Just as America In Bloom is turning up the flower power in communities of all sizes from coast to coast, another like-minded non-profit, Project EverGreen, would like us all to see green. This green industry alliance is funded by large and small companies and associations in the turf and landscape industry with a mission to educate consumers about the benefits of well-maintained green spaces.
“It’s not critical for consumers to know about us,” says Project EverGreen’s Executive Director Den Gardner. “What’s important is that they understand what well-maintained green spaces mean to their lifestyle, the environment around them and the economic benefits, along with the people, products and organizations that make it possible.”
So how do you meet the challenge of promoting something that most people take for granted and a few – but vocal – others criticize? To find out we asked Gardner to provide a snapshot of a philosophy that Project EverGreen has been busy planting nationwide: Because Green Matters.
A good place to track this progress is on the Web at www.projectevergreen.com. This steadily growing site is becoming an important resource for both consumers and the media. The site is a good place to get updated on a whole range of consumer education initiatives and community outreach programs, as well as green space-related awards, promotions and other events that are making news. Many of these involve partnerships with non-profit organizations connected to green spaces as well as with providers of landscape care products and services. Some current examples include:
■ America In Bloom: Project EverGreen will again sponsor the Landscape category in this widely-publicized annual contest that awards communities and institutions working to “Plant Pride in Their Communities.” The 2006 event is scheduled Sept. 28-30 in Eureka Springs, Ark. In 2005, Project EverGreen’s AIB Landscaped Areas Champion was Westlake, Ohio.
■ Habitat For Humanity: In 2005, this pilot landscaping program was launched with four Habitat For Humanity families in the Twin Cities. It is being expanded to several locations this year including: Biloxi, Miss.; Lawrence, Kan.; Houston, Texas; Fort Myers, Fla. and Hartford, Conn., as well as the Twin Cities.
■ Soccer Field Renovation: To dramatize that green matters in providing healthful recreation, Project EverGreen worked with local landscape care providers to enhance playing fields at the WRAL Soccer Center in Raleigh, N.C. This event will be expanded nationwide this year with projects scheduled in several cities.
■ GreenCare For Troops: Announced on May 24, National Armed Forces Day, this community outreach program focuses attention on meeting the lawn care landscaping needs of families whose major breadwinner is on active duty in the Middle East. Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey (Gunny) has graciously volunteered to serve as the celebrity spokesperson for the GreenCare for Troops program. Project EverGreen produced a special “MissionKit” for use by local lawn and landscape contractors who volunteer to provide free care. In addition, it acts as a coordinator in helping match eligible families with landscape care providers.
■ Because Green Matters Award: Now in its second year, this program is presented to a company, organization or individual who promotes the beneficial effects of green spaces through a major project. The 2006 award was announced on Earth Day, April 22, and Southern Land Company, Franklin, Tenn., was selected as this year’s winner.
■ Stewardship Award: This award gained national attention last November when it was presented to the city of Chicago and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, environmental initiatives representative. It was presented at the opening of the Green Industry Expo in Orlando, Fla.
■ Scholarship Awards: Announced last year, the Because Green Matters Scholarship Program will make its first awards in 2006. Two $2,500 scholarships will be given to deserving undergraduate students pursuing a career in the green industry.
Add to this a steady flow of news releases, press interviews, media contacts and trade show presence and you have what Gardner describes as “a good foundation for progress in portraying the value of our industry.”
“Of course we have to realize,” he says, “that it’s just the foundation. During 2006, we hope to triple the number of our consumer events and grow each program to showcase the tangible benefits of green spaces. That takes a lot of work and a lot of industry support – but I’m confident we can accomplish both.”