...it just seems like everyone would be doing things this way since it is beautiful, easy and just the right thing to do.
Embodied energy is the sum of all the energy inputs that go into making a particular product. These inputs could include the large machinery used to mine and process the raw material as well, then the shipping of the raw material to a factory with all of its energy requirements, then the shipping of the finished product to a warehouse with its energy requirements, then the shipping to the retail store and finally the driving from one’s house to that retail store.
Another element of the embodied energy story that needs to be added in at each of these steps, is the energy requirements of the workers driving back & forth to their jobs at each of these locations and all of the energy requirements of their offices and support staff.
For a more detailed analysis of embodied energy in the landscape please refer to:
Thompson & Sorvig - 'Sustainable Landscape Construction’