Taking care of our planet and our resources is becoming more critical than ever as we become aware of past habits we need to change. Recycling is gaining popularity. Electric vehicles seem to be on every corner now, and green cleaners line the store shelves. We can expand our eco-friendly habits outside our houses in how we choose to fence in our yards.
There are a few things to consider when determining which fence materials are eco-friendly.
- How long will the material last?
You want to look for materials that will last a long time. Each time you have to replace or rebuild your fence, you use more resources. Depending on what you are using, it may need to be harvested, processed, and shipped. It is best to look for materials that will not need to be replaced for years to come. Cedar fending is one of the more durable options and can last for 20-30 years.
- What will become of your fence when it breaks?
Over time, every fence will wear out and eventually fail. When that happens, can it be composted or recycled? Or will it find its way to the landfill? Some fences are made of recycled materials themselves, making them sound like a good option. However, be careful with some of these products. While they may be made of old plastic bags, it may be difficult or impossible to recycle them again when your fence breaks.
- Will the fence leach chemicals into the soil?
Vinyl fences are probably the worst for leaching toxic chemicals into the soil because of the materials from which they are made. However, they are not the only type of fence to present this type of problem. Fences that require frequent application of cleaners or stains can be a source of ground pollution.
While there is no perfect fencing material, there are many appealing options that are readily available. You should carefully consider the pros and cons of each and decide which one will best fit your needs with minimal impact on the environment.
Many landowners along highways choose to build living fences along their properties. A row of mature trees offers a lot of privacy from passing motorists. Typically made up of hedges or trees, these fences are very environmentally friendly. When you plant trees or bushes, you are helping to remove carbon dioxide from the air. These plants also expand the habitat for insects, birds, and amphibians. You will need to have patience while the plants fill in, however. Depending on the plants that you choose, this growth phase can last many years. The most significant drawback to a living fence is that it is not a good choice for pet owners. Animals have a knack for finding the gaps between the shrubs.
If you like the look of natural materials but don’t want to contribute to deforestation, you may want to look at bamboo fencing options. While it is as hard as wood, bamboo is not actually wood. It is a member of the grass family and one of the fastest-growing plants on Earth. It can grow up to three feet per day. While you can choose to use bamboo in planters arranged around your property to create a fence, there are also pre-fabricated options available. You can buy rolls of bamboo bound together with twine. These rolls can be attached to posts to build a unique style fence for your yard. Bamboo requires no maintenance or upkeep, but it can be pricey. So, keep that in mind when you are deciding what to use.
Several companies now offer low-maintenance wood-like options for fencing. Often using a combination of recycled plastics and organic materials, these fences make use of materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Because of the plastic content, they hold up well in wet weather and never need painting or staining. Unfortunately, it is difficult if not impossible to recycle them when they break. Separating the plastic from the organic matter is not easy or cost-effective. In the end, it becomes a throwaway product.
Where metal fencing really shines is its ability to last for years. Fences made of wrought iron or aluminum stand up to the elements outside very well and should only need to have their paint touched up from time to time. When they do break beyond repair, the metal is frequently recyclable.
The problem with metal fencing as an environmentally friendly option comes in the cost to produce it. Fashioning metal fencing requires a lot of energy, much of which comes from the burning of fossil fuels. Additionally, there is a good chance that the fence that you choose will have to be shipped long distances to you. Again, fuel is burned. If you really want a metal fence without putting a strain on our natural resources, you might try looking for old fencing in salvage yards. If it is still in good condition, it can be stripped and repainted.
You might think that by its very nature, wood fencing is not environmentally friendly. For some wood materials, this may be the case. Wood is not always harvested sustainably and, quite often, is treated with chemicals to preserve it. However, there is an option worth mentioning – western red cedar.
In British Columbia, the Forest Ministry closely monitors the harvesting of cedar trees. They only allow one percent of the forest trees to be cut down, protecting the forest’s health. Additionally, red cedar is unique because it does not require the use of noxious chemicals to preserve it. This wood naturally resists rot, fungus, and other pests. It stands up well to harsh weather, which makes it a good option even in cold and wet climates. Sometimes, you can find reclaimed cedar as well. It may not have as much life left in it as new wood, but you can feel good about your decision to give it a new life on your property.
Keeping the environment in mind as you build your fence, you can minimize the impact that it will have on our resources and the land in your own backyard.