Gardens are green, right? Well, to be quite honest, not always. When it comes to its environmental credentials gardening veers right across the spectrum from green to a very dark shade of brown.

One group of gardening professionals is determined to green up the face of gardening. The landscape industry has set out to improve its green credentials. Landscape gardeners in Victoria can become certified ‘green’ under a scheme known as Environmentally Certified Landscape Industry Professionals (or ECLIPs).
The certification program is run by Sustainable Gardening Australia with funding from the Victorian Government Sustainability Fund.

Mary Trigger, CEO of Sustainable Gardening Australia, says landscapers can contribute to the greening of gardens by the way they design, construct and maintain each garden.

“It is an Australian first,” she says. “For landscape businesses to gain accreditation they have to be qualified and have at least two years’ experience.”

Green landscapers

Landscapers who have become ECLIPs certified businesses have undertaken training and committed to following sustainable practices. Around 30 businesses have gained ECLIPs certification and another eight are completing their training this week. Mary Trigger says the businesses cover all aspects of the landscape industry from design and construction through to maintenance. Public gardens are also gaining accreditation so their work teams have green credentials.

Werribee Open Range Zoo’s horticultural team recently achieved certification. Peter Sullivan, the Zoo’s curator of horticulture, said his team undertook the ECLIPs training to show that they are serious about caring for the environment.
“There are many opportunities for everyone to incorporate sustainable practices into everyday living and that includes gardens and landscapes,” says Peter.

Clients are demanding more sustainable options

One of the first landscapers to go through the program was Brian Rankin, a board member of Sustainable Gardening Australia and owner of the landscape business Brian Rankin & Staff.

Brian says clients are demanding greater sustainability from gardens now than ever before. “Clients are coming to us already wanting to incorporate indigenous plants, grey water systems or tanks into their gardens,” he says. “Despite the long drought and the spectre of Stage 4 water restrictions, they are keen to do whatever they can to keep gardening.”

He says the benefit of the ECLIPs training program for his staff was that it offers a sustainable mindset from the start to the finish of the job.

Some of the things the program gets landscapers and gardeners to consider include the retention of run-off on site, sorting of rubbish and care for the soil.

“We sort rubbish into piles as we work, especially separating green waste from hard waste,” says Brian. “What we can recycle we will – even unwanted soil we now send to suppliers who stockpile fill to sell on.”

They have also found people to take empty pots for recycling and have found ways to get rid of all the waste at the job’s end.

“When we first go on site we decide on a spot where we’ll wash down wheelbarrows and tools and operate equipment such as concrete saws,” he explains. “We then dig a pit at this point with a saucer around it so all run-off is contained.”

When the job is over, the sediment that’s left is scooped upand sent to landfill.

Find a landscaper

Landscaper and garden maintenance businesses with ECLIPs certification can be located by visiting Sustainable Gardening Australia.