From Compost to Contracting: Sustaining the Smithsonian Gardens
The Smithsonian Gardens have made measurable progress towards becoming a more sustainable organization. From the design and maintenance of the gardens to the production of annual crops and green contracting, this organization’s operating procedures are being driven by the desire to maintain resources and a positive impact on the environment into the future.
To facilitate this endeavor, The Smithsonian Gardens Green Team was developed to draft policy to ensure that efforts are thoughtful and consistent, identify opportunities for “going green” and educate our Smithsonian Gardens staff and the public about sustainability in its many forms.
Examples of sustainable progress within the Smithsonian Gardens include:
- All plant debris from our gardens and greenhouse complex are sent to a composting facility rather than a landfill.
- Drip irrigation lines installed in lamppost hanging baskets throughout the gardens and in the greenhouse production facility save staff time and use water more effectively.
- The Smithsonian’s in-ground irrigation system is connected to a weather station that monitors environmental conditions (humidity, air temperature, precipitation, etc.). This enables the system to adjust the amount of irrigation necessary for a given area thereby protecting plant health and conserving water.
- There is a full-time staff position dedicated to Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM uses environmentally sensible methods to prevent pests from damaging plants in the gardens. Insect population monitoring as well as the use of horticultural oil (a non-toxic insecticide) when appropriate, and the release of beneficial insects help to control many garden insect pests.
- Synthetic fertilizers are no longer used on the turf. Only organic fertilizers are applied to the lawns around the museums. Compost tea applications were used to enrich the planting beds at the National Museum of the American Indian as well as in the Ripley Garden.
- Green contracting and purchasing include hiring a certified green caterer for special events; printing educational and promotional materials on 100% recycled paper.
- Guest speakers are invited to training sessions to educate staff about composting, IPM and planting native plants.