The Value of Sustainable Landscaping

One of the keys to creating sustainable landscapes is ensuring that those landscapes are part of healthy ecosystems. Healthy ecosystems provide dozens of functions that are essential to human survival but too often these functions are underestimated or ignored when making land-use decisions. Once ecosystems are damaged and loose their capacity for air purification, water retention, food production, climate regulation, filtering pollutants, wildfire protection, and erosion control it can be difficult, expensive, and sometimes impossible to restore them. By protecting existing ecosystems and regenerating ecological capacity where it has been lost, sustainable landscapes support natural ecological processes that are essential to our survival.

Sustainable landscaping is not limited to a single type of use. The best sustainable landscaping practices can be used in any setting, from a backyard garden to a state park, and engage its users on many levels: physical, aesthetic, cultural, and spiritual. By modeling our landscapes on healthy natural ecosystems and managing them responsibly we can ensure that future generations can reap the same benefits from these inspiring, beautiful outdoor spaces that we currently do.

CASE STUDY
The City of Santa Monica, California recently completed a project that tracked the costs (economic and environmental) for both a sustainable site and a control site that uses conventional landscaping practices. To do this, they built two landscapes in adjacent residential front yards. One was landscaped using a climate-appropriate, sustainable design while the other was landscaped with exotic flowers and shrubs and turfgrass.

Although initial installation costs of the sustainable native landscape were higher than the traditional garden, the native landscape required 77 percent less water, produced 66 percent less green waste, and costs 68 percent less for maintenance than the traditional garden. This side-by-side comparison makes it abundantly clear that sustainable landscaping is not only better for the environment than traditional gardening, but is also aesthetically pleasing and makes good economic sense. Details of the project can be found here.

ECONOMIC BENEFITS

Smart Money magazine notes in a 2003 article that spending 5% of the total value of your home on landscaping can add 15% or more to the value of your home.

In a 2003 article, Money Magazine found that spending on landscape design offers the best return on investment of any home improvement.

According to a report called “Economic Benefits of Landscape” by The Associated Landscape Contractors of America, properly selected and placed plants can lower home heating and cooling costs by as much as 20%.  

According to a U.S Department of Energy study, carefully positioned trees can reduce household energy consumption for heating and cooling by up to 25%.