Green Stormwater Infrastructure Partners

The Sustainable Business Network (SBN) is a group of businesses and individuals who have joined together to help build a just, green and thriving economy within the Philadelphia region. The SBN is an effective resource that helps locally-owned businesses improve their environmental and community impact while also advancing profits. Cedar Run Landscapes has been involved with SBN since 2008 when we won the triple bottom award. We have also been closely involved in the organizations newest priority initiative, Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Partners.

PDW Rain Check Project: Concrete driveway replaced with permeable pavers

The trend toward sustainable living and awareness of how individual actions impact our local environment has begun to transform how we manage our stormwater. To help improve upon this movement it is essential that industry leaders help identify the barriers small businesses come across within the GSI industry. Cedar Run Landscapes has taken up this task by participating as a member of the GSI Partners sub-committee, Local Community of Practice. This committee consists of industry leaders that are focused on growing a vibrant green stormwater approach to the management of stormwater. Several of the committee’s objectives are to grow leadership among its participants, identify any obstacles that GSI businesses come across during implementing new infrastructure, and providing recommendations to improve the process.

A rain garden capturing roof runoff from two neighboring homes.

GSI Partners was created in response to the Philadelphia Water Department’s program ‘Green Cities Clean Waters’, a 25 year plan to protect and enhance our watershed through managing stormwater with innovative green infrastructure. Cedar Run Landscapes has also been a part of the Philadelphia Water Departments Rain Check Program, which supports Green Cities Clean Waters. Check out our previous blog posts to see some of our recent projects we’ve installed through Rain Check.

Garden Giving and Green Drinks

We had a great time helping the students and faculty at Shady Grove Elementary School (part of the Wissahickon school district in Montgomery county) with the planting of their new garden. Cedar Run Landscapes donated soil, labor, and equipment to help the students plant vegetables, herbs, and flowers. The school’s goal is for students to learn about the earth and environment by planting and maintaining the garden over the year. I  was contacted by a parent of one of the students, who remembered us from last year’s Ponds for Kids project.

My employees and I helped the students plant lettuce, spinach, snap peas and crimson clover (cover crop to help provide nitrogen for the next year’s crops), as well as a few flowers for the native plant butterfly garden.

Cedar Run Landscapes with students from Shady Grove Elementary

More photos from the day are available on Snapfish and our Flickr page

What’s next on the Cedar Run Landscapes agenda?

We’re hosting the next Whitpain Township Green Drinks meeting at our office in North Wales on September 20, at 6:30 pm. Please join us for a group tour, discussions, and refreshments.

We’d be delighted to have you join us for this event, which is open free to everyone.  Green Drinks is a group that gets together to talk about some green issues, network, share ideas, and brainstorm. At this meeting, I’ll be giving a tour of our Cedar Run Landscapes facilities, showing the group our 13 water features, including 2 rainwater harvesting and re-use systems, rain gardens, constructed wetland filters, permeable patios, eco-system ponds, pondless waterfalls and fountains, and talking about the ways in which we’ve successfully reduced waste and saved energy by recycling rain water.

Below is contact information for the group – if you’re interested, please RSVP by emailing WissahickonGrowingGreener [at] gmail.com. Or become a fan of the Wissahickon Growing Greener page on Facebook, where you can RSVP to this event and continue to receive updates about upcoming Green Drinks happenings!

We hope to see you there,

The Rain Guy

Joining the green “alphabet soup”

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the chance to join what I’m calling the green “alphabet soup” of organizations that are having great discussions about conservation practices in the Philadelphia area. On May 13, I attended the Urban Land Institute (ULI) for their 2nd Annual Urban Marketplace, a day-long forum where I heard from mayors of Camden, Wilmington, and Easton about the green initiatives in their cities, and met with other policy makers and members of the green community.

I was also invited to join the Business United for Conservation Industry Partnership (BUC), and met with the group last week for a networking breakfast. The BUC was established by the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia (SBN) in response to businesses that identified the need to centralize best management practices, curriculum development, and training for storm water management. Other companies participating in the storm water management discussion included design, architecture, engineering, landscaping, green roofs, construction, and financing firms.

It’s great to see so many businesses and political leaders creating open discussion about the best practices for handling our natural resources, and I’m ecstatic to have Cedar Run Landscapes (CRL) as an active participant!

Girl Scouts “do a good turn” learning about rainwater harvesting

Last week, we hosted the Girl Scout Brownie Troop 7019 from Montgomery Elementary school (where we built a rainwater harvesting system last year) at the Cedar Run Landscapes nursery to teach them about rainwater harvesting and rain gardens, so that they could work towards fulfilling their “Earth and Sky Try-It” badge requirements. The troop saw examples of rainwater harvest systems, rain gardens and permeable patios, and learned how such designs help to control erosion and conserve natural resources.

Four of the Girl Scouts were also seeking a Junior Level badge onRain guy and girl scouts Plants and Animals, and fulfilled this requirement at Cedar Run by learning about different types of propagation, and then helping to divide and pot up chive plants to take home. It’s great to see eco-consciouness and conservation lessons included in the girl scouts’ goal of doing “a good turn daily.”

We’re always happy to help educate visitors from all age groups on the subject of sustainable landscape design. If you’re interested in learning more, stop by our “Rainwater Harvesting, Rain Gardens, and Ponds” Open House this Saturday, May 15, from 10 am to 2 pm. The event is free and open to the public!

“Mrs. Rain Guy” and millions of others left dry

Courtesy of Water.org

I’ve been busy this weekend with ordering supplies for my nursery, helping to rototill the new community vegetable garden at our neighborhood synagogue, and partaking in Philly’s biggest weekend for disc golf at Sedgley Woods.

Meanwhile, “Mrs. Rain Guy” is up in Boston for a business conference. Unfortunately, the city of Boston and 29 suburbs have been left without drinkable tap water since Saturday evening – the result of a giant water pipe rupture. It’s been a major inconvenience for residents and businesses, who are required to boil water for drinking, brushing teeth, etc. While this is a temporary situation, it’s an important reminder of the value of our water supply, which is an issue of sustainability that I feel passionate about. Water is often an undervalued resource in the minds of people who are lucky enough to have it readily available, even though it is so precious and vital to our existence.

Here are a few facts from Water.org to consider:

  • Less than 1% of the world’s fresh water (or about 0.007% of all water on earth) is readily accessible for direct human use.
  • 884 million people, lack access to safe water supplies, approximately one in eight people.
  • On average, every US dollar invested in water and sanitation provides an economic return of eight US dollars.
  • An investment of US$11.3 billion per year is needed to meet the drinking water and sanitation target of the Millennium Development Goals, yielding a total payback for US$ 84 billion a year.
  • Other estimated economic benefits of investing in drinking-water and sanitation :
    • 272 million school attendance days a year
    • 1.5 billion healthy days for children under five years of age
    • Values of deaths averted, based on discounted future earnings, amounting to US$ 3.6 billion a year
    • Health-care savings of US$ 7 billion a year for health agencies and US$ 340 million for individuals

By being more mindful of consumption, and/or utilizing sustainable systems like rainwater harvesting, rain gardens, and permeable patios, you can help preserve our water resources and reduce costs in capital and conservation. If you are interested in learning more about these topics, join us at the Cedar Run Landscapes Open House on May 15, 10-2 pm at our nursery in North Wales, PA.

ROI on RWH

I have been doing presentations on rainwater harvesting this winter, and invariably get asked about the return on investment that can be expected from our systems. I try to show folks that the true cost of the water we use is not shown in our water bills.

We are paying wasteful water use with the degradation of our environment, and in our taxes. As our distribution systems deteriorate, and more development demands more water, more infrastructure investments must be made.

Here is a great article from The Sunshine Coast Daily, in Queensland, that illustrates this point – it reports on how a town is developing a plan to save about $360 million (US), by foregoing a new water distribution system in exchange for Rain Water Harvesting on each of the 1000 houses in town.
If only we could get this moving more rapidly in the states – that is some serious ROI from RWH!

Rainwater Harvesting system at Cedar Run Landscapes office

Back from the West Coast

The Rain Guy inside the new California Academy of Sciences

The "Rain Guy" inside the California Academy of Sciences

I just got back from a great trip to Northern California, beginning with a few days in San Francisco, and then traveling to Napa and Sonoma Valley for some wine tasting adventures.

In the Golden Gate city, I had the chance to visit the new California Academy of Sciences. They have an extraordinary “Living Roof,” which is a 197,000-square-foot rooftop that accommodates a living tapestry of native plant species; the rooftop plants transform carbon dioxide into oxygen, capture rainwater, and reduce energy needs for heating and cooling. Definitely worth the trip if you are in the area! They also have an exhibit on efficient water use. Check out their website for more info.

Next trip is to Cabo San Lucas for a Aquascape Green Community convention!

Grand Opening success

A very nice "thank you" from Montgomery Elementary School

A very nice "thank you" from Montgomery Elementary School

The Grand Opening of our pond and rain garden at Montgomery Elementary school was a hit. The kids had a great time, showing their parents what they had helped to plant and build in order to complete the project. It was a great way to get the school and Cedar Run Landscapes together to celebrate the success of Ponds for Kids.

More pictures from the work on the project on Flickr!

Back to school!

Montgomery Elementary class by their new pond project

Montgomery Elementary class by their new pond project

Today, the Cedar Run crew and I led 12 classes for over 600 students at Montgomery Elementary School for our Ponds for Kids project, what a blast!

We started the project in August, getting the rough in work done and staging a lot of the materials in the courtyard. The students are really excited – they worked with us today and will continue tomorrow. Even the parents were working, too – they were there to chaperone, but some of them saw how much fun the kids were having and wanted to pitch right in.

I gave each of the classes a short lecture and question and answer period at the start of their session. We explained what we were doing in the courtyard, and then had them put on gloves and they did the planting, adding soil, grading, adding rock and gravel and on and on. Tomorrow we will plant the carnivore bog, along with daffodils and tulips, mulching, hook up the pump for the hose to tap into the stored water and plant more native wetland plants and, shrubs and perennials.

My voice is worn out, but the kids, teachers and my staff are having a great time.

Alden Zove "The Rain Guy" helping to dig the pond for kids

Mr. Taylor, Principal of Montgomery Elementary, and Alden "The Rain Guy" Zove, preparing to dig a hole for the school rain garden.

The Water Bill

Red hoses at our nursery indicate harvested rain water for use

Red hoses at our nursery indicate harvested rain water for use

After our most recent water meter reading, Cedar Run Landscapes is proud to announce that we have reduced our dependence on public water supplied by the North Wales Water Authority by 45% in the first half of 2009 over the same period in 2008. Our construction and utilization of our rainwater harvest and re-use system has saved the costs of the purification and transportation of a bit over 23,000 gallons of one our most precious resources… water. Also, we have reduced the both the electrical demand and chemicals that would have been needed to clean the water prior to entering the distribution system.

As a side benefit, we have eliminated 23,000 gallons of runoff from entering our streams and rivers, thereby reducing the degradation of our waterways. Pretty cool!