Landscaping with a lighter footprint

September 3, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Fertilizers, pesticides and weed killers are all products most homeowners think they need to keep a lush lawn. But there may be a way to keep your landscape healthy and green while also living green.

Lawnmowers cutting through blades of thick grass is the unofficial sound of summer. But this isn't your regular, run-of-the-mill mower.

"We put propane tanks on our mowers. They burn eight-thousand times cleaner than your standards two-cycle mower," said Marc Wise, co-owner, Greenwise Organic Lawn Care.

That's just one of the tools the co-owners of Greenwise Organic Lawn Care uses to give their landscaping company a lighter footprint. The Evanston-based company also uses only organic fertilizers and natural weed and pest control products.

"What a lot of people don't realize is the things they're putting down on their properties, on their lawns and landscapes in particular, are extraordinarily toxic. Those compounds are tracked into their homes where they don't break down in the ways that they're supposed to," said Lindsay Stame, co-owner, Greenwise Organic Lawn Care.

Greenwise also creates eco-friendly solutions to common outdoor problems. They say they solved a drainage issue by installing a dry creek bed.

"Very commonly drainage issues are dealt with underground," said Wise. "What we do is we use dry creek beds to incorporate water-loving native plants and deal with that water in an above ground fashion," said Wise.

When Dorrance Halverson needed to replace his drive way, he hired the company to install one made of permeable pavers. It allows water to soak into the soil rather than running off into the streets and sewers. Halverson says he has also discovered an unexpected benefit.

"Last winter, I didn't have any problem with ice. After I shoveled the sidewalk, the water would just go down. I think it was because it was a permeable surface," said Halverson.

The co-owners say they hope people will think twice about spreading potentially harmful chemicals on their lawns and consider the benefits of natural alternatives.

"As soon as people find out there's an organic alternative, it's really a no-brainer. You can have the aesthetic that you want and have it be safe for your family," said Stame.

Greenwise primarily services the North Side of Chicago and the northern suburbs. They are hoping to open in a second location in the Oak Park area some time next year.

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