Ordinary people must think carefully about their own surroundings and how to preserve the biodiversity that occurs around them. The world that results will be a patchwork with bright spots, richer places and more beautiful areas. And that will happen because individuals took responsibility and acted."
- Peter H. Raven, President of Missouri Botanical Garden
Altlawns is a community-based organization. Our mission is to create biodiverse native habitat in place of lawns by providing community education and support to local residents. We started as a Facebook group in response to online resident questions and concerns around native habitat, stormwater issues, and climate change. Altlawns now has over 450 members with robust online discussion and in-real-life events.
The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee and Monarch Butterfly are both on the endangered species list. These two are the most famous species, but each year brings other losses and smaller bird and insect populations. Conservationists agree that the solution lies in creating a patchwork of native habitat creating homes and food year-round for a wide range of wildlife. These habitats also become critical landing sites during migration. By reducing the size of our lawns and replacing them with native plants and a multi-storied tree canopy, we also reduce stormwater runoff, eliminate chemical use, and decrease ground surface temperatures.
Upcoming events and projects this year. Join in, Sign up, Volunteer!
Soft Landing Workshop
Growing Plants from Seeds/Winter Sowing Workshop
Up-potting and distributing plants
Spring Shrub Sale
Site Visits to member yards in transition
Gathering at local restaurants for discussion
Rain Barrel Workshop
Note from Altlawns Founder
Avangeline J T McKnight
I believe we each have so much to offer one another and have a responsibility to reach out. It is easy to believe "I must know more" or "have more time" or "be like that person" to effect change. However, this is the minute we must act, exactly as we are. We need to help one another, recognize one another, and support one another. All beings, winged and crawlers, rooted and mobile, need us.
Tiny bees can only fly 250 yards without nourishment. Without contiguous habitat, they will get stranded and die while foraging away from home. It is your yard, and mine, that will save them. The endangered Monarch need more than milkweed to survive. They need nectar plants to be strong enough to move through their life cycle and to migrate. The endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee needs undisturbed rock or leaf piles for nesting along with asters, monarda, chestnut, and willow as their banquet. Both need chemical free lawns.
The white-throated sparrows need safe and bountiful habitat to land during migration. These critical survival requirements must be supplied by your yard and mine. If all you can do is to plant three plants, do it! Next year plant three more. If you can convert a quarter acre, do it! Each action creates healing and beauty, and these are stitched together.
Last summer, while I sat on my couch watching the bees and finch land on the six-foot Rudbeckia lanciniata outside my window, unprecedented fires burned in western states and on the Minnesota-Canadian border. The fires created a haze and unsafe air in the greater MSP area. I was gratified to know that the native vegetation reduced the surface temperature of my yard, and, in a small way cooled the heat of the world. We are seeing in the past years that the earth is literally burning. We are also in a two-year drought; rivers and lakes are drying. It is time to stop watering and to stop propping up the colonial single-species lawn.
Finally, but really at the core, we must acknowledge that the land we love and care for are the ancestral lands of our Dakota and Anishinaabe siblings. We must listen to the wisdom of those whose people lived for generations on this land, in relationship to all beings. As a community educator for Altlawns, I recently accepted an invitation to attend Maawanji’iding gekinoo’amaagejig (Gathering of Educators) Climate Change Teach-In at Fond du Lac Tribal College. I am grateful to those who shared knowledge and introduced me to Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and plan to keep learning, listening, and amplifying. I am bringing one of the activities learned there to Buzz Fest, hot off the press! See you at Buzz Fest and the Beings on The Move activity!
Altlawns is not about gardening, not just about water or one single issue; it is about deep love, community, humility, connection, and our responsibility to care for all beings in our lives.
In hope and joy,