6th Annual Sustainable Backyard Tour Set For June 12

By Terry Winkelmann

You may have heard of — or even gone on — a unique event in St. Louis called The Sustainable Backyard Tour. This year, June 12th will be the sixth year for the tour — a free open-house-style peek into private yards and gardens throughout the city and county.
Why is it called a Backyard Tour instead of a Garden Tour? A home’s outdoor space has a great impact on the environment–from the energy consumed in mowing or transporting decorative stones from across the world to the way we manage water and dispose of waste. Many of our hosts are avid gardeners, but there’s much more to consider.

A sustainable, or eco-friendly yard, at its most basic causes minimal harm to the environment in its creation and maintenance. Ideally, the Sustainable Backyard uses water wisely; encourages beneficial insects and soil microorganisms; eschews synthetic pesticides, transforms kitchen waste into compost; employs human- or solar-powered equipment to mow and trim; builds with sustainable or recycled materials; minimizes the use of resource-intensive lawns and non-native plants and demonstrates responsible backyard abundance, organically growing or raising food.

By showcasing healthy examples of chemical-free, organic landscapes, the tour sets out to encourage and inspire. It’s the “I can do that” tour! Self-nominating, hosts showcase best practices for plant selection, waste reduction, habitat protection, resource conservation and more. You’ll see it all: from lawn alternatives, imaginative uses for recycled materials, natural beekeeping, and growing fruit and veggies, to rainwater harvesting, renewable energy production, and of course, chickens!

The number of hosts varies each year, but there are always more than 20 from which to choose. Experience levels and approaches vary, too, from those just getting started—where you can learn how to plan a layout or solarize a lawn—to well-established urban paradises.

You can read the hosts’ descriptions online beginning in June, then design your own route and set your own pace, choosing addresses closest to you or to your interests.

This year’s tour will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 12. Maps will be available at sponsors and select public library branches, as well as at the Green Homes Festival on June 4th at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

The tour is free, but by registering to attend you will be entered into a drawing for prizes, including a solar gadget bag donated by local solar installer EFS Energy.

A grassroots production, the tour is made possible in part by Slow Food St. Louis, St. Louis Earth Day, St. Louis Jefferson Solid Waste Management District and the Wm. A. Kerr Foundation with additional support from local businesses including Greenscape Gardens, Kitchen House Coffee, Larder & Cupboard and Rainwater Harvesting Supply Co., among others.

Community partners include the Audubon Society of St. Louis, Saint Louis Beekeepers, EarthWays Center of the Missouri Botanical Garden, Missouri Prairie Foundation/Grow Native!, Revitalize St. Louis and media partners Gateway Gardener and The Healthy Planet magazine.

For descriptions and locations visit our website: www.sustainablebackyardtour.com.