Cornell porous parking lot
A Cornell University parking lot – with many sustainable features, like porous asphalt and a bioswale – is a stop on Cornell’s sustainable landscapes trail. (Photo credit: Cornell University)

On their way to class, Cornell University students stroll past a garden planted with bayberry and red-twigged dogwood shrubs. But they may not know that this is a rain garden that helps filter and hold water during heavy storms.

Cornell horticulture professor Nina Bassuk says the university has been using techniques for sustainable landscapes for a long time, but people didn’t know that they were special in some way.

Now that’s changing. Bassuk led the creation of a sustainable landscapes trail on Cornell’s campus.

It’s a self-guided tour with about 20 stops. At each one, visitors can use their phones to learn more about the landscaping techniques used at that location.

Many features on the trail – like the rain garden – help the campus adapt to extreme storms and other climate change impacts.

“There’s a new parking lot with all porous asphalt,” Bassuk says. “The water goes through the asphalt and into the ground.”

Other landscaping techniques help reduce carbon pollution: For example, one lawn is planted with native grasses that require minimal mowing.

It’s a model for turning a scenic campus into an immersive learning landscape where people can literally take a path to sustainability.

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Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.