Fence Me In: Sustainable Fencing Options

Open the gate to eco-friendly fencing, from bamboo to blackberry bushes.


| May/June 2009



NutsandBolts1

Trex composite fencing is made of recycled plastic and wood. The company buys 300 pounds each of landfill-bound polyethylene and hardwood sawdust annually.

Photo Courtesy Trex

In the past, fencing has been a pretty straightforward proposition: How much property do you need to contain and how inexpensively can you do it? Most manufacturers offered fencing made from wood or metal—both questionable for the environment. Some traditionally manufactured wood fencing depletes forests, and lumber sold for fencing is typically treated with toxic chemicals to ward off insects and prevent decay. Nonrecycled metal, albeit durable and low-maintenance, takes a lot of energy to create.

Today, homeowners have many more eco-friendly choices for creating a border that can offer safety, privacy and beauty. 

Bamboo

Panels constructed of bamboo and a binding material, such as vinyl or steel, are touted for their durability, ease of installation, attractive appearance and sustainability. Sadly, bamboo’s popularity is causing many to question just how earth-friendly it truly is. The huge demand has led to instances of overharvesting with little or no true oversight. Plus, because most bamboo comes from China, energy-intensive transportation may negate whatever green qualities the material offers. Make sure the bamboo comes from a local source and is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). 
 
Composite blends

Manufacturers have begun combining natural fiber—one company uses recycled wood, another wheat straw—with recycled plastic to create a product that has the look of wood but requires no preservatives and little to no maintenance. The pickets come in a variety of colors and styles, and most can be nailed, stapled or screwed in place. The one big question about composites is their durability over time, says Marcus Renner, a consultant with Appropriate Building Solutions, a sustainable consulting, design and construction firm in Asheville, North Carolina, and a teacher for the Western North Carolina Green Building Council. “We know how wood and chain-link fences are going to react in 20 years, but we don’t know if a composite material is going to be here. After sitting in the sun for three or four decades, is it going to stay the same shape or color? That’s what I am worried about.” 

Plants





elderberry, echinacea, bee hive

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