So I bought drip irrigation a few years ago. I was EXCITED!!! I did like it. I had lines laid out and it appeared to work just fine. I liked not having to use a sprinkler. However, it's not something I can use. The tubing is apparently delicious as every animal around nibbled it. I tried duct taping it and continuing use but it just wasn't working. So I ripped it all out and threw it away, because there is no recycling in my area. It just looked like...yikes. This is not a good thing I've done. I've put a ton of plastic into the dump and it doesn't feel good.
Sorry to hear. It's also one of the unexpected downsides to PEX plumbing in houses. It's valued for ease-of-use, but it's a lot of potential damage if the rodents find it.
The only drip system I have used that hasn't experienced nibbling is stuff that makes use of recycled rubber, which is probably indicative of its food-safety, and brings into question if such things are good to use in the food and soil sphere.
Honestly, the only irrigation system that makes sense to me would be those terra cotta drainage tiles, the longish ones whose ends taper to fit one into the other. I would fill these with gravel, or better yet, biochar, maybe, installing them uphill of slightly sloped garden beds or wherever I needed irrigated. I would then flood them regularly. If they occurred in conjunction with, or parallel to, excavated, deep-pile woodchip paths or hugelbeets, those should serve as a distribution manifold and moisture battery.
Basically, you'd have a sheltered biochar filter, hopefully taking in organic fertigation regularly as well as regular irrigation, seeding the soil with soil microbiota from your own sheltered soil life bioreactor every time water moves through the system, with the advantage of occurring underground, thereby obviating much of the evaporative loss you'd otherwise experience.
Buy yeah, I agree, plastic, and probably rubber, irrigation systems aren't really that great, sustainability-wise. And that's only counting critter damage. I haven't known those systems to over-winter particularly well there where the ground freezes solidly, but also spends a lot of time semi-frozen. Those pipes crack really easily when cold, sometimes.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
I use a leaky hose system in my polytunnel (hoophouse) and it literally is a 'leaky hose' system. End of life 1/2 in garden hose with extra holes made in them, laid out in the beds. I move the hose from section to section and let it run for a while to give a good soaking. It's not ideal, but does give a second life to hoses that have started to deteriorate. So far they've lasted more than 10 years, but I don't have critters eating them here so don't know if it's something worth trying for you.
Drip tape is crap. It has its place in commercial annual vegetable production (not that that's a great place!) I absolutely hated working with tape and switched to round emitter line instead.
The rest of the system main lines and fittings hold up well and I think it compliments the chip beds pretty good as far a delivering water to exactly the right place. Likely not necessary if you have a mature food forest with lots of water diversion plans. But in early years like when you're establishing fruittrees, I find it to be a huge labor and water saver.