Outdoor parks are a great place for communities to gather, where children can play, and neighbors can enjoy the many benefits of being outdoors. Instead of dull, uninspiring landscapes made up of pavement, mowed grass, and trees lining the edges, community spaces can be both beautiful and sustainable. Sustainable parks and landscapes should be an integral component of urban planning and development. The multiple benefits of neighborhood parks for physical and mental well-being and positive economic impacts for the community were studied and outlined in a 2022 report by the Urban Institute.
These green spaces, thoughtfully designed with eco-friendly principles, not only provide recreational and aesthetic benefits but also play a vital role in fostering ecological balance and promoting the well-being of communities. The pavement and buildings in cities cause ‘heat islands’ which contribute to health hazards and global warming. As cities grow and face the challenges of urbanization, the importance of sustainable park design becomes increasingly evident.
Benefits of Sustainable Parks and Landscapes
A sustainable park design has many great benefits, from protecting and preserving the environment to fostering a connection to nature and our neighbors.
The many advantages of sustainable landscapes include:
- Environmental stewardship and biodiversity conservation
- Health and wellbeing
- Community cohesion
- Climate resilience
- Responsible resource management
- Valuable educational platforms
- Positive economic impact
Environmental benefits of sustainable park design
Sustainable parks and landscapes are carefully designed to minimize their environmental impact while maximizing their positive contributions.
By incorporating native plant species and providing habitat opportunities, sustainable parks also support local biodiversity. These green spaces serve as sanctuaries for various wildlife, including birds, butterflies, and small mammals. The use of recycled materials, renewable energy sources, and energy-efficient lighting further enhances their eco-friendliness.
Sustainable parks and landscapes also contribute to a city’s resilience in the face of climate change. As cities experience more frequent extreme weather events, well-designed green spaces can act as buffers, absorbing excess water during floods and providing shade during heat waves. This resilience can significantly improve a city’s ability to adapt to changing climate conditions.
Community benefits of sustainable landscapes
Well-designed sustainable parks can have a significant positive impact on public health and well-being. Access to green spaces promotes physical activity, reduces stress, and improves mental health. Research has shown that spending time in nature can alleviate anxiety, depression, and attention fatigue, making these parks essential components of modern urban planning. Plus, trees and plants improve air quality, which helps improve overall health by reducing respiratory problems.
Sustainable parks and landscapes also provide spaces for communities to come together, fostering a sense of unity and belonging. They serve as gathering places for social activities, cultural events, and recreational pursuits, strengthening social bonds among neighbors. Through community involvement in the design and maintenance of these green spaces, a sense of ownership and pride is instilled, leading to better care and preservation of the environment.
Economic benefits of sustainable parks
Investing in sustainable park design can have positive economic impacts on a city. These green spaces enhance property values in nearby areas, attract tourists, and stimulate local business activities. The recreational opportunities provided by these parks can also reduce healthcare costs by promoting active lifestyles and reducing stress-related illnesses.
Design Tips for Sustainable Parks
Designing sustainable outdoor parks and landscapes requires careful planning. It is important to consider all the elements that contribute to an environmentally friendly and appealing outdoor park. By following these design tips, you can help create green spaces that promote ecological balance, social engagement, and overall sustainability.
Choose native plants
Selecting native plant species for landscaping enhances biodiversity and resilience. Native plants are adapted to the local climate, requiring less water and maintenance. They also provide habitat and food sources for local wildlife, further contributing to your park’s ecological value.
Preserve natural landscape features
Retain as much of the original landscape as possible during park design. Keeping existing trees, water bodies, and topography can reduce construction impact and maintain the site’s ecological integrity. This creates a park that blends harmoniously with its surroundings.
Soil protection and organic mulching
Protecting the soil from erosion through proper grading and erosion control measures is crucial for maintaining healthy vegetation. Organic mulching with wood chips or compost helps retain soil moisture, suppress weeds, and improve soil fertility without introducing harmful chemicals.
Use durable and recycled materials
Choose durable and recycled materials for park infrastructure and amenities, such as benches, picnic tables, and play equipment. Using furnishings made of recycled materials reduces the demand for new resources and minimizes the environmental footprint of your open space.
Good waste management
By including strategically placed trash, recycling, and compost bins throughout your park, you encourage visitors to dispose of their waste responsibly, minimizing littering and promoting a clean space for all. Clean parks are more appealing and inviting to guests. And proper composting and recycling helps fight climate change.
Designing energy-efficient buildings
If your park includes structures or buildings, design them to be energy efficient. Utilize sustainable construction materials, incorporate natural ventilation and lighting, and consider renewable energy options like solar panels.
Designate areas for different activities
Create designated zones within your park to accommodate various activities such as playgrounds, sports fields, picnic areas, and natural habitats. Proper zoning ensures that different user groups can coexist harmoniously, creating a great experience for everyone.
Accessibility for everyone
Ensure your park is accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities. ADA compliant pathways, ramps, and facilities guarantee that all people in your community can enjoy and benefit from your outdoor space. Including ADA compliant tables, seating and trash and recycling containers enables those with disabilities to participate in group outings and utilize the park as it was intended.
What to Look Out for When Choosing Eco-Friendly Equipment
Selecting eco-friendly and family-safe equipment is crucial for ensuring the long-term sustainability of parks and landscapes. When evaluating your equipment options, consider the following factors:
Durability, sustainability, and safety
You want to ensure the equipment you choose is made from durable materials that can withstand regular use and exposure to the elements. Additionally, prioritize products made from recycled materials to promote a circular economy and reduce the demand for virgin resources. You also want to be sure that the equipment you choose is safe from harmful chemicals and free from potential hazards such as rust, rot, and splits or splintered ends.
Ease of maintenance
Choose equipment that is easy to maintain and keep clean, without having to continually replace parts or refinish to maintain.
Consider the environmental impact of disposing of your equipment at the end of its life cycle. It is crucial to choose products that are designed for easy recycling or refurbishment to reduce waste in landfills.
Environmentally Friendly Options for Park Equipment
In a sustainable outdoor park, equipment should fulfill the needs of both sustainability and the community. Environmentally friendly equipment not only preserves the planet by using recycled materials but provides a safe space for people to come together.
The Green-Scapes collection from Polly Products is made from recycled plastic that is virtually maintenance-free and non-toxic. These products won’t rust or need to be repainted and can withstand all weather conditions throughout the year, ensuring the community always has a safe place to come together for food, conversation, and play.
Recycled outdoor benches
What would a community park be without a few benches for people to sit while enjoying the space or time with close friends? With the beautiful looks of yesteryear but without the environmental impact, benches from the Green-Scapes collection are molded from solid recycled plastic. This means they won’t rust, there is no need for toxic paints or varnishes, they are resistant to rot, moisture, insects, or other pests, and are UV protected. The Cambridge Outdoor Bench adds a classic style to any urban park while the Silhouette bench has a more contemporary design to suit your green space.
Recycled plastic tables
Nothing bonds a community better than food. One of the most important pieces of equipment in a sustainable outdoor park is the outdoor tables. This is where neighbors can enjoy a meal together, and families can picnic outdoors.
The Green-Scapes collection includes the Plaza Hex Picnic Table, Bistro Outdoor Table, and Town Square Table which are molded from recycled plastic so they are non-porous, are easy to clean and graffiti resistant. Plus, they are also non-leaching making them completely safe for the whole family including pets. You also don’t need to worry about splinters, rot, or rust stains. These tables are made to last years, and with stainless steel fasteners holding them together, there will always be a table for you in your park.
Universal access tables
One of the most important criteria for a sustainable outdoor park is inclusion and accessibility for all. Include universal access tables in your park design that are ADA-compliant and provide easy wheelchair access because community is about inclusion. From their Commons ADA Table to their Universal Access models of the Bodega and Plaza Hex outdoor tables, Polly Products’ recycled park tables are designed with the whole community in mind.
Let Polly Products Help
Sustainable parks and landscapes are more than just aesthetically pleasing outdoor spaces; they are powerful tools for fostering environmental consciousness, promoting well-being, and enriching communities. Start creating a vibrant green haven for your community with the help of Polly Products, designed for a more sustainable future for all.