Is Landscaping Good For The Environment?
What Exactly is Landscaping?
Landscaping is the process of working on the design of a piece of land to improve its overall appearance, functionality, and beauty. Landscaping involves the managing of flora (and sometimes fauna) and all other elements of a landscape in an artful way to make it more appealing and attractive to those who see it.
What Are The Environmental Benefits of Landscaping?
Landscapes as Environmental Cleaners
Managed landscapes act as environmental cleaners, not only by absorbing and sequestering carbon in the roots of plants but also by capturing smoke, dust, and other pollutants. A single tree on average can capture up to 26 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere each year, equalling 11,000 miles of car emissions whilst simultaneously releasing oxygen for us to breathe. Even grasses are known to perform a similar function, with a 50’x50’ lawn being said to produce enough oxygen for a family of four.
Lawns and plants are also very effective in reducing noise pollution and are up to 30% more effective at doing so than hard surfaces such as concrete or tarmac alone.
Plants and Grasses Can Regulate Temperatures
Grasses can keep a surrounding area much cooler than asphalt or cement can, reducing the temperature by up to 30 degrees and keeping it up to 20 degrees cooler than uncovered soils can. Trees can provide valuable shade to the house, thus keeping them cooler and keeping your power bills lower. Planting deciduous trees in a southwesterly aspect will provide shade in the summer months and in the winter when the leaves have dropped will allow sunlight and warmth into your property, reducing your energy usage.
Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash
Prevents Soil Erosion
Proper landscaping also reduces soil erosion, preventing minerals, nutrients, and sediments from running off and getting lost into water supplies. A good stock of plants and mulch keeps soil in place reducing flooding and mudslides and ultimately building up biodiversity in your garden.
Are All Types of Landscaping Good for the Environment?
Whilst as a general rule, more plant life is always a better thing, there are some things to keep in mind. Many species are heavy feeders and may require numerous chemical applications to thrive in your environment if you haven’t decided to adopt organic practices. To reduce the usage of toxic chemicals that pollute the environment and water supplies, you can choose native species that are already adapted to local conditions.
Not only will this reduce the inputs needed for maintenance in terms of water usage, fertilizers, and pest control but these species, often known as pioneer species, can serve to rehabilitate degraded land by building up soil structure and overall biodiversity in the area.
Invasive species can quickly wreak havoc on your area by choking out native species and having knock-on effects all over the biosphere if they happen to escape cultivation. Whilst this isn’t something to worry about with too many species it is something to bear in mind. If in doubt check with your local authorities.
Types of Landscaping that Benefit the Environment
Green and Sustainable Landscaping
Eco-friendly landscaping is a way of creating and maintaining your green space that provides an overall benefit to your environment whilst cutting down on harmful inputs and other practices. An ecological landscape design will incorporate habitat loss and creation into its process. Soil, air, and water pollution will all be taken into account when designing an ecologically conscious landscape.
Another important factor to bear in mind when considering beginning a landscaping project is water usage. If you live in an area prone to water shortages and drought, then planting a thirsty landscape will have detrimental effects on your community if you don’t implement proper water management.
Xeriscaping is the process of creating a landscape or garden that requires little to no water inputs, thus reducing the strain on a tight water supply. Practices include but are not limited to grouping plants with similar water needs together, planting desert and drought-tolerant species, as well as cutting down on lawns, which are often the worst offenders when it comes to water usage.
If you like the idea of increasing overall biodiversity and sustainable design, then you can consider turning your landscape into a thriving permaculture paradise. Permaculture is based on the idea of permanent design. The aim is to create a self-sustaining landscape that is exponentially more biodiverse than when you started. The idea is to reduce inputs, working with what you have by growing your own mulch, harvesting and recycling water, and nutrient recycling through various composting methods.
You’ll end up with higher outputs, such as crops should you choose to grow them or even a food forest, all whilst requiring fewer inputs and effort as time goes by.
Permaculture stresses working with what you have and can be implemented on any scale; from a large-scale farm to a balcony garden, and everything in between, by following its basic tenets.
Photo by Adam Tinworth on Unsplash
Plant a Pollinator-Friendly Garden
A lot of research has been conducted in recent years about the decline of pollinators including bees, moths, and butterflies. Pollinators are responsible for at least one-third of the food we eat. The decline in pollinator populations is due largely to pesticide exposure, habitat loss, and a loss of genetic diversity, amongst other factors.
Protecting honey bees, butterflies, moths and all kinds of pollinators requires action from everybody in a position to do so. Planting a pollinator-friendly landscape is one way to help these most important members of our environment.
Some things you can do to increase the presence of pollinators include:
Planting native flowering species. The more densely packed the better.
Planting flowers with a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes to entice different species of pollinators.
Consider exotic plants which often come jam-packed with nectar.
Plant nectar-packed herbs such as rosemary and basil.
Reduce or cut out completely the use of chemical pest and weed control and look for solutions such as increasing natural predators or non-toxic, organic alternatives.
The Final Word
Landscaping involves the improvement, appearance, functionality, and beauty of a given landmass. Beautiful green landscapes can vastly improve our quality of life in a myriad of ways. Studies have shown benefits to mental health, positive impacts on stress and violence levels, and improved concentration, amongst many other things.
Landscaping can improve the environment by lessening soil erosion, by regulating temperature, and sequestering carbon dioxide whilst releasing oxygen through increasing plant life.
However, a little bit of planning and knowledge is required to make sure that your landscape is suitable for your needs and requirements and remains environmentally friendly in the long term.