Sustainability is the human attempt to live within the biological and physical resource limits of Earth. This will require environmental, social and economic communities working on local to global scales, in many contexts, and over various time-periods.
The single key driver of human impact is resource consumption, which is a function of the number of people, and the technology they use. We can work at sustainability as individuals, households, workplaces, organisations, communities and governments by examining and quantifying our consumption of resources.
Horticulture can make a major contribution to a more sustainably managed world.
Sustainable living and landscapes
How we design, construct and maintain landscapes and gardens can contribute to a more sustainable way of living.
- minimise environmental degradation resulting from our consumption of water, energy and materials
- strengthen biodiversity and protect natural systems
- reduce the negative impacts of food production, which accounts for about 50 per cent of our individual water use and Ecofootprint, and about 30 per cent of our emissions.
If we can maximise the environmental benefits of our gardens, public spaces and landscapes, we will make significant contributions to sustainable living.
Sustainable landscapes can be creative and attractive as well as environmentally friendly.
Sustainable horticulture can be defined very simply as horticulture that maximises environmental benefit and human wellbeing.
In an increasingly urbanised world, parks and gardens are, for most of us, the main point of contact with nature: they have a vital role to play in helping us understand the principles that will guide our transition to a sustainable society.
Our gardens are a microcosm of nature. The ecological processes that occur in a garden mirror those operating on a global scale. The better we understand these processes the better we understand the operations of our planet and the ways to manage it into the future.
Specifying the countless ways that gardening and horticulture impact on nature is a formidable task. Even so, we have found that it helps to think of a garden as an 'open system' with inputs and outputs of the resources water, energy, materials and food. We then need to make an estimate of the impacts of these inputs and outputs on biodiversity and ecology.
Landscape design, construction and maintenance
Our urban landscapes are absorbing increasing populations and adjusting to environmental changes like climate change and biodiversity loss.
Policies and planning can protect green corridors, indigenous vegetation and wetlands. It is possible to ensure that the cumulative space of private and public gardens keeps our cities green, liveable and increasingly sustainable.
Horticulturists contribute their design, construction and landscape maintenance skills to creative initiatives like Water Sensitive Urban Design, rain gardens, Environmentally Sensitive Urban Design, the enhancement of biodiversity and ecological processes, local food production, urban forests, green roofs, green walls, and the propagation and supply of 'sustainable plants'.
Landscape designers and contractors are in a position to improve the sustainability of our future public and domestic landscapes. It is at the design and construction stages that we can ensure permanent major savings in resource use (the use of water, energy and materials) both during construction and, importantly, for on-going maintenance. The designer (through their specifications) and the contractor can retain, reduce, reuse and recycle.
The way we maintain a landscape can reduce its environmental impact significantly over the many years of its life. Working with natural cycles, lowering resource inputs and establishing positive outputs, like food production, are all important goals for future sustainable landscapes.
Living sustainably – the challenge
Greening urban areas encourages biodiversity and sustainble living
Food plants can create attractive landscapes
Community gardens, like Veg Out in St Kilda, blend food growing with sustainability and a creative co-operative spirit
Last updated 12 Oct 2011