In an ever-urbanizing watershed, the impact of development can be reduced by restoring wildlife habitat and increasing biodiversity, but going natural isn’t going to happen on its own. Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) created the Greening Corporate Grounds (GCG) program in partnership with Evergreen as an innovative way to help educate corporate and institutional landowners within the Credit River watershed on the benefits and importance of sustainable landscaping practices and assist them with the implementation of projects on their property. To date 800 volunteers have installed over 11,000 native plants on private property within the Credit River Watershed and 40 sites there have been served.
The GCG team, led by project leader Deborah Kenley, works to inform and educate owners, employees, visitors and members about the importance of urban habitat restoration and involve them in stewardship activities. Cities are being impacted by climate change and increasingly municipalities are looking at ways to mitigate against the effects of flooding and habitat loss from development and invasive species. Increasing biodiversity and canopy coverage and implementing low-impact developments (LIDs) on private lands are a key component if success is to be achieved.
Through outreach and education, GCG increases the public’s awareness of the importance of urban habitat restoration. Corporate partners and community volunteers are engaged in sustainable landscaping projects. Environmental education, on site planning and support stewardship — plant lists, how-to guides and training are just part of what the project provides — assist the landscape industry in developing a culture of environmental responsibility. The goal is to help build the industry’s capacity to carry out sustainable landscaping projects and educate and inspire them to want to.
CVC partnered with Evergreen as part of a 3-year Trillium Foundation grant that enabled the two organizations to develop the framework for the GCG program and commence implementation within CVC’s watershed. The Region of Peel provided CVC with Climate Change Strategy funding and the program took inspiration from LEED and the Sustainable Sites initiatives. CVC has a wealth of experience in restoration and stewardship of public and natural heritage sites, but looked to develop sustainable landscaping resources such as plant lists for migratory birds and pollinators and green infrastructure guidance for highly urbanized lands.
Concurrent to GCG’s program development, CVC was becoming a leader in the field of stormwater management through low impact development (LID) with the TRCA, and the resultant technical guidelines are now being implemented on GCG sites. CVC also conducted market research into what motivates landowners to change their behaviour and adopt sustainable landscaping practices.
Participants, all voluntary, in GCG program are provided with site assessment and conceptual sustainable landscaping design services that show the potential of their site and helps them phase in projects over time. GCG reviews consultants design decisions and provides guidance on budgeting, plant selection, LID and urban naturalization techniques for habitat creation. GCG also provides participating landowners with on-going educational and technical support that help to make their property a sustainable site.
GCG projects require a shift in conventional landscaping practices and management and effort is devoted to the proper aftercare and maintenance. GCG works closely with owners, facilities managers, contractors and volunteers to educate them on best management practices for sustainable sites and to ensure the success of LID systems and survival of plants. The program is structured to set benchmarks in Land, Water, Education and Maintenance projects and recognizes participants through awards as they complete them.
The GCG is both building an industry’s capacity to carry out sustainable landscaping projects and educating and inspiring them to want to.