The greening of U.S. government grounds, worldwide



Gardeners and foodies, great news from the U.S. Department of Agriculture!  On the 200th birthday 
of Abe Lincoln – he founded the USDA, ya know – Secretary Vilsack "broke concrete" on a People's Garden at their headquarters in downtown D.C.  One part of the project is returning 1,250 square feet of unnecessary concrete to lawn and believe me, focusing on the problem of impervious surfaces here in the city is great news to the environmental community.

The other part of this People's Garden is a 612-square-foot vegetable garden that will be tended by USDA volunteers working with folks from Melwood, a nonprofit that "empowers people with disabilities."  Produce from the garden will go to the Melwood gardeners and to D.C. food banks.

But there's more – Vilsack is directing ALL USDA facilities around the world to assess their sites for potential greening measures, to include vegetable gardens, reduction in impervious surfaces, roof-top or window box gardens, native plant gardens – you name it.  So I imagine we'll be seeing lots more encouraging press releases throughout the year.  It's just begun, folks!  

Now am I the only one who sees potential here for educating the American public?  There's this quote from that press release: "The garden will showcase
conservation practices that all Americans can implement in their own
backyards and green spaces."  See?

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Michelle Obama paid a visit to the USDA headquarters last week and declared this People's Garden a "good thing."  So can the greening of the White House grounds be far off?  I think not!

Elsewhere within the bowels of the bureaucracy, there's been a rather quiet movement under way for years now to green-up the buildings and grounds of the federal government.  Led by whom?  The agency you've probably never heard of – the General Services Administration, the folks who acquire and manage federal facilities.  Unsung, uncool, but green as can be.


  1. Susan,

    Thanks for finding this. Funny how the mainstream news media did not mention it. It’s times like this when it becomes apparent how important Garden Rant is to us all. I’ll spread the word from here.

  2. P.S. I received my copy of “The Green Gardener’s Guide” from Joe Lamp’l yesterday. Thanks so much.

    Joe does a wonderful job living up to the subtitle, “Simple, Significant Actions to Protect & Preserve Our Planet.” As I said, I’ll be taking it with me as I do my book tour around Florida. I know he’s preaching to the choir here, but there are so many folks who are not members of the choir. Maybe we can educate a few more.

  3. Cheers! Great news. I hope this will be gradually focused by the government and help to ease the burden about Global Warming. I’m being alarmed by this actually. Anyways, thanks for the post! I do hope you could update this from time to time. God Bless!

  4. That is very good news indeed! Now, if it would just spread to my little town…Where, by the way, the city fathers (and I do not use that term loosely) have decided they lose too much revenue when people practice water-wise gardening and lawn care.So the mayor, I sh*t you not, is now going around with a power point presentation that says “There’s no water problem! We have plenty of water! Really!”

    It. Is. A. Blatant. Lie.

    I may have to get a little p*ssed off here…

  5. This is awesome Susan – thanks for sharing the news. It’s encouraging, especially after reading about his ties with Monsanto and his views on GMOs.

  6. I work a lot with water conservation issues and completely understand your pain Susan T. Our city takes water from the water table instead of Lake Michigan, so even more so – water conservation is a vital concern.

    Fortunately, the Mayor of Warrenville, Illinois (my city) formed an Environmental Commission to help with such issues and it’s slow moving (as all government is), but is moving forward. I was the Chairman for the commission for a year and really learned a lot in the process about how government and conservation work together.

    Might I refer you to the Cool Mayors organization which has Mayors across the nation moving their cities towards better conservation. If you research the site, then approach the city with a signed petition of 500 people – – you might be absolutely surprised at his response. Here’s the website – .

    Meanwhile, I continue to speak around my state and the country about drought tolerant plantings which encourage less water usage. Some hard core environmentalists would say I should be preaching “natives”. And yes, I love natives, but the reality is the average consumer will not plant all natives in their yard (believe me – I’ve tried for nearly ten years now).

    SO – I’ve moved to a more strategic approach of encouraging drought tolerant perennials and plantings as well as more creative planting techniques which can save more water as well.

    Keep up the fight everyone!

    Also – thanks Susan for the nice write up. Very relevant and important right now.


  7. restroing 1,250 square feet of unnecessary concrete to lawn.


    Installing 1250 square feet of lawn and no neagative rants?

    A small victory for lawn lovers..but victory none the less.

    The (one lawn at a time) TROLL

  8. Well, I am happy to print a partial retraction. Our Sunday paper reports today that the mayor admits to a severe water shortage, but continues to blame shortfall in revenue in part on increased water conservation by the citizens. No argument with him at all there!

    In fact, he is advocating an overall increase in flat rates to pay for the capital expenses needed in order to bring water to the city (and not, as it was reported to me, necessarily advocating increased water use). The town council, on the other hand, says flat rates shouldn’t go up in order to pay for the needed funding.

    So the issue will be whether we pay an overall flat rate increase, or a “use” increase. I’m leaning toward use increase, since I think that will encourage more conservation, but whichever it is, I think we’ve gotten away with cheap water for decades, and the chickens are starting to come home to roost.

    But though conservation efforts were “blamed” in this morning’s article, nowhere did it advocate increasing usage in order to increase revenue. I happily stand corrected.

  9. Susan, thank you for passing on this story. It is encouraging, even if the concrete is being replaced with LAWN which is at least a pervious (is there such a word) surface that will help prevent rain runoff. And I am happy to learn about the Cool Mayors too. Each step has to count for something.

  10. The USDA is on the right track – but the PR needs to be ramped up – those of us who cover the local garden and green scene here got the notice AFTER the fact and then was only very sketchy on the details. Hope they plan to do more outreach as this rolls out.

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