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Sustainability Efforts at the Garden: Part One

Green Bay Botanical Garden is a place for people to engage with nature and each other, to be inspired by the amazing sights and scents, and to be refreshed throughout the year. In cultivating a space for people to grow, we must take care to keep our garden, and our planet, thriving for a long time to come. The Garden is committed to reducing our energy and resource use and promoting sustainability.

Our values include innovation and community, which means that we use technology and techniques to be responsible stewards of the land for those around us. Today we’re going to take a look at many of the steps that the Garden has taken to be environmentally sustainable.

One of the biggest steps forward the Garden has taken was the formation of a sustainability task force in 2019 to identify ways we could make positive changes across our organization.

Plastic use was identified as one of the largest areas that could be improved, and this led to the creation of a three-year outline to make changes throughout the Garden including detailed measures to reduce plastic waste at events. We have worked to provide alternate options to wasteful plastic straws, stirrers and Styrofoam cups whenever we host events with food and beverages.

PC: John Oates Photography

Plastic use at the Garden has already been lowered, and the capstone of this effort will be in our aim to incorporate aluminum water bottles instead of plastic bottles in the coming year. The Garden has also transitioned the task force into a committee to create a long-term effort focuses on aligning goals with the American Public Garden Association’s framework.

Susan Garot, Executive Director, is especially proud of the Garden’s waste reduction so far, and she believes these changes are just one part of the way forward.

“Our goal is to join the American Public Gardens Association Climate and Sustainability Initiative. By adopting their best practices, I believe we can have a significant impact not only on our small 47-acre footprint, but also through education, our entire Brown County and Northeast Wisconsin community.”

Susan Garot, Executive Director

The energy, water and fuel costs needed to run a facility can leave a massive ecological footprint. Several of our buildings are designed from the ground up to be smarter and more efficient. The Schneider Education Center is a great example of this, as it features many small technical enhancements that reduce waste and energy use. Visitors can easily see the inward sloping rooftop and large windows which reduce power use by electric lighting and heating systems. The Education Center, along with the Emil and Gail Fischer Visitor Center have incorporated efficiencies to reduce water and power usage, such as installing dual-flush toilets that use less water on each flush.

Stumpf Hobbit House Restroom

Further out in the garden, the Stumpf Hobbit House was designed from scratch to be efficient in part because of where it is. This includes the use of the roof as a greenspace, water efficient restrooms, and use of the natural landscape to keep the building warm in the winter and cold in the summer. This has been directly inspired by practices long used for insulation of homes blended with high tech advancements to save energy and help reduce the Garden’s footprint. At our wildly popular WPS Garden of Lights event, we have worked to incorporate more and more LED lights into our displays each year that use less power, and we have nearly eliminated the use of inefficient fluorescent holiday lights.

On the gardening side of things, our Horticulture Team manages the land in ways that incorporate some of the best available practices for being environmentally friendly.

While it takes a lot of work, most of the watering and weeding in the Garden is done by staff and volunteers, rather than relying on energy dependent systems and chemical intensive treatments (they truly deserve a round of applause for all of that work!)

With help from volunteers, our Horticulture Team can tackle a lot of weeds by hand. Pictured: Mark Konlock (Director of Horticulture).
PC: Alex Verstoppen

To save both work and waste, we reuse materials such as pots, trays and stakes whenever possible and are working to plant more grasses that don’t need to be cut throughout the season. In the Lux Foundation Upper Rose Garden (and planned for our herb garden), we often incorporate the use of Purple Cow organic compost to feed our plants instead of synthesized chemical fertilizers.

We also treat for pests using organic botanical sprays and natural pest control methods when possible to lower our reliance on damaging insecticides. Many sections of the Garden have beautiful native plant displays that are less resource dependent, such as the Schneider Family Grand Garden or the even the Johnson Woodland Garden which hosts a variety of beautiful Wisconsin trees that are both native and ornamental.

Invasive species like the Japanese beetle can cause problems for our roses every year, but our Horticulture Team takes care to remove them by hand (knocking them off into buckets of soapy water) instead of using harmful pesticides.

In demonstrating conscious ways to grow plants and show off how beautiful sustainable gardening practices can be, we encourage others to want to do the same.

Stay tuned next week for the types of sustainable actions we take that you can try at home!

Don’t forget to save the dates for this year’s summer exhibit at the Garden… Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea! Learn about the connections between plastic waste, the wellbeing of marine life (and us!) and learn everyday actions that we can all take to make a difference for the Great Lakes and beyond. The exhibit kicks off on Saturday, May 8!