Sustainable landscaping

Sustainable development is what the current era is chasing in most aspects. However,  most people assume that landscaping has nothing to do with sustainability. Some actually believe that landscaping is on its deathbed as we drive for a livable future. However, landscape architects deal with designs as open original systems that have cultural and natural elements. And this is what we’re trying to protect while developing to achieve sustainability.  Therefore architecture is a great contributor to sustainability, as we shall see in this article.

Landscape and climate change

Without mentioning climate change, we shall not be tackling sustainability. The rising concerns of global warming have brought together professionals from different fields to restore the environment. Landscaping architects have been identified as central players in the restoration of the environment through sustainable landscaping methods.

Research conducted by Jonathan Foley and Roger Pielke brought to light the effect that landscaping practices cause on the climate of Florida. The activities of clearing land, draining swamps, and redirecting rivers for landscape reasons lead to significant changes in the climate. For instance, there are being experienced dryer and hotter summers while the winter months get extremely cold.

Sustainable architectural practices have proven to restore vegetation cover and consequently reversing climate change. Practices such as avoiding paving to conserve vegetation and the retaining of native plants that exist on their landscaping projects.  

Change in the landscape concerning climate change

Carbon is the main culprit when it comes to the greenhouse effect. Fossil fuels are the main holders of carbon. Carbon in these fossil fuels is accumulated over a long period of time. However, when fossil fuels are burnt, they release this slowly accumulated carbon into the environment instantly.  Due to the Denver of CO2, it was declared a threat to human life in 2009 by EPA.  

So, where does landscaping come in within this? Vegetation cover helps regulate the amount of carbon in the environment. Plants absorb CO2 in the environment, which they use to make food. Therefore, clearing vegetation cover shall lead to less CO2 absorption and consequently warmer earth. Landscape architects should come up with more sustainable designs. Designs that embrace vegetation cover more than artificial designs to enable continuity of the natural air circulation.

Sustainability is the need to come up with style and substance in landscaping.

There always shall be experienced hurdles when trying to achieve any good thing. This also applies to the landscape in the wake of sustainability. We need great-looking designs while at the same time trying to maintain the nature of land and vegetation cover.

Consequently, some landscape businesses have converted sustainable efforts into a marketing tool. Many built forms are way too attractive than natural forms. Identifying the built forms should be one of the moves towards the elimination of climate-threatening landscaping practices.

How do landscapes destroy the environment?

It can be confusing to some of us how a green-developed landscape affects the environment. However, it is a reality that landscaping activities destroy the environment. To better understand this, we shall look at it in technical, cultural trends and attitudes terms.  

Materials and processes of landscaping

Some processes and materials used for landscaping lead to the depletion of natural resources. For example, the hardwood used for consumer landscaping comes from tropical hardwood trees that are being cut elsewhere for the benefit of consumer landscapes.

The process of landscaping, especially gardening, leads to environmental destruction. Gardening, for instance, has taken a wrong cause with landscapers using fertilizers and pesticides to improve the look of vegetation. Such fertilizers cause serious disposal problems that degrade the environment. Materials used, such as PVC, also contribute to a reverse move in terms of sustainability.

Nature and the hand of a designer

Natural is usually assumed to be that which is untouched and original. Should we call the touch and design of a landscape architect as interference to nature? We might conclude so until we find landscaping hands that return the natural being of a place. For instance, an architect can design stormwater ponds to look like and actually function like a natural pond.

Rob Thayer, a landscape theorist, believes that we still got a long way to go. He notes that hiding the designing aspect does not add up to sustainability. He says that sustainable landscapes are not meant to be seen; they include important ecological aspects that sometimes cannot be seen. He sees the mere ‘cosmetic’ hiding of engineering works as a greenwash and not a step towards sustainability.

Achievement of nature in landscaping, is it sustainable?

Trying to achieve the ‘natural look in landscaping might seem like a sustainable aspect. However, maintaining such natural looks consume a lot of energy and materials. Therefore, they might be viewed as sustainability greenwash for the human eye. In the real sense, such energy and material consumption degrade the environment to a big extent.  

Natural landscapes outside a hospital, for example, have been found to improve the patient’s healing process. Most patients were found to heal and stay in good moods by looking at natural landscapes outside. Artificial decorations we’re on the other hand found not to affect.

A real natural landscape should follow ecological patterns. It should not be depleting energy to keep alive and keeps the natural and regional forms. There should be less interference with nature and more integration with nature.


Sustainable landscaping is one of the important parts of the restoration of our environment. However, most landscaping techniques are assumed to be green and sustainable, while in the real sense, they are much harmful to the ecology and climate in general. A well-maintained natural-looking landscape should not confuse for a sustainable landscape. The materials used in landscaping should also be checked. Hardwoods used in landscaping destroy the environment indirectly by depleting tropical hardwoods that play an important role in keeping greenhouse gases checked.

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