California convert sees ‘green’ business opportunities

Is sustainable landscaping for dummies?

  • Feb. 18, 2011 2:00 p.m.

Owen Dell was the keynote speaker at a xeriscaping seminar held in Kelowna on Friday.

Is sustainable landscaping for dummies?

Well, Owen Dell at least penned the book.

The well-known landscape architect was in Kelowna on Friday to give a seminar on xeriscaping, hawk a few copies of Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies and tell everyone in attendance, from fellow architects to civil servants to landscapers, how there is plenty of growth potential for environmentally-friendly entrepreneurs willing to make a real difference with their work.

“Every week it seems like something new and interesting comes up,” said Dell, as he showcased some of the more unique ventures waiting for a savvy business person or champion to turn a nice profit.

Dell was quite clear he has no qualms about making money of sustainable landscaping ventures and sees no reason others should shy away from the opportunity either, noting there’s nothing wrong with earning a living while doing something good.

“We all have to earn a living, if nothing else,” he said.

“Money is neither good, nor bad—it’s neutral.”

From his permeable driveway made of a sandless concrete to green roofs, bioswales and grey-water use, Dell encouraged his audience to lead the way by developing a niche.

He said the downturn in the economy doesn’t mean anyone should be scraping out gutters and trimming lawns to eke out a living.

In fact, while times may be tough in the industry, the activist and author sees taking the time to repurpose as yielding positive returns.

He has worked with Andrew Lipske, the founder of Tree People, and relayed how the water conservationist managed to convince the powers that be to skip raising the river in Los Angeles and invest in fixing the region’s watershed instead.

“Rainwater is not a waste product,” he said.

“Rainwater is what we need to keep going and we’re not going to throw it away anymore.”

Dell cautioned he would also like to see the landscaping industry start doing an honest analysis of whether initiatives and solutions are in fact as green as they seem, however.

Rather than weigh into the greenwashing controversy, the speaker said simply it’s worth evaluating whether things like water collection cisterns are worth the environmental impact to make, noting they fit well in some communities but not in others.

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