The good news is that much of the U.S. is no longer facing drought conditions, according to USDA’s drought monitor, with California and other western states being the exception. Recent rains in California have helped, but not enough to remove the drought status.
The bad news is that last year, legislation was enacted in California to save water that could have far-reaching impact on homeowners — and dealers — even when moisture is good. An executive order by California Gov. Jerry Brown last spring declared that 50 million square feet of lawns and ornamental turf be replaced with drought-tolerant landscapes. They even offered money to do it — hundreds of millions of dollars in incentives.
Debates followed, with scientists and extension experts sharing the environmental and health benefits of managed landscapes. OPEI stepped up efforts to combat news articles and editorials they said were untrue and not based on science. And, scandals were uncovered about where the money went.
No matter the negative fallout, the precedent was set, says OPEI. Newspaper editorials in other parts of the country are now calling for preemptive measures to save water ahead of the next inevitable drought. And Florida and Oregon are considering regulatory measures related to lawns.
OPEI is asking for dealers to step in and be part of an advocacy effort to curtail this trend. The timing is right, now that landscaping is top of mind. And, OPEI is giving you the tools you need as part of their Living Landscapes program to help your customers make informed decisions about their properties. They’ve developed extensive materials for you to share on social media, websites, newsletters, and, most importantly, in conversations with customers.
The materials speak to environmental concerns, making sure homeowners know the environmental benefits of lawns and landscapes, including oxygen production, carbon sequestration, heat dissipation, biodiversity as well as providing play and recreation spaces for families and pets. The benefits can be related directly to their investment, too. Beautiful landscaping improves curb appeal and may increase home value by as much as 17% according to Texas Tech University.
Don’t worry that you’re going to have to learn and recite boring scientific facts. The information is designed and “consumer ready” and can be downloaded for posting or printing. Go to OPEI.org/Stewardship.
Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI, has this message for dealers:
“Dealers are the ‘front line’ when it comes to reaching consumers. We know they are having conversations with them about how they are using outdoor power equipment and other lawn and garden tools. It seems natural that they might also discuss the importance of having healthy green space for themselves and their families — and to not give into the lawn shaming and drought shaming that is making people feel bad these days about having a living, green landscape.
“Many of their customers might be under enormous pressure by well-intentioned neighbors or local officials (or in California’s case, the governor himself) to reduce the size of their yards or other, community green spaces. Dealers can be great advocates in helping them feel better about having green space to begin with,” Kiser says.
Kiser also urges dealers to remind their local officials and media outlets that living landscapes add to the health and wellbeing of a community, giving much more than they take. For instance, he says that if California, even in its drought state, removed every bit of landscaping, it would only conserve 9% of its water usage.
The concept of advocacy is part of thoughts I shared recently about being considered an expert on rural life. If you think of your dealership as part of something bigger than selling equipment, your customers will, too.
Kiser says OPEI is ready to help if you have ideas for what you need to educate your customers, the media and elected officials. Contact Suzanne Henry at Suzanne@fourleafpr.com or Kristen Reamy at KReamy@opei.org.