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Published on: May. 18, 2011

MDC Discovery Center

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Urban Gardens

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Paula knew the Burtons, it still took them awhile to find their dream location. “We just didn’t want to live in a populated area. We drove around and looked at lots for sale. If you find an area you like, just drive around.”

Aside from cruising your favorite communities and neighborhoods, you can also find “building with nature” choices by searching the Internet. Many Realtors, developers and builders are now identifying themselves as specializing in “green” or “low impact” real estate. To back up their claims, they’re earning “green” designations through local groups, such as the Tri-Lakes Board of Realtors’ “REALTORS for Green Living,” and regional chapters of the U.S. Green Building Council. They use these designations in their online advertising to attract shoppers interested in energy-efficient, low impact and sustainable designs.


While you’re online, check out “green” mortgages and home improvement programs. “These programs help buyers finance energy efficient or sustainable landscape improvements, but a lot of lenders don’t know about them,” says Ron Kaufman, a mortgage loan specialist with Bank of America in St. Louis.

“You, as a consumer, have to know about these programs because your lender may not know they have them.”

Ron mentions a Department of Housing and Urban Development website that lists all the energy efficiency financing and rebates. You can find it at

When it comes to the future of energy efficient and conservation-friendly housing choices, Ron, who also sits on a homebuilders’ association green building executive board, is optimistic. “The best thing we have going for us is the continuous updating of the building code, which gets ‘greener’ every year. Hopefully that alone will drive awareness with builders and thus communication to consumers.”


Building with nature helps you minimize the impact of development pressure on dwindling wildlife habitat, especially if your dream is to live in a suburban development or small acreage. But if you want to keep your “ecological footprint” as small as possible, consider a house in an older city neighborhood and make it wildlife friendly with native plants.

Retired Department publications editor Bernadette Dryden made this choice several years ago.

“On the advice of a financial planner, I chose a house in this older Columbia neighborhood close to the university. It’s a solid investment and it supports the things I care about—being able to walk downtown for events, gardening, privacy and having access to interesting neighbors.”

An avid gardener and cook, Bernadette’s landscape feeds her horticultural and culinary passions. Her sunny front yard features a tidy, straw-mulched vegetable garden among lots of native plants, including hickories, ninebark, Virginia creeper, blazing star and river oats.

“The natives have grown here naturally for thousands of years. They stand up to the climate better than nonnatives do,” says Bernadette.

Her native plants and water features also attract wildlife. “I’m always seeing skinks, snakes, rabbits, deer, foxes and lots of birds,” she says. “In my water garden, American toads and southern leopard frogs lay their eggs all spring, and then I see them hopping around in the garden, eating bugs.”

What advice does she have for others who want to landscape with native plants?

“Arm yourself with the Department’s publications, such as Tried and True: Native Plants for Your Yard. Talk to the growers—you can find a list of them on the Grow Native website. They’re your best source of knowledge on how to grow natives successfully.”


We have the power to create the world we want to live in. The Internet makes it easier than ever before to keep in touch with trends. A simple web search can tell us what’s going on in local government. It can also show us who’s creating the kinds of real estate and landscaping choices that meet our needs without sacrificing our values. The regulatory and market trend toward conservation friendly development indicates that Missouri’s communities can be healthier for wildlife and people far into the future. We guarantee that they will every time we encourage better land-use policies and buy into building with nature.

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