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6 Ways to Use Sustainable Materials in Your Garden Design

Having an eco-friendly garden looks different to everybody. If you’re starting from scratch, this could mean using recycled and sustainable materials in your garden design. The structures in your garden have a huge impact on the look, feel, and function of the space – they can reflect your personal style as well as your passion for environmental responsibility. In this article we explore six versatile ways to integrate sustainable materials into your garden design.

1. Upcycled pots and planters

Let’s start with the stars of the show – the plants. Whether or not you plant in the ground, it can be useful to also have potted plants. If you’re interested in container gardening, there are loads of things you can upcycle into a planter. This can save money and unnecessary materials being used, especially plastic. Creatively repurposing everyday items also adds a lot of character and a distinctive touch to your outdoor space.

Here are some examples of items you could use as planters:

  • Colanders
  • Old shoes
  • Mugs
  • Buckets
  • Candle jars

Remember to either choose items that already have drainage holes in the bottom, or do your best to add them yourself. It’s important for outdoor potted plants to have good drainage so the soil doesn’t get waterlogged, especially if they’ll be left out in the rain.

2. Recycled and reclaimed wood

Reusing wood or sourcing reclaimed wood can go a long way in your eco-friendly garden design. There are many parts of your garden structure that this could be useful for. For example:

  • Trellises
  • Raised beds
  • Storage
  • Furniture
  • Pergolas

Here are some benefits of using reclaimed wood in your garden structure:

  • The weathered, rustic appearance adds some charm and character.
  • Reclaimed wood tends to be strong and durable.
  • Reduced demand for new timber which promotes resource conservation.
  • Reusing materials makes them less likely to end up in landfills.

Remember to be safe if you’re making your own structures out of recycled wood. Wear gloves, remove any nails or screws, and sand down any surfaces that could splinter off and hurt you.

3. Second-hand or upcycled furniture

Buying second-hand is always the most sustainable route, especially for bigger structures like garden furniture. There is often good quality furniture available second-hand, that hasn’t been used too much and just needs a good clean. Getting this furniture for your garden not only prevents it from ending up in a landfill but also saves the resources of making brand-new furniture.

Alternatively, you could upcycle or make your own furniture with recycled materials. For example, you could fashion a table and seating out of old pallets, using cushions or blankets to soften the seating.

4. Go for durability and longevity

The less you have to fix or replace something, the more sustainable it becomes. Reducing the need for maintenance and replacement saves money as well as materials. Opting for design elements that will last can help minimise the environmental impact of your garden by reducing the demand for new resources and limiting how much waste you’re generating.

Here are some ways to make sure your garden structure is durable:

  • Use high-quality materials. They may be more expensive but will save you money long-term as they will last longer.
  • Weatherproof your materials and choose materials that are best suited to the climate in your area.
  • Apply sealants, stains, or other protective finishes to keep your structures free of signs of wear and tear.
  • Regularly clean any necessary areas and check that there are no signs of damage.
  • Where possible, invest in professional installation of your garden structure to ensure it is well put together and will stand the test of time.

5. Solar-powered lights

Solar energy is a great renewable resource that doesn’t release any harmful pollutants. When it comes to outdoor lighting, solar-powered lights are the most cost-effective, eco-friendly, and safest method. Here are some examples of types of garden light that can be solar-powered:

  • Fairy lights
  • Lanterns
  • Wall lights
  • Hanging light bulbs
  • Lawn posts

6. Permeable surfaces

The materials that you use for surfaces like paths and patios can have a big environmental impact. Using permeable materials, such as gravel or mulch, is more eco-friendly than paving because they allow rainwater to go into the ground. This is good for the environment because it prevents runoff, which can cause a lot of environmental issues. For example, excess garden water can transport harmful chemicals and organic matter to water sources like lakes. It can also reduce soil erosion which keeps the soil healthier.


Sustainable garden design is one of the most important parts of an eco-friendly garden. Make conscious decisions about your garden structure to lessen your impact on the environment. Click here for more informative articles about gardening for the environment.

Updated on August 8, 2023

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