Use Salvaged Materials from the Region

Salvaged materials that exist in the community or region can also be used to supple­ment or substitute for those found on a residential site. Used construction materials can be obtained directly from a site that is being demolished, from a retail company that specializes in reclaimed and refurbished materials, or sometimes from a munici­pality that has saved materials from various public works projects. Pavement materi­als, wood, and scrap metal are some of most readily available salvaged materials. In addition, less common materials such as crushed glass and rubber tires might be con­sidered as well. Crushed glass or “cullet,” available in different aggregate sizes, finishes, and color, potentially lends itself to the same uses as gravel. Crushed glass can simi­larly be used in exposed aggregate concrete to provide an attractive color and reflective quality to the concrete surface. Or crushed glass can be mixed into stone gravel walk­ways and driveways. Old rubber tires may be used in some instances for retaining earth or to augment earth used as fill. Further, numerous other materials found in junkyards provide limitless opportunities for creative solutions that give each design its own uniqueness.

Use Remanufactured Materials

Remanufactured materials are those that are partially or totally composed of recycled materials. A surprising number of remanufactured materials and products are now available for use in the landscape, with new ones becoming available all the time. A comprehensive reference for such materials is The Resource Guide to Sustainable Landscapes, by Wesley Groesbeck and Jan Streifel. Local remanufactured materials and suppliers can often be found in the Yellow Pages or on the Internet.

One of the most popular and available remanufactured materials is “plastic lumber,” a good substitute for deck surfaces. Depending on the brand, plastic wood may be composed of only recycled plastic or a combination of recycled plas­tic and sawdust. Plastic lumber is available in a range of colors, is considered a safer material than pressure-treated lumber, and potentially lasts many years, thus reducing long-term maintenance. Several disadvantages of plastic lumber include higher costs, a potential for color fading, and heat buildup when directly exposed to sunlight.

Other remanufactured materials include tile, brick, and concrete pavers made with crushed glass or ground rubber. Some site furnishings such as benches, tables, pots, and so on are also available with recycled materials. One caution is to check the exact content of remanufactured materials to avoid using those that contain PVC or have a relatively large amount of embodied energy. Some remanufactured materials may actually be more harmful than beneficial.