The landscapes you create and care for contribute to healthier communities and the planet, but there are some easy ways you can make them even more sustainable to win over clients and do your part for the Earth.
In honor of Earth Month, here are some of the surprising benefits of landscapes and some ways we can make landscapes even more sustainable.
Landscapes benefit health and well being
Studies show that landscape features and plants have a wide range of health benefits to improve heart health, depression, obesity, stress and more.
Hospital patients who have a view of nature from their window have been found to heal faster than those without, and children who grow up surrounded by green space, have 55 percent less risk of mental health problems later in life, according to a new study.
As health problems and health care costs continue to rise, the impact of landscapes on health may become a more important benefit for people to consider.
Landscapes can improve work and school performance
Natural settings have a stress-reducing and calming effect on people allowing them to perform better at work or school.
Workers with a view of trees tend to have greater job satisfaction and lower stress levels, than people without. People also improve in memory tasks after looking at nature or walking through natural environments and students achieved better exam results at schools with trees.
Studies like these may explain the rise in popularity of biophilic design, which incorporates plants and other natural elements into building design—the Amazon's Seattle Spheres are a prime example of this growing trend.
Landscapes reduce pollution
Carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas, can be removed from the atmosphere and absorbed by plants—turfgrass can be especially good at it.
Turfgrass, rain gardens and permeable pavers and other landscape features can also reduce stormwater runoff and erosion by allowing precipitation to soak into the earth. This prevents pollutants from entering our streams, rivers and oceans and reduces the burden on the stormwater drainage systems in our communities.
A healthy turfgrass root system also provides a productive habitat bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms to break down pollutants, such hydrocarbons and heavy metals.
Landscapes help keep it cool
Everyone knows the huge relief a shady tree can provide on a hot day, but plants do more than create shade to keep things cool.
Turfgrass is fifteen degrees cooler than concrete and up to 30 degrees cooler than synthetic turf. Healthy turfgrass also lowers the temperature of the air around it due to transpiration, more so than bare soil or poorly maintained turf—a nice benefit during a heat wave!
Making landscapes more sustainable
While the benefits of landscapes can be great, the way we care for landscapes can have negative impacts on our environment.
For instance, the use of synthetic fertilizers, mowers and other gas-powered equipment can reduce the carbon sequestering benefits of turfgrass by 15-35 percent.
One way to minimize this is to focus on soil health. By building healthy soil you can reduce the use of chemicals, fertilizer and other products while saving water. Products from Holganix, Mirimichi Green and Anuvia, which build healthier soils and plants with natural ingredients, can assist in this process.
Getting soil tests can also help you determine the appropriate fertilizers types and amount, reducing excess fertilizer use.
Gas-powered mowers, saws and other landscape equipment are also big contributors to air pollution. That is changing with products like those from NV Earth, cleaner alternatives to the petroleum-based oils typically used for landscape maintenance equipment.
Reducing landscape water use
Landscape irrigation accounts for nearly one-third of residential water use in the U.S., about half of which is wasted due to inefficient irrigation practices.
Unfortunately, most people don’t realize they are even wasting water and about 50% of homeowners under-estimate how much water they actually use for their landscapes, according to a new Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) survey.
Replacing inefficient or outdated irrigation systems, with smart irrigation upgrades can help reduce water waste like drip irrigation, water-efficient sprinkler nozzles and smart irrigation controller and other landscape transformations can significantly reduce wasted water. In a study by AWE, various landscape transformation programs in the U.S. have helped homeowners reduce their water use by 7-39%.
What can you do to make landscapes more sustainable?
Sustainable and water-efficient landscapes and green spaces are in demand—nearly 70% of homeowners in AWE’s survey said they have considered changing their landscapes to reduce water use!
The changes you can make may be big or small, but they can all help make a difference. Consider some ideas like these:
- Plant native or low-water use trees and turfgrasses
- Switching to petroleum oil alternative like NV Earth
- Recycle old irrigation controllers at Ewing
- Create healthier soils and plants while minimizing fertilizer and chemical use
- Reduce water use with smart irrigation products and practices
- Offer landscape transformation services such as turf reduction, drip irrigation, xeriscaping, etc.)
You can get some more ideas and inspiration from our 2018 Water & Sustainability Innovation Award winners— see how this golf course, community gardeners and a high school created more sustainable sites.
Spread a good word for landscapes
Today more than 80% of Americans live in cities and suburbs and further away from nature, making spaces for landscapes and plants in our urban environments more important than ever.
You can help inform school boards, politicians, businesses, property owners and clients that the benefits of their landscapes aren’t just purely aesthetic—they contribute important benefits to our communities and environment.