Sustainable Landscape: In the fall of 2003, local EPA staff members developed a plan to replace approximately two acres of mowed lawn with a “sustainable” landscape planting of native grasses and flowering plants. This modification to the lawn was implemented through a contract with Boreal Natives of Cloquet, MN and volunteer efforts of local EPA staff. Initial work involved removing sod, tilling the soil, planting hundreds of small plants, and sowing thousands of seeds. Follow up work has included removal of invasive and non-native plant species (or “weeds”). Typically plants and grasses take three to four years to become established, and the new landscape appears to be following this trend. But why do this? There are several reasons. In 2000, the President issued an Executive Order mandating sustainable landscapes at federal facilities. EPA staff also realized that implementing a sustainable landscape could result in substantial costs savings related to lawn maintenance. In addition, a sustainable landscape is consistent with and supports many of the land use ideals the EPA promotes.
The new landscape provides improved habitat for wildlife. Foxes, deer, woodchucks, and a variety of birds, butterflies, and dragonflies are regularly seen. The change from a lawn to nectar-producing flowers has resulted in an increase of beneficial insects such as bees. There is also a financial benefit, with approximately $3,000.00 in annual savings through reduced lawn mowing labor, equipment wear/maintenance, and fuel consumption.
EPA has recognized this landscape project by awarding the first annual Green Thumb Award to the Duluth EPA Landscaping Team for implementing onsite sustainable landscaping.