Designing Sustainable Landscapes

Sustainable landscaping has been around for quite some time but is gaining popularity in residential areas. A sustainable landscape can help clean the air and water, increase energy efficiency, restore habitats, and contribute to the health of a community and future generations. Although some aspects of sustainable landscaping may sound complex, many of them are easy to manage and often require little to no maintenance. Here are some ideas for designing a sustainable landscape in your yard:

Starting Out Small

Some homeowners become overwhelmed when it comes to designing landscapes because the opportunities seem endless and often it’s true. If you don’t know where to start, choose a few features and start from there. If your plan is too big, you may be less likely to follow through.

Compost Bins and Rain Barrels

Composting and rain collection are great ways to start thinking and being more sustainable. While compost bins and rain barrels are not as aesthetically pleasing as a flower garden or a traditional water feature, they are beneficial to your sustainable landscape. When you compost in your backyard, you can use the broken down matter to enrich the soil of future gardens and reduce your need for fertilizers and chemicals. Additionally, you are reducing the amount of waste that ends up in the landfills, ultimately reducing harmful greenhouse gasses.

A rain barrel is a great way to cut down on your water usage (and waste) and is a convenient way to water plants and flowers throughout your yard.

Less Lawn

According to the American Time Use Survey, the average American homeowner spends about 70 hours a year on lawn care. While many people find mowing the lawn to be relaxing, many homeowners find it to be inconveniencing, particularly when there’s pressure keep up with “The Joneses.” Not only do large lawns take up a lot of your free time, but they also require water and sometimes chemicals. The larger the lawn, the more resources are used.

Build a Functional Space

In the same idea of reducing the size of your lawn, why not build a space that’s functional and enjoyable? Decks and patios are some great examples of making your backyard functional. Whether you use the space as an outdoor eating space during warmer weather or just a nice spot to relax, replacing lawn with a patio or deck can greatly reduce your water usage. Additionally, you can build a functional space with materials that have been constructed from recycled plastics and the like.

Select Native Plants

Using native plants in your landscaping will not only provide a one-of-a-kind look, but it is a sustainable practice, as native plants typically require less maintenance and aid in the prevention in erosion. Since native plants are unique, hearty, and are likely to last longer than other plants and flowers, it may boost the value of your property and be a selling point if you ever put your home on the market.

Attracting Pollinators

These days, we’ve heard a lot about how bees, a vital pollinator, are in danger of dying off due to the heavy use of chemicals. By creating a sustainable landscape and plant flowers and plants that attract bees and butterflies, you are helping to keep the pollinator population alive and well.

Plant a Tree or Two

Trees are always a nice addition to any yard, but it’s also an easy and long-lasting element to any sustainable landscape. Trees provide shelter to various wildlife, but it can also make your home more energy efficient by providing shade to cool in the hot summer as well as protecting your home from the wind and cold in the winter months. Keep in mind that some trees take longer to mature so the sooner you plant one, the better. When planting, make sure it is far enough from structures that could be compromised by growing roots (i.e. sidewalks, fences).


Do you have a picnic table that’s seen better days or a pile of concrete pieces from an old retaining wall? Rather than dumping these materials in the landfill, why not come up with a creative way to repurpose them in your current landscape? If you look through your garage or tool shed, you may come across several materials that can be used to build flower boxes, stepping stone paths, and other landscaping features.

Edible Plants

If you don’t want to devote the time and space to a large scale garden, why not incorporate a few edible plants among your existing landscaping? If you don’t have extra space for edible plants, consider container gardening on your deck or patio.

There are many opportunities with sustainable landscaping that can be applied to existing landscapes or built from scratch. Choose what works best for your space and enjoy the benefits of living more sustainably.