This article first appeared in Yale Environment 360

by Judith D. Schwartz

In the 19th century, as land-hungry pioneers steered their wagon trains westward across the United States, they encountered a vast landscape of towering grasses that nurtured deep, fertile soils. Today, just three percent of North America’s tallgrass prairie remains. Its disappearance has had a dramatic impact on the landscape and ecology of the U.S., but a key consequence of that transformation has largely been overlooked: a massive loss of soil carbon into the atmosphere. The importance of soil carbon — how it is leached from the earth and how that process can be reversed — is the subject of intensifying scientific investigation, with important implications for the effort to slow the rapid rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Continue reading

by Marilyn Wyzga

With watering can in hand, a first grader earnestly speed-walks across the grass, finds a pepper plant in need of a drink, and slowly drains her can around its base. She scoots back and tags her teammate in the waiting line; he quickly scuttles off to the basket of mulch, scoops a two-handed fistful, and tucks it around the base of a young tomato plant. Joyful cheers from their classmates urge them on. The “Garden Relay” ends with the harvester carrying back a single spinach leaf in her basket, and each team member gets a taste. Continue reading

by John Kinchla

Amherst Nurseries grows trees and shrubs on approximately 100 acres of land on farms in Amherst, MA and Charlemont, MA. As the nursery owner, I try to produce plants that are as environmentally friendly as possible by reducing the use of pesticides, using drip irrigation, and growing in field soil (which uses less water and fertilizer than plastic container methods). One problem with field grown nursery stock is the loss of soil when the plant is harvested balled and burlapped (B&B). Since the soils at Amherst Nurseries are of a very high quality, the problem of soil loss is something that I’m acutely aware of. In response, I’ve been shifting the production of Amherst Nurseries from B&B to grow bags as a means to reduce the loss of field soil via B&B production. Continue reading

by Heather D Heimarck

I have always been a map gazer, letting my mind wander along the mountain ridges and rivers of the world. Recently, I have taken up a study on the history of cartography, how each map reflects a worldview, a “cosmology” of the planet. The connection between human habitation, expansion, and commerce to the winds and the global currents is now largely forgotten, our ability to travel is so unfettered, but in essence global currents are how the Europeans navigated past the Cape of Good Hope and the secrets of the Arabian Sea were revealed, leading to commerce and to the next sea, and the next. Continue reading

by Nick Novick

Beginning about ten years ago, a significant portion of the landscape around Kent Hospital has been transformed from the common template of mostly maintenance-intensive lawn and beds of shrubs and annuals to a more sustainable model comprising stormwater retention, mostly native plants, and designs that are more self-sustaining. Continue reading

by CeCe Haydock

The Sustainable Sites Initiative, or SITES for short, was born from a need for a nationwide, voluntary rating system for landscape construction. The collaborative effort involved forty groups, with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and the U.S. Botanic Garden as lead partners, and the rating system was codified in the Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009.

In May 2010, over 150 projects from 34 states as well as from Canada, Iceland, and Spain were chosen as part of an international pilot project program to evaluate the new SITES rating system for landscapes both with and without buildings. Continue reading

by Jack Ahern

An original method for planning resilient and sustainable cities is presented here. The method builds on established planning methods and models. The method has five themes: (1) goal-oriented and exosystem-services-based, (2) strategic, (3) scenario-driven, (4) transdisciplinary, and (5) adaptive. Each of these five themes is discussed in the following sections. Continue reading

by Ronald G. Dodson

To my way of thinking, sustainability is an individual and personal ethic that informs, guides, and inspires actions in daily, personal, and professional life. Practicing the tenets of sustainability is motivated by an individual’s acceptance of a responsibility to, quite simply, make decisions that leave our world better able to meet present and future needs (economic, environmental, and social) of individuals and society. Continue reading