What is Not "Green" About Traditional
Sustainable, or green landscaping, is a way of designing and
maintaining yards, gardens and landscapes in a way that reduces harm to
the environment, provides healthier places to work, live, and play, and
saves time and money by offering reduced maintenance.
What are some of the problems with traditional landscaping? What is
done in home owners yards and common green areas can affect neighbors and the
environment. These problems include:
- Over-application of pesticides and fertilizers, and improper disposal
of these products, can cause them to end up in waterways and in
- It is estimated that tens of millions of gallons of gasoline are
spilled each year when homeowners refuel garden equipment.
- Improper landscaping can lead to erosion of stream banks.
- The operating and refueling of landscaping equipment
and vehicles (mowers, blowers, trimmers) causes harmful emissions of air
- The noise generated during the operation of power
equipment such as mowers and trimmers is a common disruption in summer
Consumption of natural
- Coal and gas are consumed in providing electricity and fueling of
mowers, trimmers, and landscaping vehicles.
- Water is consumed in irrigation of landscaping plants. It is estimated
that 30% of water consumption in urban areas in the eastern US is for
- Valuable soil and minerals are subject to erosion.
- The grass clippings and leaves generated from a yard
could be composted on site; in areas that do not ban yard waste from
landfills, these items take up valuable space in the landfill.
Health and safety
- Exposure to chemical pesticides is the result of improperly applied,
stored, and disposed containers. The health risk to children especially
is an avoidable risk.
- Each year there are about 230,000 people treated in hospital emergency
rooms due to injuries related to various lawn and garden tools.
Declining Biodiversity (numbers and variety of plants and
- Introducing invasive plants into the landscape can lead to potential
"escape" from the garden, resulting in the choking out of
native species in the natural environment; this can disrupt valuable
food chains and do harm to wildlife.
- Clearing the land destroys the great variety of plant life that exists
in balance with many elements of nature: birds, insects, water/mineral
- Application of pesticides destroys insects that do no harm, causing
the decline of many species of insects and affecting wildlife
populations in a great number of ways.
- Removing plants that benefit nature, and replacing them with plants
that do not support wildlife, results in great decline of biodiversity.
- Clearing the land, replacing it with impermeable surfaces,
and extensive use of grass as a groundcover results in flooding. A
grass lawn absorbs less than 10% of water that woods can absorb;
concrete and asphalt absorb no water. The water from rainfall runs off
to streams too rapidly, causing erosion and rapid rising of streams.
Flooding problems in suburbs where woodlands have been cleared is a
common, but avoidable, problem.
- Traditional landscaping is dependent upon heavy
machinery, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and irrigation. The EPA
estimates that the average one acre lawn costs about $700 and 40 hours
of labor each year to maintain.