Botanic Garden display plants seeds of green biz

By Vandana Sinha
Washington, DC (May 16, 2008)- The U.S. Botanic Garden is looking to spruce up its grounds with some unusual new features this summer: two wind turbines and a straw-bale house. Those are the largest of planned additions to the congressionally run garden, which is partnering with businesses for the first time this year for a new exhibit of alternative power technologies and lifestyles, from wind to solar to wildlife restoration to back yard vegetable patches. And the Botanic Garden is paying no less close attention to the new displays itself, as it looks to adopt similar sorts of technologies in its own efforts to slash its heavy energy use in the next few years.

“We were coming across so many technologies that were new or not so widely known,” said Ray Mims, a conservation horticulturist with the U.S. Botanic Garden, which is running the “One Planet” sustainability exhibit May 24-Oct. 13. “We know things now because of this process that we’d like to do.”
After piecing together the 40 displays in the last year, the Botanic Garden has decided to launch its own cost analyses of erecting green roofs and solar panels on its structures. It’s also begun energy audits to measure the amounts being consumed in its temperature-controlled greenhouses.
With results of those studies in hand, the Botanic Garden plans to bring a proposal as early as next year to install new energy-efficient products – potentially things like green roofs, green walls, solar panels, wind turbines and systems that catch rainwater to soak the nearby plants – to the Architect of the Capitol office, which manages the 192-year-old plant museum on the National Mall.
In the meantime, the group is broadcasting its exhibit’s message of sustainability to outside audiences, namely the business community and government agencies. And area business partners are helping turn up the sound.
Arlington-based Capitol Greenroofs will be showcasing green roof technology, while a D.C. energy marketing and consulting company, Reluminati, will display a new solar-powered generator in the works. Potomac Wind Energy, a Dickerson wind energy contractor, is planting the West Coast-built residential wind turbines, devices atop a tall tower that convert wind into electricity.
In addition, the D.C. Planning and Environment offices are teaming with Seattle counterparts to run seminars on greening municipal codes. District-based Earth Day Network and the city’s Sidwell Friends School, which built the world’s first such institution to earn a platinum-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design designation, are painting two of 40 five-foot-wide globe sculptures to be scattered across the Botanic Garden to commemorate facets of eco-friendly living. And FarmFresh Markets in D.C. is unveiling two vegetable and herb gardens, as well as fruit trees, coupling that display with cooking and seed-reusing demonstrations.
With such displays, these entities say they get immediate marketing opportunities to the garden’s 1 million-plus yearly visitors, mostly out-of-towners, that the everyday business world can’t offer.
“Even though you can be a very successful small organization, to have an impact more globally, more regionally, is very important,” said Bernadine Prince, co-founder and co-director of FarmFresh Markets, a nonprofit that operates eight farmers’ markets in D.C. and Maryland. “It’s another way to get the word out.”
For the Botanic Garden, which doesn’t endorse or sponsor any specific business, that’s a peripheral perk of the sustainability exhibit, estimated to cost the garden and participating partners less than $300,000. Its leaders say they hope local businesses come as attendees, taking away ideas that will result in greener business practices.
Related Resources:
One Planet- Ours!
U.S. Botanic Gardens
Botanic Garden display plants seeds of green biz- Washington Business Journal
Cool Globes- DC Examiner
Explore New Ways of Living- Washington Post