In short, yes. If you’re considering digging out a garden, planting some new shrubs, or beginning a backyard landscaping project, you should consider methods for making your outdoor space more sustainable.
If you’ve read a news headline over the past decade, you’ll know that the natural environment is under threat. Various factors, including habitat loss, pollution, and water usage, are all putting a strain on the planet and the animals, birds, and insects we share it with. While one yard certainly won’t save the planet, everyone can make an impact on their local environment by practicing sustainable landscaping, according to LifescapeColorado.com.
Through simple, and even cost-effective, choices, you can improve the air and water quality of your neighborhood and make your yard a welcome place for nearby birds and animals. To better understand the concept of sustainable landscaping, we’re taking a closer look at sustainability and some benefits and methods for making your landscape project easier on the environment.
What is Sustainability?
For many, “sustainability” is a word that we hear tossed around all the time but never really understand the definition. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, sustainability can be understood as one simple principle: everything that we need for our survival, whether directly or indirectly, comes from the natural environment. Using this point of view, it’s obvious to see why protecting biodiversity and natural habitat is essential for all life on earth. Sustainable practices, then, focus on creating a harmonious relationship between humans and their environment.
What is Sustainable Landscaping?
While there is no one specific definition, sustainable landscaping is, at its core, a set of landscaping practices aimed at improving the relationship between a homeowner and their natural environment. When developing a property, there’s simply no way to leave that land as it was or “untouched.” However, with sustainable landscaping, you can make as minimal an impact as possible. Some homeowners are even able to turn their outdoor spaces into natural sanctuaries for a variety of native animals, birds, and insects.
Benefits of Sustainable Landscaping
There are so many benefits to sustainable landscaping, it’s surprising that this trend is just now catching on. Sustainable landscaping can save you time, money, and improve the air and water quality around you—all while fitting in beautifully with your surrounding environment. Instead of trying to make palm trees grow in the mountains, a sustainable landscape works with nature. Here are just a few of the many benefits:
1. Native Plants Thrive
A fundamental part of sustainable landscaping is selecting native plants, shrubs, trees, and flowers for your yard. This is beneficial for various reasons. Native plants are better adapted to your local environment, meaning you’ll spend less on pesticides and buying new plants. Maintenance time for these plants will also drastically reduce.
They also serve as habitat for local insects, birds, and animals, which is critical considering the amount of habitat loss occurring all throughout the United States. According to the National Wildlife Federation, habitat loss is one of the leading factors driving species to extinction. With native plants, your outdoor space can become a refuge for local wildlife.
2. Water Quality
Water is the most important element on the planet. With a sustainable yard, you not only use less water, which helps to conserve this precious resource, but you also protect the water supply around you. Native trees and plants require less water as they’ve evolved to thrive in the local conditions.
3. Reduce Runoff
Additionally, having more grass and green space, as compared to pavement, helps reduce runoff and prevents flooding. The root systems of trees and plants also help secure and fasten the soil in place. These roots are a natural way to prevent erosion, which is especially useful if you live in a region with a lot of precipitation.
How Do I Make My Landscaping Sustainable?
At first glance, many may think that making their landscaping sustainable will be a long-term and costly project. But in reality, no matter the size of your space, sustainable landscaping can be relatively simple, cost-effective, and even save you money in the long run.
When selecting the plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers for your backyard landscaping project, go with what grows locally. This might require a little research, but native plants have several benefits over nonnative species. Working with a local nursery is a great way to find native plants and learn more about which species do well in your area.
While recycling waste from inside your home is important, recycling can also be done outdoors. After you mow your lawn, don’t bag the clippings—instead, leave them where they lay in a practice called “grasscycling.” This method of sustainable yard care drastically reduces the need for fertilizer.
Water conservation is a critical step toward creating a sustainable landscape. Conserving water can be relatively easy. Set up a rain barrel on your property to catch and store rainwater that can then be used for irrigation. If you have an irrigation system in place, check it regularly for leaks that can eventually drain a lot of water. You can even install specific sensors that shut off your irrigation system when it’s raining.
No landscaping project can leave all the green space untouched, but preserving as much as possible can be extremely beneficial. Green space, including trees, shrubs, plants, and grasses, increases the biodiversity of your space and even cleans the air by sucking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Green space also reduces runoff, which can cause sudden flooding and flushes chemicals, like pesticides, into the groundwater.
Conclusion – Does it Matter if Landscaping is Sustainable?
Now more than ever, we need to think about ways we can protect our planet and preserve its natural environment. With habitat loss, pollution, ocean acidification, and the effects of climate change, it’s as if our planet is under attack from almost every direction.
We can all do our part, in our local environments and neighborhoods, to protect the planet. By choosing sustainable practices for your landscape, including native plants, more green space, and recycling, you can lessen your footprint on the environment and even encourage those around you to make sustainable choices as well. Choose the right landscape architecture today!