This playground in Memphis, Tenn., has a soft, spongy surface made from recycled sneakers and incorporates permeable materials that allow stormwater to nourish an arbor with native trees that connect six outdoor play rooms. Photo: Jen Andrews, Shelby Farms Park Conservatory

The 4.25-acre Woodland Discovery Playground at Shelby Farms Park Conservatory in Memphis, Tenn., is one of the first projects to earn certification for sustainable landscapes from the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES).

The playground earned a one-star rating for using recycled athletic shoes as a soft, spongy play surface; restoring a woodland area; and promoting children's health. A corporate parking area and university greenway also have been certified through the voluntary program, a joint effort of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of the University of Texas at Austin, and the U.S. Botanic Garden to create a national rating system for landscapes with or without buildings. More than 150 pilot projects — of which 25% are open spaces/parks, 8% are transportation corridors/streetscapes, and 6% government complexes — began the certification process in June 2010 to test the guidelines and provide feedback on whether the 250-point rating system captures all aspects of creating a sustainable landscape. Industry experts in sustainable design and landscaping are welcome to provide input.

Points are earned based on how well projects meet certain criteria in a combination of 15 required and 51 optional credit areas. Pilot projects can earn up to a four-star rating depending on what percentage of points (40, 50, 60, or 80) they earn in these areas, which include water conservation, redeveloping brown- or grayfields, use of recycled materials and native vegetation, sustainable construction techniques, soil reconstruction, and land maintenance approaches.