February 23, 2005 | General

Green Landscaping Program Makes Business Sense

BioCycle February 2005, Vol. 46, No. 2, p. 42
Promoting certification of landscape companies in the San Francisco Bay Area leads to greater solid waste reduction and more compost utilization.
Michele Young and Karin Grobe

PROMOTING green business certification by cities in the San Francisco Bay Area is a great example of win-win programming that benefits businesses, communities and government organizations. Cities throughout this region of California have added special standards for landscapers to their Green Business programs, leading them to adopt best management practices to increase organics recycling, conserve more water and energy, while reducing solid waste.
The Bay Area Green Business Program is a collaboration of environmental agencies, professional associations, local governments, utilities and community members. The Program’s goal is to recognize and assist businesses in implementing sound environmental practices. Certified Green Businesses receive free business promotion designed to increase recognition with potential clients. Green Businesses are promoted through newspaper and journal articles and ads in newspapers and consumer guides. A Green Business Directory and web page provide consumers with comprehensive lists of certified businesses and links to connect with goods and services. In order to bring landscape businesses into the program, standards were developed addressing the various types of materials and job site considerations for landscapers.
Landscape businesses have been very responsive to the opportunity to benefit from promotions that help them to attract customers looking for green options, helping them save money and time. Alrie Middlebrook of Middlebrook Gardens has found that getting certified as a Green Business is helping her to attract new customers. Middlebrook Gardens is a design and build firm in San Jose specializing in sustainable landscaping and use of California native plants. She explains that “many people make decisions based on their commitment to the environment and they want their home landscape to reflect that commitment. The Green Business Program is one more way for me to connect with potential clients.” Marvin Laurence, one of Middlebrook’s newest customers, noticed her Green Business listing at the Green Festival in San Francisco. “I like to support Green Businesses whenever I can,” says Laurence. “It helps to promote a more sustainable society.”
Founded in 1976, Middlebrook Gardens has received a number of awards for both indoor and outdoor designs which emphasize ecology-based landscaping and sustainable practices. Adds Middlebrook: “It is the collaboration of science and art that creates a garden that is, firstly, beautiful, culturally rich and ecologically sustainable- and also eliminates use of pesticides and reduces costs!” This coming year, she and her crew will use compost made from yard trimmings to establish a 16 by 20 foot model garden where “a family of four can grow all their own vegetables and fruits to feed themselves.”
Deva Luna of Earthcare runs a full service landscape design, installation and maintenance company with an ecological focus. “The program is very much in alignment with the market we want to reach,” she says. Luna anticipates that one result will be a network of ecologically-oriented businesses that help each other with customer referrals. The application process was fairly easy. “There was some paperwork and an office interview, then they toured the yard to see some of the materials we use,” she says. She enjoyed taking the Green Business certifiers to a job site. “They were very enthusiastic about our use of broken concrete,” she adds.
At the San Jose environmental programs department, the staff finds that in addition to business promotion, the Green Business Program attracts applicants who want to become more efficient and reduce costs. The Program’s Resource Conservation checklist and expert advice can help businesses apply best management practices and save money on utilities and landfill fees. Developing positive, proactive relationships with local compliance inspectors is an added benefit of the program.
For certification, Green Landscapers complete a Resource Conservation and Pollution Prevention Checklist detailing methods they currently use or will use to reduce waste. Many applicants find they are already using many of the green practices because they make good business sense. Businesses get credit for any practices they are already using and can request an exemption if a measure is not applicable or feasible for their operation. Best of all, there is no fee to be certified and no hidden costs. Complete information on the Green Business Landscaper Certification Program is available at
If you have a Green Business program in your community, the addition of green landscaper certification could give it the boost seen by Bay Area communities who adopted the guidelines. “We have seen more green landscaper applications since the standards were adopted than we have applications for all other types of businesses,” comments Lisa Rose, who manages the Green Business program for Santa Clara County. She feels that the program is a success because “landscapers understand that consumers want safe and sustainable landscapes that save them money and time in the future. Landscapers as Green Businesses make a lot of sense.”
Michele Young is with the San Jose, California Environmental Services Department that is actively involved in developing composting programs in the region. Karin Grobe is editor of “From The Ground Up” newsletter (funded by Young’s Department), where this report originally appeared. The newsletter disseminates information on production and horticultural use of compost and mulch to landscape, agricultural and professionals. Visit

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