“Sustainability” and business

toddler picking and eating strawberries
Picking strawberries at “our” CSA farm


I usually listen to Chris Brogan‘s podcast because he has great stuff to say about being a human doing business with humans. But I have to share yesterday’s episode with you because he’s talking sustainability with John Blue of Truffle Media. Listen here.

The real juicy part for me was around minutes 18-26, where John goes into some background on the National Organic Program, and the increasingly meaningless use of words like “natural”, “sustainable”, “local”, and “family-owned”.  At least when it comes to food, “organic” still has a technical meaning as defined by the USDA & NOP. (As of now, there is no organic certification for landscaping — more on that here).  Those other buzz words are just as meaningless in the grocery store as at the garden center. Nonetheless, companies from Whole Foods to Walmart are responding to the consumer interest in organics, and to the extent that we continue to be smart consumers and vote with our wallets, that’s probably a change for the better.

You (if you’re like most of our clients) choose natural and organic because it’s good for your body, your family, and the earth. You choose sustainable and local because it’s good for the environment and community. But as Chris points out in his podcast, to really know what you’re feeding your kids, you have to go to the farm to see the happy hens scratching in the chicken tractor, getting the fallow fields ready for planting. And to know the impact of what you’re feeding your soil and plants, you have to know the folks who you are inviting into your yard.

As it often does with the Human Business Way podcast, it ultimately comes back to the human side of business: taking care of people (employees, clients, community-members, partner businesses) makes the business sustainable, strong, stable. We couldn’t provide custom maintenance plans tailored to each customer and property without investing in training each employee on soil conditions, hand-pruning of different types of shrubs, identification of pests and diseases. Without relationships with industry associations who keep us current on new codes and technical specifications, we would be foolish to provide our lifetime guarantee on the patios, driveways, and walls that we build. And most importantly, being responsive to feedback from clients and design partners drives us to constantly improve.

It’s our 25th year in business. We’ve got some cool stuff to share with you this year. But for now, let us know how we’re doing. Does this stuff matter to you? Reply in the comments, post on Facebook or drop me an email at carolyn (at) ayardandahalf (dot) com.