Landscape materials can cause environmental damage even before they are installed in a garden. Harvesting and transport consume energy and generate pollution, and the problems continue even when the materials are dismantled if they are discarded in a landfill instead of reused or recycled.
Luckily, there are now many materials available that are locally produced and certified green. Read the labels, request products that are local and non-toxic and look for marks such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification on wood products.
How They Compare
|Conventional Landscape||Sustainable Landscape||What Can I Do?|
|The life cycle of materials is a linear process that begins with extraction and ends with disposal. Materials move through the cycle once and then become a waste product.||The life cycle of materials is a circular process where materials and products are reused or recycled to avoid the extraction of virgin feedstock and minimize energy and resource inputs.||Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle|
|Materials are not local and therefore do not support community businesses or the regional economy.||Materials represent the regional identity of the area and support the local economy.||Use certified woods|
|Little is known about the human health and environmental costs of the material.||When selecting materials, consideration is given to the costs of human health and environmental impacts.||Limit your use of VOC products|
It’s best to start with the old adage “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” as a rule of thumb. Think how you can downsize a landscaping project to reduce the amount of materials. The next best solution is to reuse materials already in your yard, perhaps in a new and novel way.
If you are buying new, opt for natural, untreated, least toxic, and recyclable products made locally. But even a seemingly benign material like wood raises questions: Does it come from a species threatened by the timber trade? Where was it harvested, and how much energy was required to transport it to your area?
A growing number of “certified green” products are becoming available, simplifying things for consumers. And you can promote recycling by buying products with recycled content.