Feature Article - July 2009
Find a printable version here

Nature and Nurture

Trends in Play Design

By Emily Tipping

The traditional equipment included in these play gardens might include swings, tire swings and climbing structures. Other possibilities include items that can be manipulated to help children learn more about themselves and their environment—items like easels for painting, water, sand and mud tables for manipulating natural elements, musical instruments, stepping stones, dramatic play houses and more. "More naturalized features include recirculating streams, sand play, stream play, hiding bushes, a bush maze, secret forest and gardening areas, Stoecklin added."

Green UP

Many manufacturers have been paying attention to park directors and other facility owners who say they want greener options. As a result, they have adjusted their practices to use more recycled—and recyclable—materials.

If environmental responsibility is a critical part of your mission, look for a playground manufacturer that is ISO 14001 certified. This standard gives the requirements for environmental management systems, and certification verifies that the business is operating in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Many manufacturers also now offer advice on earning credits toward LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credits from the U.S. Green Building Council.

One company takes its environmental measures another step further by donating a portion of every playground sale to purchase enough trees to offset the carbon dioxide produced while manufacturing that specific playground.

The same company recently conducted a study in partnership with NRPA, which revealed that 96 percent of respondents, from parks and recreation agencies, agreed that parks and recreation agencies should paly a leadership role within municipal government in protecting the environment. But just 68 percent said their agency does a good job of researching and purchasing environmentally preferable products.

What is an environmentally preferable product? One that has "a reduced negative effect or an increased positive effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products that serve the same purpose." These effects could be impacted at any point in the product's lifecycle: raw materials acquisition, production, fabrication, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance and disposal.