Monday, September 29, 2008

Taking a break from green IT to talk about trees

For the past few posts, we've been talking about make the inside of your company greener. Now it's time to step outside. Look around. Look at public areas. Look at the spaces in your parking lots and next to the building. Look at planters. Look at unused land your company owns or controls.


What does the outside of your plant, store or office building look like? How much of it is pavement? How much is dirt or sand? How much is weed? How much is empty grass? How much is mulch with a plant here and there "artistically" spaced?

On the other hand:

How much is trees? How much is natural and native plants arranged in natural ways? How much is dense ground cover or large shrubs?

So which is it? Are you fervently recycling paper inside while the outside of your building is dotted with a few widely spaced decorative plants and yards and yards of resource-devouring lawn...or even worse, pavement as far as the eye can see.

Why should you care?

  • Trees and other large plants create much needed oxygen
  • They also act as scrubbers, removing toxins from the air
  • A building sheltered by trees and large scrubs will need less air conditioning, and often less heating (the trees and bushes act as a wind break, reducing the cooling of outside walls.)
  • A building surrounded by natural plantings won't be contributing to invasion of outside species of plants and will help to maintain the natural ecosystem
  • Heavily planted and naturalized landscapes use LESS water than formal, stylized landscapes. The abundance of roots and shade preserves water and reduces evaporation.
  • People who work in buildings where wooded and shaded spaces are provided for lunch tables and benches are less likely to drive elsewhere for lunch, further reducing carbon usage

What can you do?

  • Start by replacing sparse landscaping with naturalized native plantings, densely arranged to aid in water retention
  • Add growing and slow growing...where ever you can on the property
  • Replace water and chemical dependent lawns with tree shaded picnic areas, meditation benches and native ground covers

Before you start

  • Check with your county extension office for information about native plants and their growth needs, sizes and other characteristics
  • If the project seems overwhelming, hire a landscape architect who is committed to xeriscaping or native plant designs. Look at examples of his/her work to see if they are truly naturalizing or just replacing one sparse plant with another.
  • Check out the article on Tree Hugger about truly green enveloped buildings