If the average sized lawn in the United States is watered for 20 minutes every day for seven days, it’s like running the shower constantly for four days or taking more than 800 showers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s equivalent to the amount of water needed for the average family to take one years’ worth of showers.
For California, which has drifted in and out of a drought since 2000, that kind of water consumption can have a huge environmental impact. But when homeowners are faced with a decaying front yard, they often opt for the extra round of sprinklers.
Fortunately, local business EcoLawn is helping Santa Barbara solve the grassy dilemma, conserving lawns and the environment, too. Since 2014, the landscape contractor has removed traditional, water-thirsty grass lawns and implemented water-free or low-water areas in hundreds of homes from Goleta to Carpinteria.
Today, the business is widely requested from clients for ventures large and small, having completed more than 1,500 projects in its six-year lifetime. Not stopping anytime soon, EcoLawn is rolling into 2020 busier than it’s ever been before.
“January and February are usually slow for us, but we’re already breaking records,” said Beau Schmidt, EcoLawn president and founder. “This year has already been so crazy, and we have so many more projects coming down the pipeline.”
While approaching every job with conservation in mind, Mr. Schmidt ensures final products are as beautiful as they are efficient.
“We believe the highest calling of the builder’s craft is to create homes which embody the essential harmony between nature and structure,” Mr. Schmidt said in a news release. “In doing so, we maximize the value of the investment made and further enhance the extraordinary beauty of our Central Coast environment.”
Completed just a few months ago, one of EcoLawn’s recent endeavors is a poster-project for what it values as a business. A full-package renovation, the job helped entrepreneur Randy Modos turn his 1950’s-era home into a modern oasis.
“Like so many of our clients, (Randy’s) goal was to maintain the stylish appeal of this West Coast structure while updating the interior to a state-of-the-art living space with lots of outdoor entertaining options,” Mr. Schmidt said in a news release.
As Mr. Modos searched for a house, he settled on a well-maintained but outdated property perched on the city’s Riviera. While attracted to the location’s Pacific Ocean views, the local business-owner and UCSB graduate wanted something that fit his modern tastes yet still represented Santa Barbara.
Operating on word-of-mouth, Mr. Modos reached out to Mr. Schmidt to see if the EcoLawn’s good reputation rang true. Soon enough, both men realized the collaboration was meant to be.
“Randy basically gave me artistic freedom,” said Mr. Schmidt. “He let me put my design skills to work, which is something I don’t always get to do.”
With the help of Manifest Building, the contractor’s parent company and fellow Santa Barbara establishment, EcoLawn transformed Mr. Modos’ home completely.
Now, floor-to-ceiling glass panels open his living area to welcome in boundless natural light. Capitalizing on the view, the patio hosts a natural gas firepit with weather-resistant chairs facing the ocean. Smooth stepping-stones lead from the seating area to an artificial yet evergreen turf landscape.
The best part – it’s all eco-friendly. Even the lighting fixtures operate on utility saving LEDs.
“I think functionality is beautiful,” said Mr. Schmidt. “We focus on drought tolerant landscapes, building something that’s low water use and low maintenance…to be able to create something that performs well but looks good while doing it is really our goal.”
While a dream project in terms of creativity, working with Mr. Modos wasn’t necessarily a large undertaking for the business. The team’s next big development will be helping Manifest Building construct a 3,500-square-foot house in Summerland.
Still, EcoLawn doesn’t measure its impact in footage. Other projects have helped restore property landscapes affected by the Montecito debris flow. EcoLawn has a long reputation of stepping in during a crisis. In fact, that’s how it was born.
Six years ago, during the heart of California’s drought, Mr. Schmidt and his business partner at the time, Jessica Girard, saw a desperate need for saving water. With television and radio coverage lamenting the dry spell, the pair sought to fill a void in Santa Barbara.
“It was a desperate time,” said Mr. Schmidt. “Having a lawn is still really important to people with dogs and kids, but the feasibility of having real grass went out the window.”
In this way, EcoLawn’s work goes beyond aesthetics, something the community noticed from the start.
“We were slammed the moment we opened the doors,” said Mr. Schmidt. “Before us, there wasn’t an established company licensed in water conservation and synthetic grass.”
After joining the company in 2015, Mr. Schmidt’s new partner Chloe Kirk has watched that community response grow.
“Everyone started getting proactive about landscape,’ said Ms. Kirk. “We make a huge difference in functionality and water. You’re saving money and saving the resource.”
This points to a shift not only in conservation efforts, but also in attitudes towards those efforts. Moving to a different crowd of clients, EcoLawn is seeing more projects ask for something new rather than fix what was broken.
“Water is still extremely expensive, but how people are using their back and front yards is changing,” said Mr. Schmidt. “They don’t need huge grass areas anymore. That’s where we can step in. EcoLawn can transform a yard to make it usable for kids and dogs but have less of a footprint.”
For Mr. Schmidt, this change of pace has only made fulfilling his vision more exciting.
“A lot of people come to us for fun, creative projects now,” he said. “We’ve established a really good reputation in town, so people trust our opinion.
“They understand that we are a family style organization that really cares. Clients let us guide them in the direction that would fit them best.”