Just the Right Pressure

I've learned a lot from my failures as a gardener. Back before I knew better, I used to unleash the full force of sprinklers and nozzle spray on my tomatoes, cucumbers and butternut squash. But inevitably, the plants would develop leaf mold, mildew or some other crippling disease, and I’d lose much of my crop. Now I understand that I was using too much pressure—adding too much water at the wrong time, aiming at the wrong part of the plant, expecting fast results.


This issue is all about water and flow—achieving the right balance of pressure, directing it where it can settle naturally into the landscape. “Pressure and flow” can also serve as metaphors for those of us on the business side of green who want to do a better job as advocates. Changing minds—and more importantly, hearts—takes time and patience. When was the last time you walked out of a retail store feeling grateful that a sales person fast-talked you into buying something you really didn’t want, need or care about?

Lately, I switched over to drip irrigation. It’s much slower and requires more up-front preparation. But once it’s up and running, I get double the yield from

my plants, less disease and use less water. And this year, with the help of digital timers, I hope to cut my watering time to a quarter of what it was.

For years, we’ve tried to help the makers of green products get their message out to consumers. But as we’ve all learned, simply blasting them with information rarely has much effect on how they think. What does? A steady trickle of both incentives and disincentives. Tax credits and rebates, for example, get their attention. On the disincentive side, when you let them know that stricter building codes are coming, that soon every house, new or existing, may be required to offer a HERS rating or equivalent, they look up from their granite countertop samples and listen. A home’s resale value may plummet if it’s not as energy efficient as the one next door.

Another form of slow pressure may be the most powerful of all: Including eco-sensitive options in every conversation of project planning. This is where builders, trades and architects have their hands on the shutoff valve. Every player, from plumber to electrician to tile setter has the power to release or impede the flow.

The good news: The message seems to be getting through. New research suggests that green home construction will double in the next three years, and green growth in the commercial sector is surging forward. By continuing to exert slow, steady pressure, we can give sustainability the life-sustaining boost it needs to produce the abundance that we all know is lying just below the surface.