7th Annual Sustainable Backyard Tour June 11

Sustainable Backyard Tour

By Terry Winkelmann

Cats are great. Dogs are great, too. Anything you can snuggle up to that snuggles back, tends to be great. The Earth can be harder to snuggle, given its immensity and many sharp, pointy things and oh…snakes. But if you love the Earth as much as the cats and dogs that only the EARTH makes possible, as much as we love our kids and each other, it’s time we tell our lovely planet just how much we’d really like to snuggle.
Sounds difficult, but it’s not really. You could slather on the sunscreen and stretch out in a meadow. Plant an apple tree, pat the soil around it and gently water. Go camping in one of Missouri’s many beautiful parks and listen to the woods at night. All good, snuggly options.

And if you’re in town on Sunday, June 11th this year, you might also attend the Sustainable Backyard Tour. Now in its 7th year, the tour is an unusual animal. It’s free. Everyone is welcome. It takes place in private yards all over the St. Louis region. And it’s snuggly.

A grassroots, all-volunteer event, The Sustainable Backyard Tour recognizes that we flourish or fail together, that it is up to us as individuals and communities to share what we know and do better.

This year there are more than 40 locations on the Tour that you can walk, bike or drive to on your own self-guided route. There is no starting point. The addresses of the yards along with a short description of what kinds of organic, best practices you can see in each, will be available beginning June 1st online and at select locations around town (see website for details).

You’ll see organic vegetable gardens, chicken coops, beehives, native plants, rain gardens, solar panels and much more. You’ll hear about companion plants, beneficial insects, permeable surfaces, growing mushrooms, and ways to design your landscaping to help cool your home in summer.

By our definition, a sustainable backyard is a landscape that works with nature rather than against it; that does minimal harm by its presence or maintenance; that enhances and restores the natural ecosystem and contributes positively to the health of all creatures—human, wildlife, companion animals, pollinators, bees, chickens, and microorganisms alike.

Conventional gardening and landscaping relies on synthetic fertilizer derived from petroleum, immense amounts of water, and materials transported from across the world at a high cost to the environment in an artificial attempt to create some kind of imagined perfection. Some 70 million pounds of pesticides are applied to American residential lawns and gardens annually, destroying soil health, polluting water, contributing to honeybee colony collapse, and more, as if that’s not enough.

By contrast, a Sustainable Backyard takes an approach of partnering with nature to create healthy, whole environments that feed both soul and body.

While we strive to have at least a few sites within walking or biking distance of each other, our host yards stretch across the metropolitan area.

We suggest you pack a refillable water bottle, sunscreen and umbrella just in case. Also, please leave your pets safely at home –- other creatures in most yards would prefer to be left alone, and the car is no place for your dog to wait.

The Sustainable Backyard Tour is an opportunity for people to cross over the back fence, to talk about ways to live more lightly on the Earth, sharing the Earth’s abundant gifts and appreciating its limited resources, without wasting and disrespecting that amazing creature: the biosphere.

If you want to spend a day outdoors with people more inclined to snuggle the Earth than deplete the warehouse, visit the website www.sustainablebackyardtour.com and we’ll see you out there on June 11th.

Terry Winkelmann is Founder of The Sustainable Backyard Tour and a Co-President of Slow Food St. Louis. Tour sponsors include: EFS Energy, Kitchen House Coffee, Greenscape Gardens, Rome West Realty, Isabee’s Beekeeping Supplies, Kakao Chocolate, Bailey’s Restaurants,Gateway Greening, St. Louis Audubon Society, The Gateway Gardener and The Healthy Planet Magazine.