Backyard Sustainability with Ed Alexander


I met Ed years ago at regional technology and sustainability forum events over a discussion about sustainable best practices. Ed and his firm, Cura, helped Grant Purdy (BHP Billiton), the risk management maven; shape the global standard for risk management, the ISO 31000. After this successful executive career, Ed parachuted out and took some time to evaluate his future and decided it was going to move toward embracing and enabling sustainable best practices in every way he could.

As a seasoned consultant, he now modernizes sales and marketing operations for high growth companies.   Ed Alexander started as chief blogger of and now runs his sales, marketing, media and event firm called Fan Foundry. Ed particularly focuses on organizations that demonstrate and are committed to the “triple bottom line”- People, Planet, Profits – approach to business. His clients range from the Global 500 to innovative small businesses.

He emphasizes, “The greatest challenge for most of my clients are the people. Biases people have towards sustainability run the gamut from “its not my job”, “I recycle, what more is needed?” to “I understand climate change, but I don’t know what to do about it.” His speaking engagements address these biases and start conversations about human nature, actionable thinking and how to take action. (More about this coming soon.)

He also founded a sustainable non-profit foundation venture, Social Climate Group. In this social venue, Ed blogs about balancing content, community & commerce for environmentally responsible organizations.

Ed’s best advice to beginning entrepreneurs, sustainable practitioners and business owners?

“Cultivate an independent and inquisitive mind. Think about when you dismiss a subject or are asked to dismiss a subject. It may be an opportunity. Both the risk of not taking action and the risk of taking action need to be considered.”

Understanding our choices and the impact they have on the world around us (economically, socially, culturally, as well as environmentally) is one of the most sustainable exercises you can practice. Making smarter choices just may get us on our way to a more sustainable world.

But today, I’m writing about Ed’s backyard, an example of sustainability and engagement. I have been hearing about his garden for years and decided to visit his home near Boston, to check out his version of a sustainable wildflower garden he started years ago when it was just a piece of woodland.

He located the large garden above the pipes he installed for his septic system leeching field. It is a self-irrigating and successfully propagating wildflower garden that continually blooms in a parade of rainbow colors throughout the year.

He placed low growing Juniper around the perimeter, added ice plants around the wall that soften its edge, irises, geraniums, cornflowers, salvias, buttercups, naturally growing grasses, daisies, digitalis, poppies, sunflowers, to mention a few. Ed says that reducing lawn size with this type of garden reduces irrigation needs, water usage, and makes new friends and better neighbors.

This gardener does not use any toxic or petroleum based chemicals for his garden. He uses iron pellets and employs some of the same practices as smart sustainable golf course landscapers. He suggests adding a little white clover to your lawn to add nitrogen and he uses granulated corn once a year to diminish the grub population. His lawn is lush and feels like velvet to your bare feet.

Although close to the city of Boston, Ed’s property is a conclave of woodland activity. During the interview, native wild turkeys roamed his garden edges and a mixed bird population chirped wildly. Some wildlife, like the deer population are discouraged from damaging his landscaping by placing iron pellets strategically. Another tip: Ed keeps all the neighborhood cats at bay by sprinkling old coffee grounds around his garden beds weekly.

Ed’s eyes sparkle when he describes what a beautiful communally shared resource his corner garden has become. His neighbors go so far as to divert their running and walking paths to admire it, share it and socially congregate around it. Because all the plants are self-propagating, he continually expands the garden and shares plantings with his admiring neighbors and community – how sustainable is that?!

Here’s the garden now, a few weeks later…


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