The term “sustainability” means meeting the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Historically, the Missouri Botanical Garden has been a leader in providing knowledge, resources and inspiration to promote conservation and sustainability throughout the world as well as within our region.

The Missouri Botanical Garden invests significant resources in developing and sharing new discoveries in plant science and using that knowledge to help manage ecosystems here and around the world. The Garden is equally committed to inspiring and educating all members of the local region about the benefits of being good environmental stewards through responsible resource usage and establishing sustainable communities.

The Garden’s strategies for advancing sustainability includes the implementation of green practices into all Garden operations; offering innovative sustainability educational programs and demonstrations; and providing strong leadership within the St. Louis community on these issues.

Sustainable Operations

The Missouri Botanical Garden strives to be a role model for visitors, employees and the community at large through its facility operations.


The Garden’s horticulture displays provide excellent opportunities to demonstrate sustainable gardening strategies. Examples include:

  • Composting (and re-use on site) nearly 100 percent of the Garden’s “green” waste.
  • Washing and reusing plastic and clay pots.
  • Certain mowers powered by propane.
  • Utilizing eco-friendly fertilizers.
  • Installing rain sensors on irrigation systems.
  • Promoting and using native and adapted plants in horticulture displays.
  • The Kemper Center for Home Gardening showcases sustainable gardening, educational displays and resources for both homeowners and the nursery industry.
  • The Garden operates one of the most extensive public garden recycling programs in the nation. The Plastic Pot Recycling Program collected over 128,000 pounds of horticulture waste in 2010. To date, the Garden’s program has saved more than 978,000 pounds of plastic garden pots, cell packs and trays from landfills.

Energy Efficiency

In 1996, the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Board of Trustees established an Energy Policy resolution confirming energy efficiency in its facilities to be a major capital and operating priority. From 2000 to 2005, the Garden increased building area by 11 percent while reducing annual energy usage by 22 percent through implementation of energy efficiency measures. In 2009, solar panels were installed in the Kemper Center to offset the power demand of the floral clock, a temporary display installed in honor of the Garden’s sesquicentennial anniversary. In 2010, a 25KW photovoltaic solar system was installed atop the Commerce Bank Center for Science Education, offsetting approximately five percent of the building’s electrical needs.

In 2011, the Garden initiated the “Turn it Off” campaign to encourage employees to turn off lights, computers and other equipment when not in use. The goal of the campaign is to reduce the Garden’s carbon footprint by ten percent in one year.

Recycling and Waste Reduction

From office operations to visitor services, over 80 percent of non-organic solid waste collected at the Garden is recycled.

  • Single stream recycling is collected throughout the Garden and at all public events.
  • Over 90 percent of the construction waste from recent Garden projects was re-purposed or recycled, including the Spink Pavilion renovation and Edgar Anderson Center construction at the Shaw Nature Reserve.
  • Used visitor maps and tickets are collected and recycled.
  • All outdated electronics, batteries and lamps are directed to specialized recycling facilities.
  • All boxed-lunch waste is composted.

Janitorial and Cleaning Supplies

The Garden was an early adopter of green cleaning practices. All cleaning products are Green Seal Certified and all janitorial paper products contain post-consumer recycled content. Micro-fiber cleaning cloths have replaced disposable rags. Motorized cleaning equipment is certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI).

Building Construction

The Garden is committed to designing, constructing and operating all Garden facilities in compliance with LEED™ green building standards. Examples of green building at the Garden include:

  • The Bayer Center, the Missouri Botanical Garden’s research center at the corner of Shaw and Vandeventer, is a model of “green architecture.” Opened in 1998, the building brings together environmentally-friendly technology and design, from the siting of the structure and the materials used in construction, to the carpeting, paint and furniture. Recycled and recyclable materials are found throughout. An environmentally-sensitive energy system oversees the way offices are illuminated. The structure is also designed to be “earthquake proof,” with 41 base isolators placed beneath the building and mounted on footings that reach to bedrock. In February 2010, the Bayer Center officially earned silver certification under the LEED EB-Operations and Maintenance rating system. Less than 500 buildings have received any type of LEED EB certification. The Bayer Center is the first in Missouri.
  • The Nature Explore ClassroomTM at the Shaw Nature Reserve was constructed using 95 percent reused materials. Nearly 90 percent of deconstruction waste of the Reserve’s facility complex was recycled and/or reused.
  • The Edgar Anderson Center at Shaw Nature Reserve recently earned LEED gold certification.

Storm Water Management

The renovation of the Garden’s parking lot provides demonstrations of storm water best management practices utilizing porous pavements and a rain garden (bio-retention). The new installation will significantly reduce runoff, flash floods, soil erosion and water pollution.

  • The bio-retention garden was constructed with special rock and fiber filters, rain garden soil and native plants.
  • The porous concrete and asphalt allows water to go right through the paving surface into an underground reservoir where it filters into the soil.
  • “Grasscrete” pavers previously installed were retained, which allow tree roots necessary water access.
  • Storm water within these areas will capture 100 percent of an average St. Louis rain event (1.14 inches in a 24-hour period).

Food Service

In 2008, the Garden’s café, Sassafras, became the first restaurant in the State of Missouri to be certified by the Green Restaurant Association. Highlights of green practices include:

  • Reusable plates and utensils.
  • Fair Trade Organic Coffee.
  • Recycling and waste reduction.
  • Composting of food waste and disposables.
  • “Daylighting”– the practice of placing windows so that natural daylight may be utilized.
  • Napkins and cups with recycled content.
  • Water saving features.
  • Visitor information about green achievements.

Bottled Water

In 2009, the Garden initiated the “Take Back the Tap” campaign, educating visitors on the environmental impact of the bottled water industry and the savings associated with drinking tap water. All bottled water was eliminated from employee vending machines and pitchers of water rather than prepackaged bottled water were provided for all in-house meetings. Refillable water bottles are sold at the Sassafras cafe, the Children’s Garden and the Garden Gate Shop. Four hydration stations have been installed throughout the Garden, making it easier for visitors to refill water bottles.

Garden Gate Shop

Visitors stop by the Garden Gate Shop to purchase high quality gifts that are also eco-wise. A wide variety of Garden Gate Shop merchandise is made from recycled content. All shopping bags and packing tissue used in the shop are 100 percent recycled content. In addition, the Garden Gate Shop provides incentives to reuse shopping bags and participates in the Eco-Libris program.


First we ask, “Do we need to use paper to achieve our goal?” and “Can we fulfill our communication goals electronically?” If so:

  • All copy paper is 100 percent post-consumer recycled content.
  • All publications are printed on 100 percent post consumer recycled content paper.
  • The majority of class catalogues are now only available electronically.

Employee Engagement

The Garden’s Green Team includes representatives from all Garden buildings and off-site locations. Meeting on a monthly basis, they work collectively to implement sustainable office operations throughout the Garden. The team initiated the “Green Today, Greener Tomorrow” campaign for all employees, encouraging them to participate in waste reduction and energy saving practices. In 2009, the Green Team assisted in rolling out the Garden’s single stream recycling program; designing employee communications and signage; and redistributing recycling and waste collection containers. In 2010, the Green Team initiated the “Turn It Off Campaign” with the goal of reducing the Garden’s energy demand by ten percent during 2011. Energy efficiency strategies included new signage to encourage employees to turn of lights and equipment that are not in use.

Education and Training

Within the St. Louis region, the Missouri Botanical Garden is a leader in educating and demonstrating sustainable lifestyle choices. Homeowners, businesses, schools and the community at large can access a wide variety and objective analysis of products and resources related to green living and learning.

Kemper Center for Home Gardening exhibits feature vegetable gardening, drought tolerant plants and grasses, rain catchment systems, rain gardens and environmentally friendly pest management. Adult education programs provide education and training for homeowners on all these topics.

The EarthWays Center promotes sustainability through environmental education and improving the built environment. Programs and activities engage all community stakeholders including homeowners, schools and universities, municipalities, institutions and businesses in topics of energy efficiency, recycling and waste reduction, indoor air quality, green building and sustainable lifestyle choices.

The Shaw Nature Reserve, an extension of the Missouri Botanical Garden, includes 2,400 acres of natural Ozark landscape and managed plant collections. Located 35 miles southwest of St. Louis in Gray Summit, Mo., it provides environmental education, ecological research and public enjoyment of the natural world. Educational outreach specializes in native plant horticulture and sustainable land management strategies.

Community Leadership

Deer Creek Watershed Alliance

To help facilitate cleaner, safer water in the Deer Creek Watershed, the Missouri Botanical Garden has initiated the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance in partnership with the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD), Washington University, East-West Gateway Council of Governments, Great Rivers Greenway, Missouri Department of Conservation, American Society of Civil Engineers - St. Louis Chapter, local municipalities, non-profit organizations and the Deer Creek Watershed Friends, a citizen-led Missouri Botanical Garden committee. This alliance is funded by project partners the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation and U.S. EPA Region 7 through the Department of Natural Resources (sub-grant number G09-NPS-13), under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act.

A key goal of the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance is to showcase plant-based projects that reduce water pollution. Deer Creek Watershed Alliance implementation strategies include:

  • Citizen-led voluntary public engagement activities with partnering agencies, municipalities and non-profits.
  • Development of a watershed plan with local municipalities, MSD, East-West Gateway Council of Governments and American Society of Civil Engineers - St. Louis Chapter.
  • Implementation of demonstration bio-retention projects with MSD, the Missouri Department of Conservation and Great Rivers Greenway.
  • Monitoring of three of demonstration projects in partnership with Washington University to measure the projects’ effectiveness in improving water quality.

RCGA Green Business Challenge

The Garden’s EarthWays Center is contracted by the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA) for the St. Louis Green Business Challenge. Initiated in 2010, the St. Louis Green Business Challenge is intended to help St. Louis area companies take steps toward sustainable business practices. The EarthWays Center conducts monthly information seminars and provides technical consulting assistance related to sustainable business operations for all participating RCGA member businesses in areas such as energy, waste, indoor environment, water, transportation, employee communication and outreach.

U.S. Green Building Council

In January 2001, the Garden helped launch the local chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, now named the Missouri Gateway Chapter. As part of the EarthWays Center’s work to connect the Garden’s mission to protect plants with supporting lifestyle choices that reduce impact on the environment, the Missouri Gateway Chapter strives to integrate green building design practices and operations throughout the region’s building stock. Ten years later, the USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter has over 600 members and supports two full-time staff persons. The headquarters for the chapter is housed within the Garden’s Commerce Bank Center for Science Education.