Fences and other barriers

Like walls, fences enclose space to create privacy and make an area secure. Your most sustainable fence material option is living plants, which do wonders to create privacy. Hedges and vines are inexpensive, tagger-proof, and offer all the environmental benefits of any biological solution.

If you need a more solid solution, sustainable wooden fences made from certified sustainably harvested wood, nontoxic treated posts, and high fly ash content concrete to fill the post holes are an option. Unfortunately, certified fence lumber can be difficult to find. If you have to buy noncertified wood, at least it's a natural material and not the worst thing you can choose.

Modern wooden fence posts are pressure-treated with a nontoxic chemical called alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ). It's much safer than old arsenic-treated wood, but there are concerns about corrosion of fasteners in contact with ACQ. Be sure to use only ACQ-compatible fasteners and hardware; otherwise, the fence may fail prematurely, which isn't sustainable at all.

If you're replacing an existing wooden fence, see if you can salvage the fence boards, which are often still in excellent condition, and just replace the posts and any other rotten wood. Consider using steel posts, which last a lot longer than wood ones.

Chain link or other steel fences are common, inexpensive, and pretty sustainable too. Steel has a high embodied energy, but the material itself is usually recycled and also recyclable, so you'll know that your new fence will be turned into something useful when it's finally old. Avoid vinyl-coated chain link, though.

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