Gentle Reader, here is Part 2 of Sustainability in Landscaping. This is the next excerpt from a talk that I presented to a group of Landscape Ontario members at a recent Chapter meeting.
My area of expertise is in plant materials and gardening, so naturally, that’s what I’ll focus on but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a quick overview of the entire design/build process.
Start with knowledge of a municipality’s by-laws and/or local covenants- as I’m sure most of you are aware. Areas covered by these regulations can include movement of water, excluded plants, construction materials used, conservation of existing flora and protection of animal habitats, etc. etc.
The days of asking forgiveness not permission are long gone- you will be required to remediate your work if it contravenes regulations. I know of one company from the “northern” Upper Canada region who secured a contract along the Bay of Quinte. It is a reputable company who does fine work.
The job was completed, the home-owner pleased. Folks from a conservation/restoration organisation happened by. A retaining wall had to be removed, the shoreline restored, plants replaced. Where I work, we often have home-owners coming in to say they need to take out work they had done and replace it with “acceptable” plant material.
Contrary to sustainable landscaping- because you have just used many more resources than you needed to and contrary to sustainable business because you have just used more money than you needed to. (For the record, GR, I strongly support our conservation authorities and the remedial action plan for the Bay. I have no problems with construction or plant selection requirements recommended by these groups.)
The next step happens at the initial meet where you and your customer are discussing the nature and scope of your collaboration. They may mention sustainability or something similar; if not, you can ask them. Get a feel for their commitment to it. As successful business owners, you have an acquired expertise in this conversation, even if it isn’t the best part of your job. So you can understand that I’m not suggesting you make this a big point: a casual question that can be explored further depending upon the response, or not.
Now comes the first exciting part: there're two “exciting” parts right?
Designing it and creating it.
Sustainability kicks in here big time. One of the terms you’ll begin to hear is the “built environment” which means that which you create.
The primary focus of the built environment, in this context, is that it fits in seamlessly with the natural environment. What did nature do with it before you and your customer came along? If a reasonable proposition, make sure that can still happen when you leave the job. Clearly, we’re talking about new developments on the fringes of towns.
What can you do in the design phase? Spec materials- local stone, recycled materials (doesn’t do much good to send everything off to a recycling yard if we never use the products),the closest outlet that supplies the products you want, reducing travel time and resources used to get the materials to the job - balanced with price and service of course. Can left over materials be used in other applications? If not, do you leave them on the job for the customer, donate them to a “recycling” outlet or green building centre or do you toss them into a land-fill?
During the winter you can review what materials you used, where you got them, how much you had left over, costs related to working those materials. This is something that a good business manager will do anyway, we’re just adding a new perspective to it. What about permeable hard surfaces on drives and walkways? Where do you place the deciduous and evergreen trees- for windbreaks, shade, winter sun penetration? Are you giving them room enough to mature and have you an alternate plan for your customer in case they get impatient waiting for something to grow.
Suggest some annuals to fill in the ground space while the perennials establish themselves. Have you selected an appropriate mulch (cypress would not be, natural cedar would) reclaimed industrial wood (enhanced mulch) might be good but what are the dies used?