What is sustainability?

There is a lot of talk about sustainability, or going green these days.  But exactly what does that mean? 

One of the earliest and enduring definitions of sustainability is:

“Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

As landscapers and gardeners we may imagine that just by working in our gardens and landscapes we are automatically making the planet greener.  The facts don’t support this though.

However, it is true that most of us would like to do so if we had the information and techniques to implement best practices for sustainability.  

People who work the earth, the way we landscapers and gardeners do, have an appreciation of the environment around us.   It stands to reason that preserving the beauty of nature for the coming generations just makes good sense. 

We are interested in today as well as tomorrow, in beauty and preservation of the land and in a healthy earth, both now and in the future.

What is sustainable gardening?

Sustainable gardeners and landscapers work in harmony with the earth and contribute to the overall health of the environment rather than taking away from it.   

In a sustainable garden all elements of structure and plant life, pest control, water use and waste management are utilized without depleting the earth’s resources or contributing to pollution.

Also, by its very definition, sustainable means it should endure for a long time.  What this means is that your garden, once established, should be able to grow and endure the test of time without continual intervention from you. 

Avoiding high maintenance flowers, providing habitats for insect helpers, using native plants and composting food and garden wastes are some of the ways to improve the sustainability of your garden that we will examine.

 What is sustainable landscaping?

It is a sad fact, but homeowners use 10 times more pesticides per acre than farmers do.

 Irrigating lawns uses more water than any other irrigated crop.  

Runoff from impervious surfaces in the landscape results in flooding, erosion and water pollution.

It’s easy to see that sustainable landscaping is an excellent solution to some of these serious problems.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, sustainable landscaping is comprised of four main elements. 

That is:

Sustainable landscaping is actually easier than traditional methods.  The best part is you sacrifice nothing significant in how your landscape looks.


US EPA, Smithsonian Institution

Brooklyn Botanical Garden

SULIS, University of Minnesota


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