Small gardens; big impact: Bringing Landscape for Life to CSU

Colorado+State+University+houses+various+plants+at+the+plant+growth+facility

Collegian | Reuel Indurkar

Colorado State University houses various plants at a plant growth facility Sept. 26. CSU partnered with the United States Botanic Garden to provide education on sustainable landscaping practices.

DJ Vicente, Staff Reporter

Colorado State University and the United States Botanic Garden partnered in June to bring Landscape for Life, USBG and Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s home-grown ecological sustainability program, to CSU Extension.

The partnership aims to bring the educational resources provided by Landscape for Life into the CSU Extension fold, allowing future participants in the program access to new tips, tools and practices in environmental sustainability through their gardens at home.

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“What this does is really trying to give home gardeners enough information to make informed decisions so that their gardening practices can have less of a negative impact and more of a positive impact,” said Ray Mims, partnerships and sustainability specialist at USBG.

Mims was one of the many people at USBG responsible for the creation of Landscape for Life, spawning it from the Sustainable Sites Initiative as an educational tool for home gardeners and federal agencies alike, providing information on practices gardeners can use to act more sustainably.

“We just felt like that understanding sustainability and understanding gardening sustainably was really, really important and could hopefully have an impact on the longevity of a healthy planet,” Mims said.

Mims also mentioned the aspect of ecological mindfulness Landscape for Life intends to instill in participants, like knowing what plants to grow to preserve pollinator health, what soil to use to promote the health of both plant and insect species. It promotes a level of thoughtfulness for a neighborhood’s ecosystem.

“One definition of sustainability (is) ‘meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,’” -Deryn Davidson, horticulture agent of CSU Extension Boulder County

CSU Extension also intends to deliver on the goal of sustainable gardening practices. Deryn Davidson, horticulture agent of CSU Boulder County Extension, elaborated on CSU Extension’s vision for participants to “come away with practical, actionable skills that they can do at home.”

“Its focus is on how we manage our outdoor spaces, and (it) teaches alternative ways that reduce the use of resources and work in tandem with natural systems more than conventional ways of gardening and landscaping,” Davidson said.

Davidson said sustainable practices and considerations impact the current environmental, social and economic status of the world alongside that of future generations.

“One definition of sustainability (is) ‘meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,’” Davidson said.

Davidson and Mims reiterated that skills and information participants will learn from Landscape for Life will not have much of an effect on an individual level. However, through the cumulative effect of a community utilizing mindful practices, local ecosystems can be supported.

Davidson and Mims also mentioned the factors that influenced USBG’s choice to have CSU be Landscape for Life’s institutional partner, noting CSU’s work in the promotion and practice of sustainability on campus.

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The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s 2022 Sustainable Campus Index ranked CSU highly in national placement in categories such as Campus Engagement (third), Curriculum (tie for second), Public Engagement (third) and Doctoral Institutions (second). CSU was also rated Platinum through AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System for the third time in a row.

CSU was also chosen on the basis of how the university would be able to suit Landscape for Life as it grew. Tanya Zastrow, director of Olbrich Botanical Gardens and former director of programs at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, explained the choice for CSU to further Landscape for Life.

“Landscape for Life would fit really well with the work they were already doing, so it wasn’t like they were trying to take on something that’s completely separate and (weren’t) prepared for it; they had a system already in place,” Zastrow said.

Zastrow also explained the changes Landscape for Life will need to make as new research comes out in relation to sustainable gardening, mentioning CSU’s proposal to accommodate any future changes.

“With Landscape for Life being connected with the university, they’ll be able to update it and say, ‘Oh, you know what, it … originally said we should do this, this and this with your home landscape, but now we know more, and now it should be this, this and this,’” Zastrow said.

CSU Extension plans to launch Landscape for Life in 2023, allowing community members in different regions of Colorado to access information and practices gathered throughout the last decade.

Davidson mentioned the importance of CSU Extension and Landscape for Life as resources for both home gardeners and environmentalists, but that the programs are not well known by the large body of people outside of the organization.

Davidson called it their “best kept secret.”

Reach DJ Vicente at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @csucollegian.