Announcing Green the
And calling for Blog Posts on Earth Day



Alice Waters pestered one president after another to start a veg garden at the White House and, with help from Michael Pollan and the tireless Roger Doiron and his amazing Eat the View campaign, she finally got her wish.  So now there's not just a White House veg garden but a billion or two news stories about it (with trillions more coming over the course of the Obama administration), and California's First Lady has already jumped on the veg-growing bandwagon.

And we're all pleased as punch about this but hey, what about the rest of those 18 acres?  What about getting that lawn off drugs?  Ditto those sickly hybrid tea roses in the famous Rose Garden.  How about more wildlife habitat on this precious center-city site?  And then there are the unsexiest concerns of all – stormwater run-off, water conservation and recycling of green waste.  YOU all know the issues, but who's talking them up with the media?  NO ONE.  NOT A PEEP.

All that brings us to – ta-da! – a national media campaign called Green the  Mission: To encourage the Obamas and America's governors to green the grounds around their official landscapes.  Why?  Because just as Michelle's veg garden will teach Americans more about food than any other government or private action possibly could, the same could be accomplished with a White House compost bin, organic lawn, habitat garden and no-spray Rose Garden, with similar improvements to official residences across the U.S.  Imagine!!

If we get even HALF the media attention that Waters, Pollan and Doiron
did with their campaign about food, official landscapes will change,
and private backyards will follow.

Calling all Bloggers 

Bloggers can help get this movement off the ground by posting about it on Earth Day – Wednesday, April 22.  Suggested angles for your posts:

  • Changes you'd like to see to the White House grounds.
  • Changes you'd like to see to the grounds of your governor or mayor (if there's an official residence in your city).
  • Examples of sustainable, eco-friendly landscapes that you know of.
  • Your ideas about how to spread the word.

Send me the links to your blog posts and I'll display them on the Green the Grounds website.   (Write to, or paste the link in a comment to this post.)

One more thing – grab the Green the Grounds badge and pop it into your sidebar.

Blogger Chutzpah

This all started with a very exciting phone call from Michelle Obama's assistant to yours truly, asking about my ideas for a veg garden and saying they'd be back in touch after the Inauguration.  Well, I say, in the meantime I'll pull together some suggestions.  I then set to work polling everyone I know in this town and a few others around the country about not just the growing of food but…every other damn thing I'd love to see happen to those 18 acres – lawn care, reduced pesticide use, etc etc.  Thirty-four consultations later, I compiled it all in an "informal proposal" with some gorgeous photos and delivered this largely unbidden advice to the White House.  Click here for a summary of the proposal and another link to the 19-page proposal itself. The 34 smart people whose brains I picked are listed on the last page.  Robin Wedewer's garden adorns the cover.


  1. I don’t think I saw it in the report (correct me if I’m wrong), but you might add the tremendous cost-savings to the public in not having to do those regular sprayings and mowings, if say they converted a section ofthe property to woodland garden or to a meadow. I think the fiscal appeal may go far in convincing the public in today’s economic climate.
    Health would be a big next appeal to make — the incidence of Non-Hodgkins lymphoma in landscape workers is truly frightening. The children playing on the White House lawn are the most vulnerable to pesticide exposure.

  2. And I just heard a report on NPR about some profs somewhere who’ve come up with a real, working way to make ethanol from municipal garbage. Let’s get THAT working for us, too.

  3. Love it – but, since we are supposed to be demanding more honesty and transparency in all things “Washington”: The Obama’s are not the first whitehouse occupants to grow vegetables or have a garden. What they are doing is great but we shouldn’t talk about the effort as if no one else has ever done it before. Historically even sheep were grazed on that lawn.

    Speaking of lawn – DC is one of my favorite cities to visit. I’ve walked all over that place and if that lawn is getting premium care and regular applications of chemicals it doesn’t show it! Looks about as scrappy as my “lawn” at home (mostly mowed weeds).

    Any change would be welcome but you do have to think of the massive number of feet walking those pathways. It seems to me that there are activities held there that need the big expanse of grass just to accommodate all those visitors.

  4. I think the idea of a veg garden on the White House grounds is an excellent idea. Unfortunately, all the leeching of chemicals used to keep that grass so green for all these years has, in my opinion, contaminated the surrounding ground. I wouldn’t let my kids eat from that garden. Nice idea though.

  5. Fantastic work, Susan!

    I think they should hire you and Ros Creasy to oversee the whole project. And, I bet you’ll be surprised to find how supportive the staff might be.

    I got to meet a WH grounds supervisor many years ago, I doubt he’s still there, but even in the early 90’s he was looking for ways to reduce fertilizer use on the lawns.

  6. John, I think you’re confusing the National Mall with the White House lawn. The National Mall is a trodden down mess. Unfortunately, the Park service uses it as a playground and books festivals practically non stop between the end of March until Halloween. Guess what, reseeding the lawn would be extremely expensive and in this economy, highly controversial. Akin to studying what makes pig poo smell.

    If the newest flying occupants of the White House grounds are expected to thrive, we fellow beekeepers strongly advise against sprayed chemical insecticides of any kind.

  7. Bravo, Susan!!!
    You’ve really hit on something here…and what a terrific document you’ve put together. If I can think of anyway to contribute…I’ll pass my 2 cents along.

  8. Hey Susan, has anyone looked at the plants INSIDE the White House? So many people forget that indoor gardens are important too, especially during the lean, winter months. I’m curious as to whether they have real or fake plants indoors, and whether the plants are sustainable or rotated out at the first sign of a brown leaf. Any chance of finding out?

  9. Susan,

    What a great idea to get everyone blogging about Green the Grounds and to raise awareness about the simple steps that can be taken to make our gardens greener.

    Here’s my post about the CT Governor’s Residence and from the lack of information available about the grounds and gardens at the Residence I think there may be alot of work to be done.

    Here’s the link to my post:

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