Sustainable Canberra Garden   

Choosing Landscape Materials - Fact Sheet

recycled stone wall

Retaining wall of reclaimed waste rock. Design by Landscape Architect, Jennie Curtis. Photo Jennie Curtis.


Landscape materials can represent a signficant part of a garden construction budget.  Whilst re-used or recycled landscape materials aren’t necessarily less expensive than new products they usually have a lower environmental impact.  By reusing or carefully specifying the amounts of landscape materials used in a garden project we can reduce the amount of waste entering landfill – this is in keeping with the ACT government’s No Waste by 2010 strategy.

When choosing materials for a landscape project keep in mind the principles of Reduce, Reuse and Recyle. It's also important to consider a range of factors:

  • ask suppliers where materials are sourced from - favour locally produced materials over those imported from overseas. For example, many granite products, such as cobbles and pavers are sourced from China.
  • Avoid buying products such as timber which are harvested from the wild. Buy products from sustainably managed plantations, preferably from Australia.
  • research the amount of embodied energy products contain - for example concrete pavers contain more embodied energy than clay products.
  • ask suppliers if materials are recycled or contain recycled components.
  • consider whether materials can be disassembled and reused in another project. For example, paving that is laid over a sand base can be easily pulled up and reused in other landscape projects.

Embodied Energy Definition:


Refers to all the energy consumed to produce a landscape material. It includes the mining and manufacturing of materials and equipment, transport of materials and administrative functions and continues through the life of the product to its demolition or recycling.


In the ACT recycled or re-used landscape materials are available from a number of suppliers.  Look in the Yellow Pages under the categories ‘Building materials – Second Hand’ and ‘Recycling Services’ and refer to the classifieds section in The Canberra Times.

Set out below are examples of commonly used landscape materials and some possible alternatives.


Commonly used materials Alternatives
New concrete pavers
Reuse existing pavers on site or from within the region or source concrete pavers with recycled component.
New clay pavers
Reuse pavers and bricks such as 'Old Canberra Reds'.
New decomposed granite or river pebbles for paths or nature strips
Crushed brick (this is a recycled prouduct available from Canberra Concrete Recyclers, Pialligo).
New timbers
Use second hand timbers in preference to new timbers (available from Thor's Hammer or second hand building suppliers) or plantation grown timber.
Imported topsoil
Improve existing soils with locally sourced organic matter such as sheep/cow manure, home made compost, worm castings & leaf litter.
'Forest Litter' mulch is a product of green waste from local gardens and available from landscape supply yards.  Consider using tree surgeon's wood chips.
River pebbles
Choose waste rock mulch (removed from building sites) rather than pebbles which may have been mined from existing river systems either in Australia or overseas or choose rumbled waste rock, manufactured in Australia.
Mossy/lichen covered rocks
Use stone excavated from building sites in preference to mossy rocks. The latter may have been removed from paddocks or bush where they provided habitat.


Aim to reduce the amount of hard surfaces in the garden – limit paving to areas for gatherings of people such as outdoor terraces. Aim to have a large proportion of permeable surfaces in the garden so water can slowly percolate into the soil recharging moisture levels rather than being transported rapidly into the stormwater system.   Paths do not need to paved, they can be made of permeable surfaces such as crushed brick or mulch depending upon the frequency of use.

Creative re-use of landscape materials
When considering using landscape materials – think creatively.  Look at what exists on your block or in your neighbourhood which can be re-used in effective ways.


>> For photos on sustainable landscape material use.

>> For more information refer to the Choosing Sustainable Landscape Materials brochure produced by the ACT branch of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects

>> Your Home Technical Manual - Material Selection for buildings



Curtis, Jennie; Moyle, David and Richardson, Edwina (2004) Choosing sustainable landscape materials: environmentally friendly practices for your garden. Brochure.

Thompson, J and Sorvig, K (2000) Sustainable landscape construction: a guide to green building outdoors. (Principle 6 - Consider Origin and Fate of Materials). Island Press: USA.



This website was developed by
and the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects
(Edwina Richardson AILA)
with assistance from an ACT Government Environment Grant

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