Blog Post

"Greener" Grass—And Other Eco-Landscaping Products

Silva Cells in downtown Minneapolis More than 10,000 Silva Cells were installed in downtown Minneapolis to support tree growth and help manage stormwater runoff.

It's spring and time to get outside! GreenSpec looks at landscaping products that use recycled content, save water, reduce stormwater runoff, and even look good.

After a long, cold winter in Vermont (and yes, it even snowed last week), the temperature rose to an unbelievable 79°F here this afternoon. It's high time to start thinking about landscaping and site improvement products. Whether you're looking for pavers, irrigation, or even grass seed, GreenSpec has a number of resource-efficient products for both commercial and residential uses .

Supporting tree growth in urban areas

Trees in urban areas provide shade, offset the heat-island effect, replenish oxygen, and give us a connection to nature sorely lacking among the concrete, asphalt, and cars. But trees have a tough time thriving in the city. With all the hardscape, tree roots can't spread out and they don't get the amount of water they need.

Silva Cells create a space under the hardscape where tree roots can grow, and with the proper drainage medium they can also manage stormwater runoff to reduce flooding and erosion (these were used extensively in downtown Minneapolis to mitigate runoff into the Mississippi River). They have to be installed with new trees only and may require the use of the company's DeepRoot Tree Root Barriers to redirect tree roots away from sidewalks, curbs, and other hardscapes, but they can be used under most paved surfaces--just not under roadways.

The environmental advantages of pavers

Permeable pavers are good surfaces to put over something like the Silva Cell. Pavers maximize water drainage into the soil, which controls stormwater runoff into watersheds, filters the water, and recharges local aquifers. GreenSpec lists a number of precast concrete permeable pavers , including Unilock , which makes pavers in different shapes and colors for both residential and commercial uses, including those that provide maximum support for driveways or parking lots, provide erosion control, or support turf growth. The company also makes block wall systems.

If you happen to live in North Carolina or Virginia, another great paver is made by Earth Stone Products. Earth Stone uses 100% pre-consumer waste from granite processors to create 1-1/2-inch thick pavers stamped into a variety of shapes (including 14-inch interlocking pavers in the shape of North Carolina). And nothing goes to waste during processing. The pavers are tumbled to create a natural look; smaller pieces are turned into backsplashes; and the leftover waste is used as aggregate.

Make the most of rainwater and graywater

To keep water wills down and get the most of drinking water supplies, make the most of the rain and water reuse. GreenSpec lists rainwater harvesting systems like the Rainwater HOG , a modular rainwater storage tank that can be placed between studs under decks, against houses, or even within walls--so you can even use it for passive solar thermal storage in the right conditions. It's available as a stand-alone tank or as part of a complete rainwater harvesting system called Rainwater Rescue.


BuildingGreen relies on our premium members, not on advertisers. Help make our work possible.

See membership options »

Systems that re-use graywater are another good source of non-potable irrigation water. The ReWater irrigation system filters, captures, and pressurizes graywater from the shower, sink, or laundry, and then releases the water through surface or subsurface drip irrigation. It's all electronically controlled and can even supplement fresh water to recycling stations when required.

UV-resistant TerraFence is made from a composite of post-consumer recycled plastic and wheat straw.

Limit water waste

WeatherTRAK irrigation systems control watering schedules based on plant and soil types, sun exposure, slope, and other factors. Available for commercial and residential use, these systems adjusted irrigation automatically based on weather data received from the company's satellite communications service, and the system is compatible with rain sensors that can override watering instructions if the ground is already wet. You can also manage and monitor the system via the Internet.

Sometimes the grass is "greener"

Pearl's Premium is a grass seed blended for Northern climates that creates a slow-growing, drought-tolerant lawn without the need for added fertilizers. This seed can thrive in difficult growing conditions and creates roots up 12 inches deep where they can usually find enough moisture, so you don't need irrigation.

The company claims these slow-growing grasses that only need to be mowed once a month, so there is less pollution from mowers. You wouldn't know it from the company's adds, but the grass grows somewhat more in clumps like prairie grasses do, so don't expect an exact substitute if a fine manicured carpet is important to you.

Aggregate of a different color

Looking to add some color to the landscape? Conigliaro Industries offers "barefoot-friendly" tumbled glass aggregates made from 100% recycled glass bottles and plate glass. It's available in various color blends and can be used as a mulch replacement, or for fills or drainage projects.

Don't fence me in...

If you want to fence in that yard, GreenSpec includes a number of possibilities, including Natures Composites, which makes TerraFence fencing and TerraDeck composite decking out of wheat straw and 100% post-consumer recycled HDPE (#2) plastic. (Wheat straw is a rapidly renewable agricultural byproduct that often goes unused.) Available in posts, rails, and boards using the same blend of material, these products resist moisture, rot, UV light, and splintering; come with a limited 20-year warranty; and you can get them in several colors.

These are just a few of the products listed by GreenSpecthat can help create a more environmentally responsible landscape. And now is the time to fix up those exterior spaces. The growing season is short--at least in here in Central Vermont--and we'll be skiing again before we know it.

Published April 29, 2011

(2011, April 29). "Greener" Grass—And Other Eco-Landscaping Products. Retrieved from—and-other-eco-landscaping-products

Add new comment

To post a comment, you need to register for a BuildingGreen Basic membership (free) or login to your existing profile.