Guest Blog: Working to restore urban and wildland forests

Since 2008, we’ve partnered with American Forests to directly offset the total amount of CO2 generated for each playsystem and Skatewave® skatepark produced in our Delano, Minn., production facilities. Today, we’re happy to have Jami Westerhold, Senior Director of Forest Restoration, as our guest blogger, discussing the work that American Forests has done for the past 140 years.


As the oldest national conservation nonprofit, this year American Forests is celebrating our 140th anniversary. Our mission is restore threatened forest ecosystems and inspire people to value and protect urban and wildland forests. As our forests are damaged by a myriad of threats—pests, disease, fire, development—American Forests works to restore these areas to health. Identifying high-impact projects American Forests selects a variety of projects in a range of locations and address different ecological challenges. Restored healthy wildland and urban forests provide numerous benefits ranging from providing wildlife habitat to cleaning air to reducing energy costs.

I manage one of American Forests’ keystone programs: Global ReLeaf. While the world watched the space shuttle Discovery place the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit 25 years ago, American Forests was launching a stellar program of its own.


Though we had dipped our toe in the water of forest reforestation before 1990, this was the first year we committed to supporting multiple large-scale, on-the-ground projects. Since its inaugural year, American Forests’ Global ReLeaf program has blossomed into what is now our flagship program, planting more than 48 million trees in all 50 states and 45 counties.

Perusing our projects you will see that though the projects differ each year, there are common themes among American Forests’ comprehensive work to protect and restore the most damaged ecosystems. American Forests works to ensure native species are used and all elements are considered. Though our lives are dependent on forests—more than half of drinking water in the U.S. originates in forests!—their importance is much broader, reducing the rate of erosion, flooding, climate change and much more.


Credit: USDA/Flickr

American Forests is thrilled to have partners like Landscape Structures supporting the success of these projects. Since 2008, Landscape Structures has offset carbon it generates through high-impact projects. Just last year, the company helped American Forests and the U.S. Forest Service re-establish longleaf pine, a priority in the southeastern United States, in an area affected by a high-intensity wildfire. Longleaf pines, which once covered more than 90 million acres of the North American landscape, now encompass less than three percent of their original range, or 3.4 million acres. These forests represented some of the world’s most unique biodiverse ecosystems and are a high priority because of the large number of threatened and endangered wildlife species that depend on these forest ecosystems.

Though we have restored hundreds of thousands of acres of forests, there is more work to be done. It is the partnerships with companies like Landscape Structures that lead to American Forests’ success in achieving our restoration goals.

Teaching students the importance of composting

The second annual Green Apple Day of Service, a day sponsored by the USGBC’s Center for Green Schools, took place on Friday, Sept. 27. We celebrated a day early by partnering with the MN Green Schools Coalition to help Delano Elementary School (DES) in Delano, Minn., improve their existing composting program. Throughout the week, DES’s media teacher read Compost Stew to each class and they completed a fun, classroom activity. Then on Friday, Sept. 27, we helped students compost their lunch waste, and handed out apples and goodie bags to each student and staff member. By participating in this program, the MN Green Schools Coalition awarded DES dollars to purchase new library books with an environmental theme. Check out the video of the event below, and go here to learn more about our community outreach.

Building healthy, sustainable communities on Earth Day

On Monday, April 22—Earth Day—teams of Landscape Structures employees handed out potted herbs to students and teachers at Delano Elementary School and community members that visited the local grocery store, Coborn’s. In total, we handed out 1,200 herb gardens to the Delano community.

Earth Day celebration

The herb handout was done in conjunction with the Healthy Delano project, a community program designed to help Delano residents find the best resources for healthy eating and activities. We hope that by involving the students, they will go home, get involved with meal planning and encourage their families to cook healthy meals.


See more photos of the event here, and watch the video above. Did you celebrate Earth Day? Tell us in the comments below what activities were happening in and around your communities.

A conversation with our local Green Classroom Professional

We recently talked with Corey Lahr, assistant principal at Delano Elementary School in our hometown of Delano, Minn., about his experience with the Green Classroom Professional Certificate Program. The program, which was introduced by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, encourages sustainable practices in classrooms to further the mission of creating green schools for everyone within this generation.

The certificate program was an online course with a dozen animated modules discussing a variety of green classroom topics. Learn more about the program here, and read below to hear Corey’s take on the program.

The Center for Green Schools

Q: Why were you interested in participating in the Green Classroom Professional Certificate Program?
A: We are in our third year of working with SEE (Schools for Energy Efficiency), which is helping us create a five-year plan to help us be more energy-efficient, focused on sustainability, and ultimately save our school money. Additionally, I thought that I would be able to gain some new ideas to help us along the path.

Q: In addition to welcoming Landscape Structures into the school to handout apples Green Apple Day of Servicefor the Green Apple Day of Service, what steps has your school taken to be more conscious about the environment?
A: After watching the modules, I realized that Delano Elementary School is on-par, and  maybe ahead of the game, with other schools. Some of the things that we already have in place include:

  • Shutting the lights off when we leave a room
  • Turning down the temperature to 68-degrees
  • Combining refrigerators so that now two classrooms share one instead of each room having its own
  • Installing light sensors so that the lights turn off if the natural light is bright enough in a room
  • Unplugging electronics at night
  • Composting lunchroom waste, and separating plastics and Styrofoam

Q: What are two things that you learned that you might be able to implement at Delano Elementary?
A: While we’re composting our lunchroom waste, and separating our plastics and Styrofoam, we’re still sending it to the dump. I learned that we really need to make an effort to actually recycle those items, and will be looking into how we can accomplish that.

Additionally, I learned that we need to focus on educating our students and staff on why we are taking these steps to be more sustainable. We currently have morning meetings in each classroom during which we discuss a variety of issues. This is a great opportunity to address the environmental items, and teach students more about our efforts.

Q: What were your overall thoughts on this certificate program, and would you recommend it to other education professionals? If so, why?
A: The Green Classroom Professional certification program was a really great learning opportunity. It reinforced that we at Delano Elementary are on the right track in our efforts, and maybe a little ahead of the pace of some other schools. This program would be great for a school that is just getting started in the process; the training modules gave some really good ideas.

I’m the assistant principal at the elementary school and can help influence many environmental activities, but I think this program would also be great for other resources within the school. There was quite a bit of talk about maintaining air quality in the modules, which the school custodian or business manager could speak to with more knowledge. Also, by having a few people complete the certification program helps facilitate more conversation about environmental activities.

Designed to… Innovate and Strengthen at NRPA 2012

Last week, we were in Anaheim, Calif., to participate in the 2012 National Recreation & Park Association (NRPA) Congress & Exposition. We exhibited with a beach-themed booth design, which featured the PlayBooster® Vibe™ and a 6-foot ocean wave sculpted from concrete.

NRPA beach-themed booth design

Visitors to our booth got a chance to meet some of our custom designers and artists, as well as participate in mock design sessions. Attendees were encourages to put their creativity to work to create a personalized t-shirt. See photos of inspiring t-shirts on Facebook, and tell us what you’re “designed to” do.

Designed to Play

On Wednesday, Oct. 17, we hosted a reception on the 5th Floor Lanai at the Hilton Hotel Anaheim. It was a gorgeous evening in a gorgeous space, and we welcomed more than 400 people to the event. In addition to cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and fun, we also celebrated the NRPA Award Winners including the recipient of the Barb King Award for Environmental Stewardship—the County of San Diego, Department of Parks and Recreation. The award was created for Barb King (1946-2008), who cofounded Landscape Structures with her husband, Steve King, to honor her passion for environmental stewardship and sustainability.

Hit the waves

We had a great three days in Anaheim visiting with park and recreation professionals, hearing from industry experts and taking in the nearby attractions. Our employees and playground consultants are already looking forward to 2013 NRPA in Houston, Texas!

Join us Sept. 29 in creating healthy, sustainable schools

Green Apple Day of Service 2012

Where kids learn is important and Landscape Structures is joining the Green Apple initiative to take real action in creating healthy, sustainable schools.

The Green Apple Day of Service is an initiative of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC to put all children in schools where they have clean and healthy air to breathe, where energy and resources are conserved, and where they can be inspired to dream of a brighter future. On Sept. 29, advocates from across the country and around the world will come together in support of healthy, sustainable schools by taking action in their communities.

At Landscape Structures, we have a mission of enhancing the children’s lives by fostering and creating inspiring play experiences while honoring the environment. We’re getting involved with the Green Apple Day of Service by handing out apples to our hometown schools in Delano, Minn. By doing this, we hope kids take a moment to think about their actions, and how they can help their school and community be more green.

Everyone can get involved in the Green Apple Day of Service a small or big way.