It is easy to assume that because a landscape looks “green,” it is good for the environment. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Planned landscapes across the country often use too much water, contribute to water pollution and accelerate the spread of invasive species. By extending green building standards to landscapes, we can create attractive, useful landscapes tackling such important issues as stormwater control, greenhouse gases, the urban heat island effect and loss of wildlife habitat.
The Sustainable Sites Initiative website can be found at, www.sustainablesites.org.
The The Sustainable Sites Initiative: Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009 is now available.
In 2005, in a pioneering effort to develop sustainability standards for landscapes nationwide, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the American Society of Landscape Architects partnered to create the Sustainable Sites Initiative, and in 2006 were joined by the United States Botanic Garden. The green building standards that now exist for landscapes are limited, even though landscapes are often a large expense item and a major consumer of scarce resources. No green construction standards currently exist for large campuses, public parks, conservation areas, private resorts, recreation areas or transportation and utility corridors.
Sustainable Sites will draw upon the leading industry expertise to create voluntary, market-based incentives and techniques to use storm water management, biodiversity protection, pollution reduction and other types of resource stewardship. Green building standards -- developed by organizations such the City of Austin and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) --drive environmentally superior building design and construction in the public and private sectors by recognizing sustainable designs and voluntary efforts. Likewise, the widespread adoption of USGBC's LEED® standards demonstrates that the necessary tools, information and recognition can produce environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. Ultimately, the standards developed through Sustainable Sites could be integrated with existing LEED® building rating and credit systems. The USGBC has expressed interest in the Sustainable Sites effort and is providing valuable guidance.
Other participating organizations include the Environmental Protection Agency's GreenScapes Program, the National Recreation and Parks Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers Environment and Water Resources Institute, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, The Nature Conservancy's Global Invasive Species Initiative and the Center for Sustainable Development at The University of Texas. Partial funding has been provided by the U.S. General Services Agency, USDA Forest Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Meadows Foundation.