Growing Green: Sustainable Landscaping Gains Ground
In a move to confirm its commitment to environmental sustainability, the administration has approved a proposal submitted by The Landscaping Committee—a subgroup of the Environmental Organizers Network (EON)—that calls for the use of native groundcover in place of grass in landscaping projects on campus.
According to the proposal, Wesleyan uses an estimated 67,200 pounds of chemical fertilizers on its grass each year, which contaminate the nearby Connecticut River and pose health threats to the community. The new native groundcover—consisting of low-lying shrubs and shorter plants—would require little watering, mowing, pesticides or fertilizers.
David Hall, Manager of Grounds and Special Events, and Professor Brian Stewart helped write the proposal and determine plant species that could be used as groundcover.
At the end of last year, the Landscaping Committee sat down with President Roth and David Hall to present the proposal, which was approved by Roth, Hall, and other members of the Facilities Team.
“They were very receptive to the changes we proposed,” said Eliana Theodorou ’12, a member of the Landscaping Committee.
The native groundcover will be incorporated into the existing landscape in several phases. The first phase includes changes to small patches of land that students rarely use, such as the Hewitt courtyard. The second and third phases are more ambitious, calling for changes to larger, more recognizable areas of campus, such as the grassy areas of the Center for the Arts (CFA).
Although these changes have already been implemented outside of Olin Library and the Allbritton Center, there are limits to how much can be done because of financial and aesthetic obstacles.
“It is a dynamic process and we are always evaluating our methods to try to ensure we are proceeding [in] appropriate ways that also reflect institutional commitments and philosophies,” Hall wrote in an e-mail to The Argus.
Although the proposal requires funding from the University, EON believes that it will ultimately save the University money, since grass requires more maintenance than the native groundcover.
“[The University] will save on watering, pesticide costs, and other basic upkeep,” said EON member Kelli O’Connell.
After a test run, EON hopes to begin planting the native groundcover throughout campus. They also plan to train the University’s landscaping company, Stonehedge Landscaping, on how to care for the new vegetation.
“We’ll need to show Stonehedge what places should and shouldn’t be mowed and tell them not to use pesticides in certain places,” said Landscaping Committee member Nora Christiani ’11.
In the upcoming year, EON hopes to have the Sustainability Advisory Group for Environmental Stewardship (SAGES)—a group of faculty, students and administrators— embrace the proposal.
“Once SAGES adopts the initiative, then everyone else will start working on it,” Christiani said.