As the world becomes increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability, it's time to consider how we can incorporate eco-friendly practices into every aspect of our lives. Playgrounds and parks are a great place to start! Let's chat about how to build healthier environments for kids to play in while also doing our part to protect the planet.

Why Sustainability Matters in Playground and Park Design

Playgrounds and parks are essential community spaces where kids play, learn, and grow. However, the old, more traditional way of designing these spaces often relied on materials and practices that can negatively impact the environment, such as using non-renewable resources, creating waste, and causing pollution.

The good news is that the world is moving in a new direction. By making sustainability and environmental stewardship a priority in playground and park design, playground designers and park managers can reduce our impact on the planet and create healthier, more inviting spaces for everyone. Plus, sustainable practices lead to long-lasting, low-maintenance spaces that require fewer resources to maintain over time!

Tips for Sustainable Playground and Park Design

So, how can you make your playground or park design more sustainable? Here are some ideas:

  • Choose eco-friendly materials: Opt for recycled plastic, sustainably sourced wood, or other materials that are a great alternative to virgin materials that contribute to deforestation and resource depletion.
  • Incorporate permeable surfaces: Porous pavement or grass pavers can help reduce stormwater runoff and improve drainage.
  • Use energy-efficient lighting: Solar-powered or LED lighting can help reduce energy consumption and minimize light pollution.
  • Plant native species: Native plants are well-suited to the local climate and require less water, fertilizer, and maintenance than non-native plants.
  • Implement water-saving features: Consider spray park equipment that recirculates water safely or drought-tolerant landscaping to reduce water consumption.
  • Provide recycling bins: Clearly labeled recycling bins throughout the space encourage park visitors to do their part in keeping things green.
  • Explore artificial turf: Artificial or synthetic turf can help reduce water consumption and eliminate the need for harmful pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Opt for recycled rubber mulch: Instead of traditional wood mulch, choose recycled rubber mulch that's long-lasting, safe, and environmentally friendly.
  • Consider a green roof: A living roof can help reduce stormwater runoff, improve air quality, and provide a habitat for local wildlife.
  • Incorporate educational elements: Include educational signage or interactive displays that teach kids about sustainability, environmental stewardship, and the importance of preserving our planet.
  • Use recycled materials for playground equipment: Look for commercial playground equipment made from recycled materials, such as recycled plastic or metal, to reduce waste and conserve resources.
  • Add free standing outdoor fitness equipment to outdoor spaces: To encourage more adults to get outside, consider adding free-standing outdoor fitness equipment to open green spaces or alongside existing walking paths. The composite structures do not require much maintenance, have a small footprint, require a low cost of entry, and help people connect with nature and the outdoors, allowing them to better appreciate and care for the environment.

Read More: Surprising Ways That Splash Pad Equipment Can Reduce Water Waste

National Demonstration Site: PlayTrails

PlayCore's Center for Outreach, Research, and Education (CORE) is making waves with its National Demonstration Sites (NDS), exemplary play environments that promote community wellness — with sustainable practices in mind. By combining rigorous research with innovative design, CORE creates these sites to encourage physical activity, foster inclusivity, and help people engage with nature.

NDS sites are inspiring examples for communities looking to elevate their recreational spaces. The PlayTrails nature-based play pathway combines playground equipment with nature trails to create a one-of-a-kind outdoor experience for children and families. Play activities are grouped by theme (i.e., ants, bees, trees, or leaves) and installed in "play pockets" for families to explore as they walk along a path or trail. PlayTrails can be configured to work with new or existing paths, trails, or greenways to minimize environmental impact!

Ready to Go Green? Let's Talk!

At MRC, we're dedicated to creating playgrounds and parks that benefit not only our communities but the environment. If you're ready to build a playground or park in your community with sustainability in mind, we'd love to hear from you!