It’s not easy being green!
Ah, the gardens of Versailles, to the south of Paris, a landscape with a UNESCO World Heritage listing, visited by millions. Yet, when it was laid out in the seven-teenth century, whole forests were destroyed as trees were dug up and transported to site with a success rate of, at best, 25 per cent!
Landscaping is all about making an area more functional and attractive but this can-not be done by Ah, the gardens of Versailles, to the south of Paris, a landscape with a UNESCO World Heritage listing, pumping out factory smoke, digging big holes in the ground or cutting down whole forests elsewhere! Last issue, John and Marc wrote about the green credentials of faux stone and composite timbers – yet, how do we judge the sustainability of landscape products including stone and wood?
Consumers as well as local and state governments continue to drive a desire for more sustainable buildings and landscapes.
Many of the larger build projects now promote their green credentials – it’s good for the environment but it’s also good for shareholder profits – greenhouses, shopping centres, apartment blocks and land developments sell!
Developments such as Noah’s Rosehill Waters in WA, which achieved a six-leaf green standard through the Enviro Development certification scheme. Hard landscaping across the site focused on reusing and recycling existing materials salvaged from the site as well as sourcing materials reclaimed from elsewhere.
The main international standards for sustainability are the ISO 14000 series.
In Australia, there are a myriad of environmental certification schemes, standards and tools that have been developed with some applying to landscaping and landscape products. These include, Green Star run by the Green Building Council of Australia and GECA (Good Environmental Choice Australia).
If only there was a single scheme to judge landscape products, similar to the star labels that have been adorning electrical goods in this country for 25 years.
The main this is to keep a cool head and don’t just judge a product by the label or the company’s claims, which could be just an exercise in ‘greenwash’. Doing a mini ‘sustainability audit’ by applying a simple eco-checklist may come up with some surprising results when comparing the sustainability of one landscape product to another!
Eco – Checklist
Key areas to assess the green credentials of a product include:
Embodied Energy – How much carbon was used during manufacture?
Transportation – How much were the ingredients of a product as well as the finished product transported. These first two categories provide the overall ‘carbon footprint’ of the product
Resource Depletion – Were endangered forests cut down or difficult-to-source rock quarried?
Durability – How long will the product last? Ensuring more carbon won’t be burnt in remanufacture or replacement
Ability to be Reused or Recycled – Saving waste, remanufacturing and resources
Concrete and concrete products have been receiving a bad rap for decades for their carbon footprint during manufacture, which has led to greater innovation and green certification.
Holcim with 65 quarries and 190 batching plants across Australia recently published the world’s fi rst concrete pipe EPD with an aim to develop more EPDs across their product range. An Environmental Product Declaration is an independently verifi ed document that doesn’t state that one product is environmentally superior to another.
There is no clear-cut sustainability certification of quarry products in Australia. As sustainability continues to grow as an issue in product selection, most quarries now have a sustainability charter on their websites. Boral, for example, state that their carbon dioxide equivalent emissions are 29 per cent below 2012 levels.
The EPD provides comparable data about the life-cycle environmental impacts of a product and leaves any judgement up to the consumer – great for engineers and designers, but, probably too much detail for time-poor landscapers. However, it’s promising to see such a large company willing to examine the sustainability of their products in such detail.