I was fortunate to be one of the delegates attending The Society of Garden Designers Environmental Symposium in 2006. Here is my summary of the conference.
Mike Calnan from the National Trust set the scene and raised issues that we returned to frequently over the course of the day.
Climate change is now indisputable.
There are two key issues regarding garden design –
Impact reduction priorities are in these areas –
Water conservation – Plant in autumn and plant small to minimise the plants need for water as they establish. Harvest water - provide soakaways and return the water to the water table rather than letting it go down storm drains. Alex Johnson reminded us that we could use grey water (that already used once in the house) but she cautioned us not to store it as it has the potential to support nasty microbes and of course is produced on a daily basis so there is no need to store it.
Waste - Aim to be waste neutral. Recycle things on site where possible and don’t over-order materials – unused materials on building projects account for a staggering 3 million tons of CO 2 produced needlessly. When waste disposal is unavoidable we should aim to recycle it. Don’t mix waste stuffs as this makes recycling them less viable. As regards long term maintenance, Peter Harper declared that ‘No garden can be considered sustainable unless it makes proper provision for treating its own waste’ whether this is composting on site (preferred) or part of a green waste collection scheme.
Reduction of emissions – Where possible choose materials from a local source to cut down on the miles it has to travel. Recycled materials and aggregates are particularly ‘green’. The website www.Bremap.co.uk may help with sourcing these.
Encourage organic practises
How do we proceed? We should consider the opportunities for water conservation and other green practises at the earliest stage of the design and demonstrate the added value to our clients. We can specify green products and influence our suppliers. We can lobby government for changes individually and as a society.
A need for further information was a plea throughout the day. Brian Murphy has a website you may find useful – www.greenspec.co.uk . This provides product information, specifications and an encyclopaedia of green construction. In his lecture he told us about the impact of cement manufacturing. It accounts for 8% of the global emissions for CO 2. He recommends using substitutes such as Lime, PFA, Pozzolanic, GGBS and self binding products. He also reminded us of the importance of keeping the top soil on the site when constructing. Our challenge is to try to waste nothing and export nothing from the site.
We need to aim to source materials locally. Welsh slate may appear to be more expensive but is preferred to that imported. Take into consideration the price of the impact to the environment.
Other speakers were; Louise Zass-Bangham who reflected on the future of garden design, Catherine Thomas whose promotes her garden design practise as a sustainable one and Anthony Fitzimmons who spoke to us on smaller wind turbines suitable for gardens.
I left this Symposium inspired and invigorated to continue on my attempts to work in a sustainable manner. Thank you very much to all the organisers and lecturers. I will leave the last comments to Brian Murphy whose message was that we need to set ourselves targets and above all get started on doing our bit. As garden designers it is our responsibility to provide solutions. ‘Don’t aspire to do it. Get started.’