Many Save On Utility Bills Indoors, But Not With Their Yard, Lawn, or Garden, According to an American Society of Landscape Architects’ Survey

Lack of Knowledge Plays a Key Role; New Report to Address Sustainable Landscape Design


Philadelphia, Pa, October 4, 2008 — While most (96 percent) of U.S. adults have personally adopted sustainable or energy efficient practices at home, comparatively fewer (58 percent) use energy or water saving techniques in their yard, lawn, or garden, according to a new national survey about sustainability. Conducted online by Harris Interactive® on behalf of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the results were presented at the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Philadelphia.

Of those involved in or responsible for a yard, lawn, or garden where they live, only 29 percent planted shade trees to lower energy costs; 23 percent used maintenance methods that reduce fuel consumption, exhaust, and emissions, such as using a rake instead of a leaf blower; 15 percent harvested rainwater or used recycled water for watering plants; and 11 percent used drip irrigation.

When asked about personally adopted sustainable or energy efficient practices at home, 91 percent of U.S. adults turned off lights when not in use, and 70 percent installed energy-saving light bulbs. Additionally, 55 percent lessened use of their furnace and/or air-conditioner, and 38 percent unplugged appliances when not in use.

 The survey also examined attitudes of those with yards, lawns, or gardens about sustainable landscape practices. Only 13 percent disagreed with the statement “I would use more ‘green’ yard practices if I knew more about them”; 16 percent disagreed with “Using ‘green practices in my yard takes little extra effort and time”; and 19 percent disagreed with “Using ‘green’ practices in my yard saves me money.”

“The results clearly show a desire and willingness to use techniques that reduce utility bills at home, but few know what can be accomplished outside their homes,” said Nancy Somerville, Executive Vice President and CEO of ASLA. “The space between buildings is just as important – perhaps more so – to not only reducing energy costs, but addressing a broad range of environmental issues.”

 The survey comes in advance of a comprehensive November report on sustainable landscape benchmarks and guidelines from the Sustainable Sites Initiative™, a partnership between ASLA, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin, and the United States Botanic Garden to create voluntary guidelines and a rating system for sustainable landscape design. The U.S. Green Building Council is lending its support to this project and anticipates adoption of the Sustainable Sites metrics into future versions of LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental design) Green Building Rating System.

“This survey reinforces the need for the Sustainable Sites standards and guidelines,” said Susan Rieff, Executive Director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. “People want to conserve resources and limit pollution, but they’re not aware that sometimes ‘green’ isn’t really green. And, in many cases, they lack solid, scientifically-researched information. Our November report will remedy that.”

The report will offer scientifically researched approaches to create sustainable sites and landscapes ranging from backyard gardens to major urban developments. Additionally, 125 case studies provide real-life examples of projects using many approaches in the guidelines that demonstrate measurable results.

For example, the Garden-Garden project in Santa Monica, Calif., compared the costs and maintenance of a conventional residential garden with one using sustainable practices. While the native plant garden cost about $4,300 more to construct, it uses 77 percent less water, produces 66 percent less green waste, and costs 68 percent less to maintain per year. Additionally, the Queens Botanical Garden in New York City demonstrated how graywater from sinks can be treated naturally outside and reused while captured rainwater can supply decorative fountains and pools.

“Our goal is to ensure that the initiative is broad based, applicable to a wide audience, and the standards and guidelines will be available free,” said Holly Shimizu, Executive Director of the United States Botanic Garden. “These standards, once widely used, can change not only the landscape and gardening industry, but also raise public expectations about the health and quality of the built environment.”

A major goal behind the November report is to solicit additional feedback on the proposed benchmarks and guidelines, with a final report to be released in the summer of 2009. The Sustainable Sites Initiative plans to produce a rating system by May 2011 and test the guidelines with pilot projects in 2010 and 2011. For more information, visit

Survey Methodology 

Harris Interactive® fielded the study on behalf of ALSA from September 24-26, 2008 via its QuickQuerySM online omnibus service, interviewing a nationwide sample of 2,253 U.S. adults aged 18 years and older, of which 1,642 are involved/responsible for any yard/lawn/garden area where they live. Data were weighted using propensity score weighting to be representative of the total U.S. adult population on the basis of region, age within gender, education, household income, race/ethnicity, and propensity to be online. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

About ASLA 

Founded in 1899, ASLA is the national professional association for landscape architects, representing more than 18,200 members in 48 professional chapters and 68 student chapters. Landscape architecture is a comprehensive discipline of land analysis, planning, design, management, preservation, and rehabilitation. ASLA promotes the landscape architecture profession and advances the practice through advocacy, education, communication, and fellowship. Members of the Society use their “ASLA” suffix after their names to denote membership and their commitment to the highest ethical standards of the profession. Learn more about landscape architecture online at

About the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center 

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin is dedicated to increasing the sustainable use and conservation of native plants and landscapes. Founded in 1982 by Lady Bird Johnson, the former first lady, the Wildflower Center maintains an extensive native plant botanic garden and offers professional and adult education. The Wildflower Center also conducts research on landscape restoration and plant conservation at its 279-acre site, promoting the role of native plants in addressing ecological problems. Recent research initiatives focus on native turf grasses, green roof technology in a sub-tropical climate, prairie restoration methods including prescribed fire, the control of invasive species, and ways in which native plants can aid in combating climate change in urban landscapes. Learn more at 

About the United States Botanic Garden 

Dating from 1820, the United States Botanic Garden (USBG) is one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America. Operating under the jurisdiction of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress since 1856, the Garden informs visitors about the importance and fundamental value of plants to the well-being of humans and our planet. It also highlights the diversity of plants worldwide, particularly their aesthetic, cultural, economic, therapeutic, and ecological significance. With nearly a million visitors annually and located on the National Mall, the USBG strives to demonstrate and promote sustainable practices for individuals, organizations, and institutions. The U.S. Botanic Garden is administered through the Office of the Architect of the Capitol as part of the Legislative Branch of the Federal Government. Learn more online at


Karen T. Grajales
Manager, Public Relations 
tel: 1-202-216-2371