September 1, 2011 in Washington Voices

Sustainable September urges stewardship

Couple create water-free yard
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

Aaron and Kristi Theisen have designed and planted their front and backyards with all native plants in an effort to reduce or completely avoid watering.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

If you go

• Follow and participate in Sustainable September events www.sustainable septemberspokane.org.

• Tickets for pay events are available online, too.

Sustainable September kicks off with a lunch today at the Spokane Convention Center. This year the monthlong celebration and ecology awareness-raising campaign is focused on four tracks: Active stewardship, eco-generation, local food and eco-buildings.

“Each has a main event and a personal challenge to go with them,” said Shallan Dawson, Sustainable September coordinator. “The personal challenge is about how to make your own life more sustainable.”

The personal challenge that goes along with the active stewardship track is to look at and take steps to limit household water consumption.

“The first step is to familiarize yourself with the water charges and how much you pay,” Dawson said. “The second step is about reducing water use. Maybe you are watering your garden and shouldn’t be watering as much as you do.”

Kristi and Aaron Theisen made a water-reduction decision five years ago when they moved into their home just south of Manito Park.

“We quickly decided that we didn’t want to spend a lot of water and fertilizer in our yard,” said Aaron Theisen. “First, we simply stopped watering.”

The couple’s house came with a traditionally landscaped yard, and they both agree that it didn’t look too good when they just cut off the water.

“So we researched landscaping with native plants and then we began to cut the sod,” said Aaron Theisen. Today, five years later, their backyard looks like a small piece of prairie planted with grasses and plants like purple sage, blanket flower, yarrow and Jacob’s ladder.

“People were asking us what we were doing,” said Kristi Theisen. “Now, in spring and early summer when the yard is full of blooms, people stop and ask us questions – they are more curious.”

But no one has complained about the yard’s dry look. And the couple rarely pays more than the basic charge on their water bill.

“I guess it just seems silly to us to use that much of a precious resource like water to have a lawn,” said Aaron Theisen.

They are happy with the way their no-water yard turned out, but agree on one thing:

“It really has a lot more flowers in the early part of the year,” Aaron Theisen said. “It looks a bit gray and dry right now.”

If turning off the sprinkler system is too extreme, then the steps of the Sustainable September water challenge are much more approachable: the first week is about getting to know your water bill, the second week is about reducing water use, the third week is dedicated to learning about how water use affects the Spokane River and the final week is about sharing what you learned with a neighbor.

“We are hoping to get people to take a look at what they are doing in their own lives,” said Dawson.

On the group’s website, http://www.sustainable septemberspokane.org, people who participate in the challenges can leave comments and share information.

There is also an event calendar which can be updated by community members.

The local food track’s main event is the Sept. 27 Progressive Bites and Buildings walk between three sustainable downtown Spokane buildings featuring a local food plate at each stop. The buildings on the tour are City Hall, the Bank of America Building and the Saranac Building. Tickets are $35 and must be purchased in advance.

There are dozens of other green events throughout September – the best way to keep track of them is through the website.

“Sustainable September did very well last year,” said Dawson. “We hope that narrowing down the number of tracks this year will make it even more doable.”


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