction of maintenance: Sustainable landscaping typically involves the use of natural mechanisms to water and manage your lawn, which in turn reduces the work that you actively need to do to maintain it.
- Productive activities for kids: By getting your kids involved in green activities, you can build their work ethic while teaching them about sustainability and conservation.
- Cost efficiency: Reduced water usage and maintenance, as well as the utilization of natural local processes in place of artificial methods, can reduce costs related to landscape maintenance significantly.
Sustainable Landscape Ideas
The specifics depend on your unique situation and personal preferences, but the following steps are a good place to start if you are interested in sustainable landscaping.
1. Choose the Right Trees and Plants
The type of plants that reside in your yard can highly influence sustainability efforts related to landscaping. The two best ways to approach this are by choosing native plant life and/or choosing plant life that requires minimal water and maintenance.
Native plantlife is already adapted to the local climate and ecosystems, which means that it will require less additional maintenance to thrive, and will be less likely to disrupt natural processes within the ecosystem. Meanwhile, if you choose plant life that requires little water and/or maintenance, you will waste less.
You can even promote sustainability through careful choices about the size of plants and how you arrange them. Layered landscaping can provide valuable cover for local organisms, and reduce water waste through evaporation.
2. Keep Soil Healthy
The way you manage your soil can lead to sustainability in a variety of ways. A few options for improving the health of your soil to promote sustainability include:
- Grasscycling: Grasscycling is the process of leaving grass clippings in your yard as a fertilizing option.
- Composting: Composting is the process of purposely decomposing materials to create fertilizer with leftover scraps of food and natural materials.
- Aerating: Without the regular introduction of oxygen, natural processes within the soil can be inhibited. As such, you should regularly aerate the soil in high-traffic areas outside where the ground is being compressed.
- Mulching: Mulching helps your lawn absorb and maintain moisture.
- Setting your mower higher: By clipping your lawn higher, you can promote larger, more healthy root systems, and generally reduce damage caused by overexposure of the soil.
- Soil amendments: Soil amendments can replace nutrients that the lawn has lost.
- Trenchless pipes: Trenchless pipes require less invasive methods to install, and therefore cause less disruption to the soil and the local ecosystem.
3. Conserve Water
You can take many steps to conserve water through and for landscaping. Some options for doing this include:
- Rain gardens: Rain gardens utilize depressions and slopes to naturally guide and capture water for irrigation purposes.
- Mulching: Mulch can capture moisture and prevent evaporation.
- Concave surfaces: Concave surfaces like rocks with depressions on their surfaces can naturally collect rainwater.
- Drip irrigation: By using drip irrigation, you can reduce the loss of water through evaporation and runoff. It is also a good idea to regularly have your irrigation systems serviced to ensure there are no leaks or other issues.
- Rain barrels: The legality of rain barrels depends on your location, but it can allow you to reuse rainwater for irrigation purposes.
- Layered landscaping: By using layered landscaping, you can reduce evaporation by incorporating shade into the outdoor structure.
- Low-maintenance plant life: By selecting plants that use little water or are naturally adapted to the local ecosystem, you will not have to use as much water to maintain them.
- Hydroponic systems: Hydroponic systems recirculate and reuse water.
- Hose bibs: A hose bib can help you regulate the flow of water.
It can also be helpful to get a water conservation audit to find any potential sources of water waste that you aren’t aware of.
4. Use Eco-Friendly Materials
It can also be helpful to use eco-friendly materials for the structure and maintenance of your yard. Options for improving the eco-friendliness of landscaping materials include:
- Solar-powered options: This can reduce the use of energy to power accessories to your landscaping, such as lighting.
- Recycled materials: Using recycled materials can reduce the consumption of materials, as well as waste associated with production.
- Reused materials: Reusing materials can reduce the consumption of materials, as well as waste associated with production.
- Avoidance of PVC piping: PVC and other plastics produce a lot of waste through both their production and disposal.
- Low-energy options: It is best to choose low-energy options for any landscaping materials that require the use of power.
- Permeable hardscaping: Permeable hardscaping materials such as gravel and pervious concrete allow water to enter the soil beneath it.
- Durable materials: Choosing durable materials can reduce the need to replace them as often, thus creating less waste related to production and disposal.
5. Sustainable Maintenance
It is not only important to consider sustainability in the initial phases of landscaping, but also during maintenance. Options for sustainable landscaping maintenance include:
- Eco-friendly fertilizers: There are many effective natural fertilizers, such as compost.
- Non-toxic pesticides: It is best to choose pesticides that will only harm select pests, and to use them sparingly. It is important to keep in mind that even pests can play a vital role in your local ecosystem, and may even prevent imbalances in the life cycle of your lawn or garden.
- Man-powered tools: Using man-powered tools can prevent waste associated with energy usage
- Minimally-invasive installation and maintenance: The less that you have to disrupt the natural landscape and local ecosystem, the better.