Brothers In Sustainability

I was talking to my younger brother last weekend when I was home for our family reunion. He owns a cattle ranch near the “old west” town of Tombstone, Arizona. He is what you would call a real cowboy.

Sustainability is universal.

He and I are fairly close, and we talk on the phone quite often, but until this weekend we had never really talked about my job and what I do.

But that day we were at the ranch and were checking the water in a few of the water tanks and he was curious about my job, so I told him what it was that we landscape architects do. I explained to him that our jobs involve more than just planting trees and shrubs and making things pretty.

As a landscape architect, we create and shape the environment around us to enhance a space to make it more user friendly. Whether we’re designing a park, a resort, or someone’s residence, we try to create a space that people are comfortable in, that with minimum maintenance and irrigation will continue to thrive as time goes on.

I explained to him the meaning of sustainability and the responsibility of stewardship that landscape architects strive to uphold. For over a century, landscape architects have transformed some of the most ordinary spaces into some of the most exceptional landscapes of all time.

As we talked about some of the projects I had worked on over the years, I could tell he was deep in thought. When I finished sharing some of my favorite experiences, he sighed and tipped is hat back.

He pointed to a small hill off in the distance, about four or five miles away, and asked if I could see the clearing at the base of it. He told me about the work he and my other brother had done to clear that land and put in a water tank and build corrals.

There was an old dilapidated windmill that they rebuilt and now is busy pumping water whenever the wind blows.

He talked about miles of fence he had repaired and new fences they had built. Fences that kept the cattle off the highways and allowed him to rotate those cattle among different pastures so that none of the land became overgrazed.

He talked about the dirt tank that they created at the base of a small dry wash bed. This tank, which resembled a horseshoe-shaped earthen dam, would catch runoff precipitation when the summer monsoons brought rain to the valley. The water would then be stored throughout the summer and would serve as a drinking source for cattle and other wildlife.

As the sun began to set, we made our way back to the truck. I told him I was impressed with the level of stewardship he was incorporating into his ranch. He smiled as he looked at me, and said, “Yeah, I guess like most ranchers around here, I’m being sustainable too.”

I couldn’t help but smile to myself, because I knew that he understood completely.

Have you had an opportunity to share the concept of sustainability with people you meet in your day-to-day activities? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to leave a comment below, send me a tweet, or even an email. I look forward to hearing from you.

Have a great weekend!

Boyd Coleman is a landscape architect in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached on twitter at @CDGLA or email: