The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum strives to be a leader in sustainability and horticultural best practices, both in its daily routine and its community education initiatives. The Green at Heart initiative conveys the Arboretum's long-standing embrace of sustainability and its ongoing journey toward solutions that advance its overall mission of  sharing examples of sustainable practices and dynamically teaching these practices to Minnesotans.  Our longstanding commitment to preserving Minnesota's environment is demonstrated in the following areas:

The Arboretum is committed to providing a safe-haven for Minnesota plants and animals that are increasingly encroached upon by urban development. Prairies and wetlands are quickly diminishing and, with them, the flora and fauna that make our heartland ecosystem diverse. Today, the Bennett-Johnson Prairie, Grace B. Dayton Woodland Wildflower Garden, and Spring Peeper Meadow Wetlands attest to the Arboretum's commitment to preserving Minnesota's environment. 

The Arboretum's commitment to the environment is reflected in the construction of the 45,000-sq.-ft. Oswald Visitor Center, which uses geothermal energy- a free, highly efficient and renewable resource- to provide heating and cooling 365 days a year. In addition to its geothermal heating and cooling system, the Oswald Visitor Center has been outfitted with other energy and environmental standards, including energy efficient windows and doors, a daylight-based computerized lighting control system throughout the building to minimize electric consumption, and an automation system and heat exchanger. The building was also constructed with recycled timbers where possible. 

The Arboretum relies almost entirely on surface water to keep its 1,137 acres hydrated and nourished. Well water is used minimally and city water is not used at all. Thanks to a recently completed audit by Irrigation Consultants & Control, the Arboretum will be taking steps to improve its irrigation system further, using the best and most up-to-date methods.

A major goal at the Arboretum is to reduce damage from destructive pests and plants while protecting the environment and the safety of staff and visitors. Pests and invasive plants are managed using biological control- the process of mitigating pest populations with their natural enemies- whenever possible as an alternative to toxic pesticides and herbicides. Purple Loosestrife, a major invasive plant species, has been effectively contained using this chemical-free, eco-friendly process. Biological control is also being used in an integrated management plan to control Leafy Spurge, and research is currently underway at the University of Minnesota to eradicate other invasive species such as Buckthorn and Garlic Mustard. 

Nitrogen and phosphorus are important elements for plant growth that are supplied to plants through composting and fertilizing.  When misused, they can have adverse effects on water quality by causing eutrophication (an over-stimulation of aquatic organisms and algae).  The Arboretum has followed standard fertilization recommendations for many years, using chemical fertilizers along with mulch and composts.  Through the years, both composted animal manure and regular municipal yard waste compost have been used.

University Dining Services (UDS) is an extension of the University of Minnesota and supplies the Arboretum Restaurant's dining and catering needs. UDS offers Arboretum visitors certified organic produce, cage-free and free-range meat products, and eco-friendly packaging materials. All plastic cups, lids, straws and to-go containers are corn resin-based and biodegrade within 45 days. The Arboretum is also a proud participant in UDS' organic compost program, whereby all waste is meticulously sorted and biodegradable products are collected and recycled for use in Arboretum gardens.

Through University Dining Services' commitment to local and regional food sourcing and socially responsible agriculture, Arboretum diners can enjoy a wide variety of locally grown and fair-trade food and coffee. Meat products, vegetables and fruits are supplied by local companies such as Pepin Heights and Thousand Hills Cattle Company.  All coffee beverages are 100% fair trade and meet eco-friendly standards set by the Rainforest Alliance. 

The Arboretum serves as host site for the Carver County composting program, and organics from a number of Chanhassen neighborhoods and from the Arboretum's restaurant are composted here. 

Outdoor Audit for Sustainability.  In the summer of 2008, the Arboretum employed University of Minnesota grad students to conduct a thorough audit of the practices in the gardens and around the grounds.  Recommendations were made and a number were implemented or will be pursued in the future as funding is available.
Indoor "Green Audit."  While the Arboretum's efforts to be "more green" indoors have brought on positive change, there is room for improvement.  In December of 2008, the Ashkin Group, with the help of Tennant Company, conducted a green audit of Arboretum buildings and provided best practices and steps that can be taken in the short term and long term to improve our sustainability efforts and make the buildings more environmentally friendly. 
Energy Audit. Centerpoint Energy conducted a Custom Energy Analysis of the Snyder Building in May 2007 and provided a report showing current natural gas usage and making recommendations for projects that will save energy in the future, The report gives costs and estimates of energy saved for many improvements and also includes payback periods which range from 1 to 12  years.  
Irrigation Best Practices. Thanks to an audit by Irrigation Consultants & Control, the Arboretum will be taking steps to improve its irrigation system further, using the best and most up-to-date methods.  

The Arboretum is a world leader in developing fruit trees and ornamental landscape plants that will thrive in cold northern climates, an achievement that in the long term keeps food supplies local and drastically reduces shipping costs.  Over the years, more than 98 fruit introductions have included apples, apricots, cherries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes and strawberries. 

Sustainability and environmental awareness form the heart of Arboretum educational offerings for all ages - from the Urban Garden outreach program to cooking lessons emphasizing organic, local foods and much more. Every year, more than 55,000 children participate in Arboretum education programs, including field trips, Plantmobile classes and on-site summer classes.  Likewise adult classes and symposia draw nearly 4,000 participants each year. 

Through several symposia each year, the Arboretum is a leader in ongoing public dialogue over various sustainability issues - from the children in nature movement to alternative fuels to stormwater runoff issues.

The Arboretum prioritizes projects that address sustainability and restoration; however, as a 501(c)(3) organization, there is never enough budget to accomplish goals as quickly as the public would prefer.  Many of the projects below can be accomplished more quickly with the help and support of individuals, companies, and organizations. 

The Arboretum received a state-of-the-art Tennant Company floor cleaner that uses very little water and no detergent to clean the floors of the Oswald Visitor Center and the Snyder Building. 

To learn more about any of the above, contact Alan Branhagen, Director of Operations at