Using Sustainable Hardscape Materials

Sustainable hardscape materials are those materials that are produced in a way that is least damaging to the environment and allow water to penetrate into the ground.

Some hardscapes are more sustainable than others. Some materials may be less sustainable to produce but can be used in a sustainable fashion in the landscape. These include permeable asphalt, permeable concrete, and recycled concrete.  Recycled rubber mulches are not recommended.

Permeable Hardscape

Permeability, or the ability for water to penetrate into the soil, is an important consideration in designing hardscapes. Contamination from stormwater runoff  and erosion problems can be reduced by using permeable materials.

Using locally produced materials promotes local businesses and contributes to a sense of place. Many sustainable hardscape materials are available for use in the home landscape.

Hardscape Materials

Organic mulch – bark

Organic mulches are made from plant materials. The most common material is bark mulch. Bark mulches are widely available and can be found at local landfills for a reasonable price. They are available in different size grades.

Wood chip mulch: Landscape boon or bane?

Inorganic mulch – gravel

Inorganic mulches are made from non plant materials. Gravel  is a common inorganic mulch. Local gravel materials are available in many communities. Gravels range in color and size.


Wood is used to build fences,  decks, and raised beds. It can be painted or stained using non toxic products.

Flagstone, pavers, and brick

These materials can be artfully arranged in either formal or informal patterns to create a water permeable area.  These materials are widely available in many sizes, shapes, and colors.

Pervious concrete and pervious asphalt allow water to penetration into the soil avoiding runoff from large paved areas.


Urbanite” is reused/recycled concrete; and is becoming a popular material for patios and retaining walls and keeps construction waste out of landfills.

New Mulches Improve Look of Flower Beds

Additional Resources:

Hardscaping Ideas to Minimize Water Use
Soak up the Rain: Permeable or Porous Pavement


Oregon – Hardscapes for Sustainable Landscapes