How do you measure sustainability?

I just learned about an initiative that is a little bit like LEEDS but it describes land use rather than building construction. They call themselves SITES.

As I slowly build my garden I think I will refer to it as a checklist from time to time.

Some gardens have attempted certification. The process looks at several features including:

  • the context of the site
  • pre-planning and design that includes users and stakeholders
  • water management
  • soils & vegetation
  • materials selection
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16 thoughts on “How do you measure sustainability?

  1. This is a great topic. My garden has changed over time as the native trees and shrubs have grown, leaving me with spring ephemerals and a lot of shade. In a future garden I would want to experiment with growing at least some of my food in addition to native plants, and I have wondered about control. Not that I’ve seen broccoli loose in the nature preserves…. :)

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    1. I tuck herbs and garlic and all kinds of crazy things all over the place. =D I recently found out that the Amazon Rainforest is pretty much the remnants of a HUGE forest garden managed by ancient people. Imagining a garden so vast boggles my mind. Thinking about how the soil continues to be fertile after being abandoned for hundreds of years tells me our ‘technology’ of agriculture is absolutely barbaric. Free the broccoli! haha

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  2. In theory everyone is all in favor of better building practices – it is when those budgeted funds start flowing that cost cutting measures – often at the expense of long term sustainability – are introduced. There are homes being demolished in my neighborhood to make room for new builds – all too often McMansion style – and it is very rare to see anyone attempting to save or reuse the elements of the home being torn down. Why? It costs more to carefully dismantle and sort reusable materials than it does to smash everything into pieces small enough to fit the dumpster.

    The same thing happens with landscaping and garden projects. They are all too often put together for immediate impact and have timelines and budgets that preclude the use of trained professional designers, harder to find native plants, or well planned hardscape elements.

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    1. blargh. McMasions.

      When I was a kid I once saw a book about alternative housing in the public library. It was a photo collection of homes built by hippies after Woodstock. And while some were just not very practical there were some unique treasures. They were all small houses that used recycled materials and were lovingly hand crafted. I remember curves and surprise porches/balconies. Organic shapes rather than all straight edges. I thought then (and now) I would love to live in a house like that. Imagine if architects and developers created homes that were unique works of art for us instead of whatever it is they are doing now.

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  3. There is a synagogue down the street from us that is a Platinum LEED building. It’s gorgeous, though the construction was expensive and controversial among the members. I’d like to think they will save money in the long run.

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    1. Yeah. New technologies do tend to be expensive at first. I think it is so important to set a measure though for our aspirations — to let people know a different way of doing things is possible.

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      1. Thanks for the link! I googled for more info. I love what this couple have done. This is what permaculture is all about: sharing and healing the earth and people. Wow.

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