Women in Lawn & Landscape is a column brought to you in partnership with the National Association of Landscape Professionals.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Giunta

The landscape industry fostered me from budding horticulturist to an innovative, creative and problem-solving leader over the last two decades. Like many of you who chose this career, it has not been easy to endure its challenges at times.

Collectively we faced tough times, but adversity led us to cherish our accomplishments and see this industry thrive. I believe there is a great opportunity for growth in the landscape industry by focusing on sustainability.

Our industry is uniquely positioned to embrace sustainability as a core tenant. I encourage all of us to think about incorporating sustainability into our business plans and operations.

When tragedy struck me personally, I realized how fleeting life can be, and I wanted to have a greater impact on the world. I turned away from finely manicured lawns and perfectly orchestrated annual displays for the perfectly imperfect world of green roofing. Many properties I worked as a landscaper had green roofs. Horticulturally interesting, green roofs reward my passion by directly combatting climate change which was my aha moment.

When I made the switch, my expertise was purely on the plant side of the business and green roofing involves much more; working with plants is great, but now I get to educate people on how much longer your roofing membrane lasts under a green roof. Now, fewer roofing membranes end up in landfills. The spirit of sustainability in practice.

Technically, many green roofs can retain over a gallon of rain per square foot, guaranteeing less runoff pollution in our waterways. Sedums as CAM plants are highly efficient and keep the ambient temperature on the roof below 85°F on hot summer days because of evapotranspiration, reducing urban heat island effect and allowing our HVAC systems to run efficiently, less energy and cooler buildings.

There are also physiological benefits to human interactions and visualization of plants, insects, butterflies, birds and bees on the roof, biophilia. Clients learn that those plants are creating food and shelter for pollinators and other wildlife essential to our survival.

Green roofs provide spaces for our clients to use as a retreat, a place of tranquility, as stress reduction to connect with their environment in a nontraditional space. Green roofs affect us more deeply than a few words can describe. It’s an interconnected web of cause and positive downstream effect.

From a basic sedum space to a multifaceted landscape on structure, to the all-important vegetable garden, I challenge all landscapers to think sustainability and look up. There are a lot of cool gardens above and we need your help installing more and maintaining them. I know there are challenges working on roofs, but with proper training and equipment, those challenges can be met and sustainability can be achieved. Check out Green Roofs for Healthy Cities for more information and I look forward to seeing you on a roof soon.

Editor’s note: Jennifer Giunta is an active member of the National Association of Landscape Professionals Women in Landscape Network (powered by Bayer) which provides a forum for industry professionals to support each other’s professional growth. The Network is free to all industry professionals.