Responsible landscaping and lawn care practices that are sensitive to the environment and public health can provide a variety of benefits. For example, environmentally friendly landscapes can do the following:
- Cool the area around your home or office buildings
- Reduce air pollution and dust
- Build healthy soil
- Reduce run-off and erosion
- Attract wildlife
- Produce oxygen
The Environmental Protection Agency describes sustainability as based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony that permit fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations.
Southern Exposure Landscape Management can provide advice and guidance about how you can improve your sustainable practices. We can help you use water more efficiently, recycle water if allowed in your area, choose drought resistant plants, create a composting system, etc., and many offer a choice of organic or synthetic products for care of your lawn, landscape plants, and trees.
PLANET also worked with the Lawns and Environmental Initiative to help develop a set of practices that will allow a homeowner to create a healthy environment while improving his or her landscape. Here are 10 principles that can help you:
- Learn about your site or yard. Knowing your yard’s resources and challenges is key to making good decisions about your plants, soil, water, and wildlife. Knowledge of your site is an essential part of applying the other principles.
- Choose the right plant for the right spot. If a plant is in a location where it must struggle to survive, chances are the homeowner will respond with additional water, fertilizers, or pesticides to improve the situation. A properly located plant will require less maintenance and pruning, and avoid the cost and waste of replacing it.
- Build healthy soil and use fertilizer responsibly. Healthy and fertile soil is necessary for good plant growth, supports microorganisms, and results in plants that are more resistant to disease and pests.
- Reduce waste and recycle nutrients. Reducing yard waste that otherwise could be sent to a landfill lowers the need to create more or larger landfill operations. Recycling nutrients through composting and recycling grass clippings (grass cycling) reduces the need for fertilizers or other soil supplements.
- Attract and protect wildlife. Studies have shown alarming declines in some song bird species and other wildlife affected by urban development. By providing food, cover, and water, homeowners can make a real difference in the survival and health of urban wildlife.
- Manage yard pests responsibly. Misuse of pesticides can pose health risks to families, pets, and wildlife and can contaminate water supplies. By applying pesticides only after other measures have proven ineffective, and by following label directions, homeowners can protect the environment and reduce exposure to themselves and others.
- Use water wisely. Many areas of the country experience droughts and water shortages. Eliminating waste and using water efficiently for home lawns and landscapes can help increase water for wildlife and other community needs.
- Mow and prune responsibly. Proper mowing and pruning practices can help reduce pesticide, water, and fertilizer use by keeping plants healthy and resistant to disease. Reduced use of pesticides and fertilizers lessens the possibility of water pollution in the environment.
- Prevent landscape pollution. Preventing pollution is essential to environmental stewardship and includes constant vigilance in keeping pesticides, fertilizers, fuels, pet waste, or other contaminants out of all water sources.
- Reduce stormwater runoff. By keeping stormwater from running off onto neighboring properties, responsible homeowners can help prevent flooding, erosion, and water pollution. Keeping stormwater on-site helps recharge groundwater supplies and can benefit wildlife habitats.