Green Tour Volunteer Spotlight: Kerie Raymond

Our annual Green Tour highlights innovation in sustainable design while still demonstrating how everyday people can save energy at home and at work. Kerie Raymond, a naturopathic Doctor at Hawthorne Healing Arts Center, has volunteered during this event for the past five years! Kerie has personal interests that align with the Green Tour, including energy efficiency and reducing her carbon footprint. Kerie has seen the event grow beyond residential homes and new construction to more businesses and retrofits, and enjoys seeing guests learn what they can apply to their homes.

While volunteering, Kerie reflected on gaining a lot of time with different people, including builders, home and business owners, and community members. Kerie appreciates the opportunity to increase her knowledge and to be able to spread her experiences beyond the Green Tour to inspire Central Oregonians to make a change under their own roofs.

“The Green Tour is a part of the environmental influence that makes Bend, Bend,” Kerie shared.

Green Tour volunteers greet guests as they arrive at each home of the Tour, help collect information, and answer questions. Whether you’re brand new or have worked in the energy efficiency industry for decades, it’s a great way to build your network and learn what steps people in our community are taking to save energy and go solar. This year, we’re excited to showcase residential retrofits, commercial sites, irrigation systems, and electric vehicles.

Everyone is encouraged to volunteer, even if you’re completely new to energy efficiency, although most volunteers join to share their personal interests. Sign up for your shift here!

Green Spotlight: Tyler Wilson

Tyler is a sustainability educator at The Environmental Center, helping to deliver our growing EarthSmart program to even more schools. He teaches at Bear Creek Elementary, Pine Ridge Elementary, and Jewell Elementary. Tyler’s creativity and education background are a great asset to our youth ed team; he’s even provided our lessons with some refreshing updates! You can spot him riding his bike all over town, strapped down with EarthSmart materials – even our worm compost bin.

More about Tyler in his own words…

Where can we find you when you’re not working?

Hopefully outside! Whether I’m biking, hiking, running, or cross-country skiing, I love moving around in nature.  When I’m out on a quiet road or trail, I feel more alive. I breathe more deeply, think more freely, and exist in a genuine way I rarely feel indoors.

If you were to share a lecture on one topic you’re passionate about, what would you discuss?

I would share a lecture on the what, why, and how of mindfulness: what it is, why it’s important, and how to incorporate it into your busy life.

Recently, I have become very interested in mindfulness and meditation.  For the past month, I’ve been trying to meditate a little bit every day. For a few minutes every morning, I simply sit still and observe my thoughts.  This practice has been helping me to live in the present moment.  When I am more present and mindful, I am more flexible and creative when problems arise.  Also, I am better able to achieve goals both large and small.

What’s your favorite sustainable practice at home?

I love cooking and eating delicious vegan food!  In terms of personal sustainability, eating a plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.  According to the book Drawdown, a “Plant-Rich Diet” is the 4th most important change humans can make to reverse climate change. Also, vegan food is delicious and fun! If you’re want to learn more about vegan cooking, check out the vegan cookbook section at the public library.

Green Spotlight: Kersey Marion

With donor support, The Environmental Center accomplishes a lot with a relatively small team of staff, Board of Directors, and several amazing volunteers and interns. And we consider ourselves very lucky that Kersey Marion has committed so much time and energy to make our work possible! Kersey has helped out in several programs and continues to find new ways to lend a hand and stay connected to our work, whether she’s digging in our Learning Garden or organizing the Earth Day Parade. She has a positive attitude, unwavering enthusiasm, and a leadership presence that is both inspiring and appreciated here at TEC. Kersey creates space each week to check in with our team to see what can be done to make an impact around here. Right now, she is providing marketing support around our Energy Challenge program while Lindsey is on maternity leave. What a difference this makes!

We’re so impressed with Kersey’s participation in our local community – in addition to her role at Commute Options, she also serves on the Board of Oregon Green Schools and supports several other local organizations and events. We are very grateful to see Kersey not only involved in our mission, but as a deeply engaged community member who is making Central Oregon a better place to live, work, and play.

Thank you so much for all you do, Kersey! 


In her words…

Kersey and her pup, Glory.

The Environmental Center is where community and advocacy meet in beautiful harmony. It’s a place to learn about our living environment and how we can better support it. It brings people together to explore in the dirt and clean up our trash. Most of all, I volunteer with The Environmental Center because of the supportive and passionate staff. Being of service is a value I hold high and the people at TEC allow me to embrace that while making sure that I’m learning along the way. What they do for our community has endless importance and I am always happy to make their jobs a little easier.

Currently, I am the Walking School Bus and Volunteer Coordinator for Commute Options. The program provides a service to students in the Central Oregon region who have culture and infrastructure barriers, making it difficult for them to have access to walking to school. The Walking School Bus program employs adults to lead groups of students to and from school on planned routes. As the Volunteer Coordinator, I have the opportunity to work with community members who want to lend a hand.

If you were to share a lecture on one topic you’re passionate about, what would you discuss?

I would share the importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion trainings for our community, both for our work and personal environments. No matter where you live, there are people from different socioeconomic classes, races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations, to name a few. We need to do the work in order to gain the necessary skills to know that we are inviting everyone and implementing inclusive practices every day.

Where would you most like to go in the world that you haven’t visited yet?

My next travel adventure will hopefully be to Italy with my mom. She has lived in Florida her entire life and has always wanted to wander around the art museums and eat all of the delicious food in Italy. It would be such a privilege to be the one who accompanies her to her favorite place that she’s never been to.

What’s your favorite sustainable practice at home?

Composting! Turning our food scraps, yard clippings and cardboard boxes into nutrient filled soil for our garden is a blast. We have our own science experiment growing in our yard. For me, it’s a way to reconnect to the Earth and contribute to our food system. 

Green Spotlight: Tatiana Guerra

“You look busy, how can I help?”

Let’s just say Tatiana Guerra is a super volunteer. And we mean really super.

Tatiana is on the right!

We met Tatiana in the spring of 2017 when her AmeriCorps NCCC team was based at The Environmental Center. Her team, Blue 3, primarily worked on our Energy Challenge program.

“We went around to houses and installed LED light bulbs, water efficient shower heads, and sink aerators in people’s homes,” she said. “Part of our team also stayed in the office to set up the schedule, answer phone calls, and take appointments.”

Blue 3 also helped in other departments – working in the garden each week and helping with outdoor school days, the Earth Day Fair, and a Repair Cafe.

When we received a phone call from Tati about 1.5 years later, we were thrilled to hear that she was moving to Bend! She told us that her time at The Environmental Center gave her a glimpse into life in Central Oregon, and she thought it would be a great place to live, play, and work. Once she decided to make Bend home, it’s no surprise she made her way back to The Environmental Center as a reliable volunteer, dedicated to helping our team in so many ways.

It’s common for Tatiana to reach out and simply ask, “What’s going on? Can I help with anything?” (How amazing is that?) We’re so grateful for her enthusiasm and positive attitude! She is currently supporting the same Energy Challenge program, prepping marketing materials and sending out letters, and assisting with the 2018 Green Tour. She’s also gotten involved in our Rethink Waste Program, preparing Eat First baskets that help people reduce wasted food. We’ve called on Tati to help with last-minute event support, data entry tasks, and more – and she’s been there! All of these actions make a big difference for our organization, and help us to achieve our mission.

Since moving back to Bend, Tati has continued on a service-based career path. She’s working with Commute Options, primarily with the Safe Routes to School program, educating students on bicycle and pedestrian safety. She also works for Bend Park and Recreation District in the Therapeutic Recreation Department. Here, she takes folks hiking, ice skating, cooking, fencing, and more.

If you can’t tell, we appreciate Tatiana’s dependability, upbeat energy, and all the time she’s given to our team. She’s a great advocate for us out in the community, and it’s evident that she is committed to making Central Oregon a better place. Thank you for all you do, Tatiana!

And just for fun, here is a little more about Tati in her own words.

Where can we find you when you’re not working?

When I’m not working you can find me on my bike, skiing in the winter, hiking and canoeing in the summer, enjoying coffee at a local shop, and of course, volunteering at TEC. 🙂

Where would you most like to visit in the world? 

I would LOVE to visit more of Asia…maybe Nepal or Cambodia. I visited India and China this past year and fell in love.

How do you practice sustainability in daily life? 

My favorite (and easy to remember!) sustainable practice is turning the heat off when not home, and turning all the lights off. Many folks forget that money and energy can be saved by simply flipping a switch.

Green Spotlight: Bend Montessori School

On any given day of the week, around lunch time at The Environmental Center, it’s common to hear the laughs of preschoolers drifting upstairs to our office from the Kansas Ave. Learning Garden below. If you look out the window, you’ll see an excited group of Bend Montessori students in reflective vests (as they just safely walked across the street) who are now enjoying outdoor play time – digging in the garden beds, raking around gravel, and climbing on trees and picnic tables.

Bend Montessori School has been our neighbor since they opened their current location in 2013. Owner Jessica Born, Miss Jessica, has created a special place for 3-6 year olds and their families. Bend Montessori School’s mission is to cultivate the human potential in an authentic Montessori program. At school, students demonstrate a respect and love for themselves, others, and the world.

The school is in close proximity to The Environmental Center’s Kansas Avenue Learning Garden, Troy Field, and Mary Jane Park. Outdoor play occurs each day, and the children get to choose where they’d like to go. Being able to offer an outdoor play experience so close to the school is a huge part of the unique Bend Montessori approach. Born explained that unstructured play time allows the kids to discover a lot in the moment, and have a sensory experience that changes with each season. This has been a compelling draw for many of the Bend Montessori families. And even though these outdoor spaces may not have playground equipment, there’s no shortage of fun to be had in any weather!

Bend Montessori School manages three beds in our Learning Garden. One is full of strawberries that return each year; and one is used for practicing how to use garden tools and watering cans – the “digging bed,” as they call it. The students are also sprouting seeds using wet cotton balls back in the classroom. As soon as they sprout, the kids will transplant beans, sunflowers and corn to their third garden bed.

Miss Jessica’s favorite time of year is when children are able to experience the height of growing season, when food is being produced right before their eyes.

“When a child can pluck something from the vine or stem and taste it right then and there, it creates an instant connection to their food,” she said.

We’ve witnessed firsthand the kids’ excitement over chives, tomatoes, hot peppers and berries. Recently, chives have been the biggest hit! Miss Jessica said even the most selective eaters are willing to try new foods in the garden.

Students are also introduced to garden insects – butterflies, lady bugs and bees. Back in the classroom, students care for “Lady Bug Land” and raise caterpillars in a lesson about the process of transformation. In fact, the class will release newly emerged painted lady butterflies in our Learning Garden this week. The students also learn about the importance of bees and other pollinators. Throughout the season, they observe and become comfortable with our beehive in the Learning Garden. Eventually, they will differentiate bees from wasps and hornets, and begin to understand bees’ function in nature.

Miss Jessica is also committed to exposing families to alternate modes of transportation. She strongly encourages families to walk or ride bikes to school – and many do! In addition, she enjoys educating our community about riding the bus. Bend Montessori takes two field trips per year, and they take the bus roundtrip to their destinations. This provides the kids with a sensory learning experience, and it also encourages the parents to look more seriously at public transportation, since their kids are participating in the outings.

The first field trip is to Base Camp Studio, where students craft a group costume for our annual Earth Day Parade. Earth Month is a big theme in the Bend Montessori classroom, largely due to their relationship with The Environmental Center. In 2017 the class dressed up as buzzing bees in a swam; and this year, they were slithering snakes.

The second field trip is to Knott Landfill, a very visual experience for this age group. The excursion really drives home what kids practice in the classroom – sorting recyclables using labeled bins, and composting fruit and veggies. While at the landfill, students AND parents learn where our garbage ends up when it goes ‘away’.

“Through both of these field trips each year, we’re supporting our families through education, as well,” said Born.

Miss Jessica and the staff of Bend Montessori will wrap up the school year with a picnic in June. Learn more about the school here – check out upcoming events, sign up for an introduction workshop, and read more about the unique Bend Montessori community!

Green Spotlight: HeartSprings Landscape Design

HeartSprings Landscape Design has been celebrating our unique high desert terrain since 1991, offering landscape services ranging from concept design through construction and beyond. The common thread between each project is an emphasis on sustainable, native landscapes and natural designs that work in harmony with our surroundings. In doing so, they create beautiful,functional outdoor spaces that emphasize the beauty of Central Oregon! These landscapes are thoughtfully created to be very low maintenance which leaves more time to play and enjoy what you love.

At the core of HeartSprings is owner and founder Chris Hart-Henderson, a licensed landscape contractor and long-time Bendite who studied landscape architecture at Oregon State University. Chris is very involved in our community, as a storm water consultant, a steward of our river, and a mentor/teacher. She has taught for COCC, OSU Master Gardeners, City of Bend, High Desert Green Industry, and more.

While talking to Chris, it was immediately apparent that she’s completely in love with Central Oregon and all of its beauty. Her career in landscape design allows her to spend time outdoors – but it also has taught her a lot about living lightly on the planet, and what it takes to be a good steward of the land. Chris knows that how we care for our land matters, because everything is connected. Our watershed, the land, animals, and humans all play a part that contributes to a healthy landscape and community.

According to Chris, practicing business with sustainability in mind is a natural response to living in Central Oregon for so long. Over time, she’s seen how population growth has had an impact on our region. She believes everyone needs to be more conscious of ways to reduce our footprint, especially in a rapidly growing community. So she keeps this in mind while running her business!

HeartSprings’ focus is on restoration, sustainability, and creating native, natural landscapes. “I love outdoor living, and want to make it easy and appealing for people,” said Chris.

HeartSprings works mostly on residential projects, and is currently completing work over in the Tree Farm and Brasada neighborhoods. Chris also jumps on board for many remodels projects, and especially enjoys rural projects just outside of Bend. She really enjoys working with newcomers to the area, because it provides an opportunity to educate them on how to care for our local landscape.

Chris also enjoys being involved in a project as early as possible. This allows for the best synergy and collaboration between herself, the homeowner and other key partners who help execute the vision. She plays the lead role and oversees projects to make sure the vision comes to life. This also allows her to advise on important issues like how to water effectively and conserve where possible; bring pollinators to the garden year-round; and incorporate native and/or edible plants.

HeartSprings’ style and approach to native landscaping has gleaned them several awards. The company was involved of Phase I of the local Desert Rain home – the first single family project in the world to be awarded full certification under the strict international guidelines of the Living Building Challenge.

“I learned a lot from working on Desert Rain, and felt even more inspired to source materials locally and find ways to reduce waste,” said Chris.

They were also recently awarded first place in the 2017 “Rethinking the Future” Sustainability Awards in the category of Residences (built).

RTF is an international association dedicated to sustainable architecture. For this home, HeartSprings helped to design extensive exterior terraces for outdoor living, plus a large fully fenced edible garden and orchard.

So what’s on the horizon for Chris and HeartSprings Landscape Design? Going forward, Chris is striving to go completely paperless – not an easy task, but an important one! She also plans to continue her collaborative relationships with clients and other partners in town, sharing resources, exchanging knowledge, and creating a stronger sense of community.

We encourage you to check out their website to learn even more about this green business, see project photos, and more! You can also reach out to Chris at (541) 280-3036, or info@heartspringsdesign.com. 

Green Spotlight: Stemach Design + Architecture

Maybe you haven’t heard of Stemach Design + Architecture, but chances are you’re familiar with The Restore, Immersion Brewing, Spoken Moto, The Bite in Tumalo, La Pine Community Health Center, and 10 Barrel Brewing’s Galveston Pub. Well, these are just a few of the projects that Stemach Design has worked on around Central Oregon. A few weeks ago, we sat down with Rachel and Stacey Stemach, Owners and Architects, to learn more about their firm’s dedication to sustainability.

Stemach Design, founded in 2013, is conveniently located in the Box Factory – which is also one of their current projects, as the area gets renovated to accommodate new tenants and a pedestrian promenade. Their office space is beautifully designed, as you would imagine. But it’s also super efficient, with a ductless heat pump and operable skylights and windows to heat and cool the office. Most days, bikes can be found in the front entryway, as employees are encouraged to bike to work and participate in Commute Options programs. On days when Stacey and Rachel don’t bike, they drive their all-electric vehicle to the office.

It’s immediately clear that they both care deeply for Central Oregon and wish to contribute to a sustainable, vibrant community. Sustainability efforts are intrinsic to who they are. It’s seen in their personal lives, how they operate their business, and in the designs they provide for clients. They lead by example, and it’s helped them carve out a unique niche here in town. (For those of you who attended Green Drinks at Stemach Design in July 2017, you got to see first-hand the passion and energy that’s stirring within this firm!)

Rachel grew up in Bend, so she’s witnessed the consistent growth and development in our region. This inspired her to become an active Historic Landmark Commissioner, who helps property owners preserve historically and architecturally significant buildings and districts.

Stacey plays a role in city planning at the micro and macro levels. He’s helped advise on the future of Bend’s sewer system and on the recent urban growth boundary expansion. He’s also currently involved in the new Bend Central District Initiative, which is building momentum for a mixed-use neighborhood with safe connections between east and west Bend.

Ultimately, they both want to see a more walkable and bikeable community, and for homes and businesses to be built in a way that encourages solar and smart growth for Bend. And they’re actively engaging in our community to help make this happen.

Stemach Design works mostly on commercial projects. They do a few residential projects – mostly home additions and remodels. When they’re involved in new construction, they first and foremost consider how the building is connected to the site. They try to leverage solar orientation, build a tight envelope, and design energy-efficient systems throughout the project. Stacey talked about the importance of ‘making little tweaks’ wherever possible, so that the end product is more efficient and healthy than the client may have even planned for. In addition, Stemach Design is knowledgeable about all the available incentives through Energy Trust of Oregon, and helps coordinate these rebates on behalf of their clients.

We asked both Stacey and Rachel about what drives them to be green.

“I want to leave our community better for the future,” said Rachel.

“I want to tread lightly and have a smaller footprint,” said Stacey. “Which means I have to apply my values to everything we do here at the firm. We have to walk the talk.”

So, what’s on the horizon? They’re busy to say the least, working on the expansion of Crux Fermentation Project, On Tap (a new food truck lot in NE Bend), a historic rehabilitation of the Tetherow Homestead in Redmond, and remodeling Ruffwear into a new co-working space for the outdoor industry.  Visit Stemach Design’s website (and follow them on social media) to learn more and see some of their beautiful work!

Green Spotlight: Cascade Financial Strategies

Last week, we met with Jack Schniepp and Neal Richards at Cascade Financial Strategies. This duo is located in an office near the Old Mill, and extends financial planning and investment management services to all of Central Oregon. CFS occupies a unique niche in our community – one that not only sets them apart from other financial planners, but also lands them in our Green Spot Directory!

If you’re unfamiliar with Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), here’s a quick breakdown. SRI is an investment strategy that analyzes investments on their social merits in addition to their return and economic merits. CFS is the only firm in Central Oregon that is a member of the US/SIF, The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment. This means they’re able to help clients choose investments that align with their values – whether that’s around company ethics, environmental issues, human rights, or more. During our discussion, Jack emphasized that this type of strategy can generate long-term financial returns AND positive societal impact. In today’s world, you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other; it can be a true win-win.

Over the course of his career, Jack said that he’s seen an increased interest in SRI throughout our community, which is reflective of what’s happening on a national and even international scale. To share what they’ve learned, Jack and Neal maintain a really great resource in the form of a blog at SRIbend.com, which shares educational information on this investment strategy.

The story of Jack’s approach to investment management is a really great one. His children, teenagers at the time, really enjoyed chocolate bars. Eventually the topic of fair trade and non-fair trade practices was brought up, specifically around chocolate brands and where the cocoa came from. Jack found himself under scrutiny from his kids in regards to which companies he engaged with on behalf of his clients. So he began researching SRI to see if this made sense for his clients – and for the world, too. This sparked a new interest and passion, and it didn’t take long for Jack to become an expert on what is now called ‘impact investing.’ In 2013, Jack left Wells Fargo to work independently and start CFS.

I had a lot of fun chatting with Jack and Neal, and it was apparent they both value a sustainable lifestyle and a healthy community. I was excited to learn that Jack commutes to work via bicycle, and Neal gets around (and transports his kids) via a pretty impressive electric scooter. Check this thing out!

If you’re interested in learning more about this local Green Spot, and about SRI, Jack will be holding a seminar here at The Environmental Center on Thursday, November 16th @ 4pm. (RSVP here) During the workshop, Jack will walk attendees through an impact assessment. This tool can tell you how well your current portfolio matches your own personal values, and which companies or investments you own that don’t line up with SRI guidelines. If you’d like to check this out for yourself in advance, you can also sign up for an impact assessment on the CFS website.

Stay tuned for more Green Spot blogs, where we’ll highlight sustainable, local businesses in our community.

Green Spotlight: Windflower Farm

This month, TEC made a visit out to Windflower Farm, a beautiful 20-acre farm located just 15 miles east of Bend. Windflower Farm is dedicated to growing gourmet-quality vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers. It’s also home to Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) livestock, including laying hens, dairy goats and heritage pigs.

The farm has been a Green Spot for many years. In fact, they use The Environmental Center as their central drop-off location for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares! We already knew that the farm, owned and managed by Gigi Meyer, practices sustainable farming methods: no chemical herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers. But we wanted to take a tour of the property and learn a little more about Gigi, Windflower Farm, and what they offer the Central Oregon community.

Gigi has loved and felt connected to nature all of her life. When she started the farm in 2005, she really wanted to foster biodiversity on her land. This is evident in several ways. For example, the animals provide compost for growing healthy fruits and vegetables, and she uses goats to help control weeds. In 2009, Gigi acquired even more land next door – her father’s property – what she now calls the “North Farm.” She has been working more than 10 years to continually improve her soil, select the right seeds, and plant at just the right time. All of this careful calculation means she doesn’t need to use any amount of toxic chemicals. Plus she’s found that crop rotation and cover cropping help ensure a healthy and vibrant ecosystem.

Gigi and I walked the entire farm, which was the highlight of my week! She pointed out all sorts of delicious food including grapes and ‘dragon tongue’ beans; showed me beautiful floral arrangements on the way to Jackson’s Corner and Newport Market; and introduced me to her goats, chickens, horses and pigs. Along the way she would stop to water down compost piles, chat with her interns about that day’s harvest, and feed the pigs, who were digging up turnips and playing in the mud. I learned about companion planting, where plants are strategically placed together to help one another thrive (like marigolds and tomatoes). And we also saw several pollinators like giant bumblebees, enjoying all the colorful flowers interspersed throughout the land. It was really evident that everything on the farm was a piece of a larger system that worked together in harmony!

One of my first thoughts was that managing 20 acres is no easy task. I learned that Gigi works with Rogue Farm Corps to employ a few interns each growing season. In order to make sure this is a successful partnership, Gigi provides them with housing on the farm – a large house next to her own home, where each intern is in close proximity to work and other personal projects. (For example, one intern is currently raising ducks on the land!) Gigi also teaches an animal husbandry class for Rogue Farm Corps. I was really impressed with her dedication to passing on her knowledge to others.

“I want to be involved with and encourage the next generation of sustainable farming,” she said.

Gigi acknowledged that farming in the high desert has its challenges. However, she has invested a lot of time to find the best watering solutions for her needs while conserving as much as possible. She uses a combination of drip and overhead sprinklers, which either run super early at 4am or during overnight hours. Gigi is also dedicated to producing as little food waste as possible, and manages inventory so that they almost always sell out of product to regular clients and CSA. Some of her regular clients include Pronghorn Resort, Brasada Ranch, Central Oregon Locavore and Agricultural Connections. 

What Gigi has created is a great regional model for small-scale, biodiverse, farm-to-table agriculture. Windflower Farm gives locals the opportunity to participate in community supported agriculture, which helps to maintain socially responsible, environmentally friendly acreage right here in our own backyard. Plus, the farm contributes to the health of our community and provides meaningful employment for several of our fellow community members.

If you’re interested in supporting Windflower Farms while enjoying many organic foods, you can sign up for a full season or on-demand tote bag with fruits, veggies and herbs. Or, check out their raw milk herd share, egg CSA, and flower CSA. You can read more and sign up for these offerings at the Windflower Farm website. I also highly recommend that you keep Windflower Farm in mind for your upcoming special event or wedding! The floral arrangements I saw were AMAZING, and the flower bouquets dropped off here at The Environmental Center are extremely beautiful. 

Thanks to Gigi for showing me around the farm! Here are a few photos from the tour that day.

Green Spotlight: The Giggling Gardener

What does everyone love about Bend? The beautiful landscape and abundance of nature, of course! The outdoor playground of Central Oregon is known for its mountain vistas, expansive forests, and crystal clear lakes. Bringing wilderness into city limits is at the core of a local landscaping business owned by Jenny MacAulay – otherwise known as The Giggling Gardener. Her gardening and landscaping business is known for putting the environment first.

Jenny’s been gardening since she was little, working on her mother’s garden with five siblings, but didn’t fully realize her love for nature until she finished guiding in Baja California and Alaska. Wanting to continue working outdoors and helping the environment, she started her business in Bend in 2000 and partnered with John Luciano, who has been designing and building landscapes in Bend since 1995.

“No shortcuts!” she said to me when we discussed the values of her work.

They make sure to keep gardens clean by using vinegar and compost as opposed to pesticides and fertilizer. Keeping the big picture in mind, her gardens are composed of native plants, which keeps the soil happy and conserves water.

Jenny had some interesting information for me in regards to the landscaping business: “Green isn’t always green.”

Confused? She explained that sometimes landscapers and gardeners will use damaging chemicals to keep plants and grass green, and fossil-fuel powered machinery like mowers and blowers to make a garden neat and tidy. It’s no secret that maintaining a lush lawn here in Central Oregon is difficult and can use a lot of resources. So Jenny suggests a shift in perspective on how we manage these green spaces.

For example, we can accept that some weeds here and there is OK, as they are a sign of what’s happening in the soil and this provides helpful information. When you do need to get rid of some unwanted weeds, consider hand picking. In addition, we can consider improving soil with compost and grass-cycling – a practice where you leave mulched clippings on the lawn while mowing, thereby reducing the need for nitrogen fertilizer by 60%! Lastly, there’s usually an opportunity to reduce the size of a lawn, and perhaps building a native garden space instead. These types of landscapes help conserve water, and if designed correctly, can also help attract pollinators, too!  

You can see plenty of the Giggling Gardener’s work around town, and Jenny’s business is a quality example of incorporating green practices into an everyday businesses. From using environmentally-conscious materials to limiting driving, her business sets an example we can all learn from!