We Californians have earned a reputation for being forward-thinking. And deservedly so. Years of dramatic drought have brought home to us the importance of sustainability, in undeniable ways. One creative way to show your sustainable side is by using recycled materials and repurposed treasures to put a unique twist on the traditional concept of hardscaping.
Where to find “found” items
One person’s junk is another person’s treasure, right? That’s why flea markets, thrift shops, and garage sales are so popular. What better places to discover something totally cool or perfectly practical for your yard? You may not even have to leave home – the perfect find could be hiding in plain sight in your garage or tool shed.
You can reuse existing items as they were originally intended – plant containers, seating, tables, etc. Or repurpose items for something else, by turning something unexpected into garden art, tucking it among your plantings or in the middle of your lawn.
No doubt you’ve already “recycled” your old natural grass lawn by replacing it with artificial grass. It’s far better looking, far more practical, and far friendlier to our environment. But did you know faux grass is also a great choice to green up and cool off hot, harsh patios, walkways, and pool surrounds? Instead of those mundane hardscape elements, you can be more innovative.
Zero in on the latest trends that fit your landscape and family. Popular choices include fire pits and gazebos that add livability, or statuary and water features that add atmosphere.
Make the old new again
Breathing new life into old objects is more fun and a lot more eco-friendly than sending them to the landfill. Anything can become a planter, as long as you can punch or drill a few drainage holes in the bottom.
With some old wooden boxes and a couple of old windows, you can build a cold frame. Use that mini-greenhouse to give seedlings an extra-early start in spring or protect cool weather veggies as they ripen.
Use old wooden window frames minus the glass to create a trellis. Or group them to form a low, see-through wall to divide rooms within your garden. Funky old garden gates work nicely for either of these options, too.
If you still want a hardscape look for walkways or your patio, use recycled pavers, bricks, or stones. Use them around your fire pit for safety. Use recycled sheets of corrugated metal or random pieces of recycled wood or lumber to create a privacy screen. Use recycled pallets to build a raised walkway, or create a vertical garden to hang on a wall. Craigslist is a great source for new-to-you building materials, as is your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
Choose sustainable hardscape materials
Some hardscape products are more environmentally friendly than others. Choosing the most sustainable options is an investment in your home and our future. So as you’re planning your hardscaping, consider how you might incorporate recycled materials. For example, in many places you may also be able to use recycled concrete instead of new.
Look for stepping stones made from recycled concrete. Or, instead of purchasing something new, make your own unique pavers topped with pretty pieces of recycled pottery or glass, or your family’s hand and paw prints.
If you’re building new hardscapes, ask your contractor or local supply store about new permeable concrete and asphalt options. These products, notorious for their eco-unfriendly traits, have been reformulated to actually allow moisture to penetrate into the soil.
Another type of sustainable “hardscape” is organic mulch made from recycled yard debris.
With so many choices available today, recycled materials fit beautifully into every hardscape, whether your design goal is elegant or eclectic.