ILCA Women’s Networking Group

Sustain-a-what? by corumkeller
March 8, 2009, 2:38 pm
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By:  Christa Orum-Keller


The word sustainable is thrown around a lot these days.  It’s kind of like the word green.  It is such a hot word, used so often, its meaning becomes broadened and less clear the more it is used.  So what does sustainable mean for us?


If we look to the dictionary, we find words and phrases such as to be able to keep going, maintainable and enduring.  The word sustainability is also linked with ecology.


In 1983, the United Nations formed the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) which published a report called Our Common Future in 1987.  Through their work, they defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  In 2001 the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was initiated and the reports published in 2005 identified the need to consider three areas in a sustainable development process:  Social, Environmental, Economic.  (also known as the triple bottom line)


In 2007, the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SSI) published its first report and the next version of the report is to be published later this summer.  SSI is an interdisciplinary effort by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the US Botanic Garden.  Its goal is to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices.  The eventual goal is for the US Green Building Council to incorporate the SSI guidelines into the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system.


And this is what touches our industry.  The SSI document is nearly 200 pages in length, but the following website can help give you a quick overview of the initiative:

Some of the items which may be of interest to landscape and green industry professionals include:

·         Water conservation and management / irrigation

·         On site waste management / recycling

·         Plant selection / use of native plants

·         Ecological preservation and recreation

·         Design process and client / public education

·         Maintenance practices / equipment


So what sustainable practices do you employ in your job?  Your business?  What opportunities do you see in our industry related to sustainability?  Do you see a downside to moving toward more sustainable design and construction?  How can ILCA help members understand and respond to the sustainability movement?




4 Comments so far
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The Morton Arboretum will be holding its Midwest Gardening Symposium this weekend, and many of the topics will be on sustainability and ecological awareness. Check it out!

Comment by Laurin

Midwest has started a recycling program for pots! If you haven’t seen anything about it, go to the web site. It’s limited for now. For decades I’ve watched all that plastic go in dumpsters and wondred why it isn’t recycled.
For the midwest project, pots need to be clean and dry, which could generate a little work – but sounds worth it.

Comment by Karen Morby

We have a huge selection of native plants here at Pizzo’s that can help make your yard more sustainable. Check the web site for our party and open house June 19. We will have tours of the prairie and wetland along with speakers and good information. Oh, I almost forgot, food and fun stuff too!

Comment by Julie Peden

Karen – Thank you for the mention of the recycling program. Here’s a link for anyone interested in the details or for adding their name to our wait list.

Comment by Christa Orum-Keller

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