By Steven Jay Porus


Water resources are becoming scarce and expensive. Energy rates are rising. Intensive maintenance costs money and generates waste and pollution. Our diminishing resources, the pollution of our environment, along with client demands make Sustainable Landscapes extremely important. Water-wise (or Xeriscape) native plant material, best management practices and water-efficient irrigation systems are crucial components of sustainability. Meanwhile, resource-efficient design is increasingly becoming more economical.


Most pest problems directly relate to the health of the plant. Pests target stressed and weakened plants; therefore, maintaining plant health will prevent most pest problems. Also, every addition or subtraction to a landscape changes the environment and leaves a possible opening for anything invasive — insects, weeds or pathogens.

Start with pest-free plant materials and supplies. If pests are brought in, they are more likely to become established. Check for diseases and insects by inspecting all plant parts including leaves, stems and especially roots, which should be firm and light in color. Don’t buy a problem just because it is on sale.

The following points may surprise you:

* Homeowners use 10 times more pesticides than farmers

* 67 million pounds of pesticides are applied to lawns each year

* Detectable limits of pesticides are found in 5 to10 percent of wells

* 60 to 70 million birds are poisoned each year

* One hour of mowing the lawn uses as much gas as 20 miles in a car

The Brundtland Commission, formally the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), defined sustainability as, “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Environmentally, a sustainable city is one that can keep going because it uses resources sparingly, avoids waste, recycles where possible and adopts policies that bear fruit in the long term. Thus, sustainability requires less maintenance, reduces harm to the environment, benefits wildlife, and conserves natural resources.

The U.S. Green Buildings Council identifies the following benefits for “green” projects:

Environmental benefits:

            * Enhance and protect ecosystems and biodiversity

            * Improve air and water quality

            * Reduce solid waste

            * Conserve natural resources

Economic benefits:

            * Reduce operating costs

            * Enhance asset value and profits

            * Improve employee productivity and satisfaction

            * Optimize life cycle economic performance

Health and community benefits:

            * Improve air, thermal and acoustic environments

            * Enhance occupant comfort and health

            * Minimize strain on local infrastructure

            * Contribute to overall quality of life

Most urban and suburban landscapes in America are green, but far from sustainable. As invasive species, water quality and quantity, and resource consumption become critical issues throughout America, we must rethink our approach to our landscapes.

As land itself becomes ever more precious, outdoor spaces can be designed to deliver value in as many ways as possible — increasing land values, rewarding the senses, promoting environmental quality, and enhancing mobility. Sustainable landscapes incorporate, and balance, our desire for beautiful and functional landscapes with our need to preserve valuable resources.


Steven Jay Porus is the president of Unlimited Access (UA), A Management Corporation. He has nearly 30 years of event management and marketing experience. Settling in the green industry in 1997, Porus has managed events for the Southern California Turfgrass Council, University of California Cooperative Extension, and University of California Riverside. Porus received his bachelor or arts from Roosevelt University in 1975. In 2004, UA created Green Industry Education.