What is your definition of sustainability?

Being sustainable means many things to many people.Landscape business As a business person, what is your definition of sustainability? Do you practice sustainability? Do your customers care about your sustainable business practices? Have you told them about your practices? Is there a connection between sustainability and government affairs?

The answer is yes there is. One of the key aspects of sustainability in government affairs activity is in using best management practices (BMPs) in your agronomic or environmental practices. Many of the best practices have to do with the protection of water quality; some with saving water through how the landscape is designed. Within the industry, many are concerned that if these practices get defined for us by others, it’ll be through laws or regulations.

Some people think they can save money by close scrutiny and adoption of the right BMPs. What is becoming obvious is that saving money and using BMPs does not have to be an all or nothing activity. For example, some people push native vegetation. If the customer accepts this practice and it fits the intended use of the property that’s great. However, if you want to have other plants like turfgrass, what needs to be taken into consideration is the correct variety for the climate and its location in the landscape. Then, you should consider how it is cared for and what inputs are needed.

Sustainability is defined as, “The ability to continue a defined behavior indefinitely.” However, sustainable practices are defined as , “Meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Another fundamental way of looking at it is doing unto future generation as you would have them do unto you. Architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart talk about sustainability as cradle to cradle practice. “It is time for our civilization to rethink the way we live, work, travel, design, build, and consume. To think that we are doing our part simply by driving a hybrid car and recycling our paper, bottles, and cans is a dangerous illusion. For years, environmentalists have been telling us to do more with less in order to make change happen. This is simply not enough. We are going to have to fundamentally change the way we design our products, industries, and cities. Our current recycling methods are inefficient and only serve to perpetuate the “cradle-to-grave” manufacturing model we’ve been using for hundreds of years.

"It is time for our civilzation to rethink the way we live, work, travel, design, build, and consume."

“It is time for our civilzation to rethink the way we live, work, travel, design, build, and consume.”

PLANET’s Crystal Ball Report #30 — Innovate (or Die): How Green Industry Companies Will Thrive in the New Economy, talks about sustainability as meaning good business:

  • Reducing operating costs
  • Better risk management
  • Creating value through enhanced and positive customer response
  • Increased ability to attract and retain employees
  • Continuing innovation and improvement

We should also add “Reduced government intervention,” which is a necessity to all green industry members. But where is the public on this sustainability. An Oct. 4, 2008, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ALSA) Landscape survey revealed the following about those with yards, lawns, or gardens and their take one sustainable landscape practices:

  • 13 percent disagreed with the statement, “I would use more ‘green’ yard practices if I knew more about them.”
  • 16 percent disagreed with “Using ‘green practices in my yard takes little extra effort and time.”
  • 19 percent disagreed with “Using ‘green’ practices in my yard saves me money.”
  • 96 percent of U.S. adults have personally adopted sustainable or energy efficient practices at home, comparatively fewer (58 percent) use energy or water saving techniques in their yard, lawn.
  • only 29 percent planted shade trees to lower energy costs.
  • 23 percent used maintenance methods that reduce fuel consumption, exhaust, and emissions, such as using a rake instead of a leaf blower.
  • 15 percent harvested rainwater or used recycled water for watering plants.
  • 11 percent used drip irrigation.

What we can glean from this data, is that change, for everyone, is hard, and individuals and businesses have to evaluate their own situation. Following that evaluation a measurable plan must be made to achieve the results, and, more importantly, along the way, we have to reevaluate and consider what is best for us and our companies at the present time.

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Tom Delaney is the PLANET Director of Government Affairs and writer for PLANET News.

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About the author  ⁄ Chauncey Hirose-Hulbert

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