Eco-Friendly Development

Low-impact development is an eco-friendly approach to land development or redevelopment that works with nature to manage storm water and value it as a resource. Low-impact development applications minimize impact on the environment by managing storm water as close to where it lands as possible and allows for the natural flow of water within an ecosystem or watershed.

When land is developed in a way that allows rain water to get absorbed by trees and plants, evaporate back into the atmosphere, replenish underground water, and be stored for beneficial uses rather than sending it down sewer drains, the results are great -- less runoff, cleaner bodies of water, greener urban neighborhoods and a better quality of life.

Consider these low-impact development practices:

Impervious surfaces can be replaced with porous surfaces such as pavers for a patio or walkway. Spaces between the paver bricks allow water to flow between the bricks preventing puddles and recharging the groundwater. This also reduces water being carried off into the overcharged sewer system.

Porous concrete, asphalt or recycled glass and rock work great for driveways and parking lots. They allow for heavy traffic yet the storm water soaks right into the concrete or asphalt. The spaces between the rocks are not filled with fine particles which gives the material its porosity.

Planting native flowers, shrubs and trees is low-impact and eco-friendly. Natives don’t require fertilizers, pesticides or heavy watering once established as many non-native landscapes do.

Harvesting or capturing storm water with rain barrel or cistern system is also low-impact and eco-friendly development.

The better we manage storm water – keeping the rain as close as possible to where it lands – the better it is for all of us, especially our environment. Always encourage leaders and development professionals to take environmental concerns into consideration when planning for the future of our communities.

Photo credit: Perry Eckhardt


Growing Healthy Trees

Large, beautiful trees make neighborhoods look better, provide wildlife habitat, reduce storm water runoff plus their shade reduces energy bills and gives people a comfortable spot to relax.  But, to realize these benefits we need healthy trees with healthy roots.  In urban areas, the soils beneath pavements become so compacted that tree roots are unable to grow properly causing the trees to die prematurely.  If the trees do survive, the roots often grow directly below the pavement causing it to buckle and create a tripping hazard.

Silva Cells and Cornell University Structural Soil are two types of innovative forestry practices used in our Demonstration Garden which allow trees to live longer, grow larger and provide all of the benefits of healthy urban trees.  Silva Cells are a suspended pavement system which prevents soil compaction, allowing tree roots to grow unimpeded.  CU Structural Soil is a mixture of load-bearing stones and soil which contains voids for tree roots to grow without causing the pavement to heave and crack.

Large, healthy trees not only look better and provide wildlife benefit and great storm water management they also help make people feel better about their surroundings and increase property values.  Let’s all do what we can to grow healthy trees in our community.


In Your Yard

While some of the features in Brightside’s Demonstration Garden are only applicable for municipalities and large developments, many can be replicated right in your own yard.  You can redirect your downspout into a low lying area to create a rain garden planted with native perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees.  Reduce the amount of impervious surface by replacing driveways, parking pads and patios with pavers or porous concrete, asphalt or recycled glass/rock.  It might cost more upfront but the savings will be realized over time plus will benefit the environment.  Native plants can save you money, too, as they reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides.

Unwanted chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides are considered household hazardous waste and should never be disposed of in a sewer.  Recycle all household hazardous waste and never allow grass clippings, leaves, litter, cigarettes or pet waste to be carried into the sewers – they all contaminate our rivers and streams, which ultimately becomes our drinking water.

Also remember, reducing litter in our community is an important way to protect water quality and our environment.

Photo credit: Perry Eckhardt


Storm Water Management

Landscaping changes the visible features of an area.  Rainscaping changes areas by incorporating features into the landscape that work to manage storm water as close as possible to where it falls instead of allowing it to run off.

Why is this important?

When the natural landscape is replaced with buildings, roads, and other impervious pavement, storm water quickly causes problems such as flash flooding, erosion and water pollution. This is especially true in urban areas.

As storm water races from roads, rooftops, compacted soils and other paved surfaces it picks up litter, oil, road salts, animal waste, fertilizers, pesticides, grass clippings and leaves. All of this debris is carried into the storm sewers as well as area streams and rivers. This is known as non-point source pollution and contaminates our waterways, threatens wildlife and makes our communities less desirable.

Learn how to protect water quality, limit storm water runoff and reduce its flow by implementing some of the practices in Brightside’s Demonstration Garden. Come visit to learn about things you can do at home, in your neighborhood and in developments in your community to slow down or capture storm water. Plus, learn about planting a rain garden or bioswale with native plants, installing permeable pavement and/or catchment systems such as rain barrels or cisterns. Native plants are perfectly adapted to our climate, filter out pollutants and make any landscape more beautiful. Plus, their long root systems help to soak up storm water and reduce runoff.

Large, urban street trees are great at managing storm water and Brightside’s Silva Cells and structural soil enable street trees to grow larger, live longer and manage significantly more storm water than typical undernourished urban street trees. In addition, Silva Cells also serve as a retention area to hold rain water until it can be absorbed by the tree’s roots.


Explore our Gardening Best Practices

About the Garden

For many years the southeast corner of Kingshighway and Vandeventer was a gas station.  After the environmental remediation was completed, the rock-filled lot sat barren for more than two decades.  Brightside acquired the lot and began to dream of a beautiful garden.  The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Mark Grueber and Perry Eckhardt encouraged us to think beyond beautiful to educational, as well.  They provided the expertise and MDC funding to secure the award-winning landscape architectural team at SWT Design to create a vision for the Demonstration Garden and Learning Center.

With the goal of establishing a beautiful and inviting demonstration garden at this intersection, the SWT team developed a design that helped Brightside secure generous donations from the William A. Kerr Foundation, Cornelsen Charitable Foundation, Edward K. Love Conservation Foundation, Employees Community Fund of Boeing St. Louis, Dana Brown Charitable Trust, Maritz, Crawford Taylor Foundation, Philpott Family Foundation and Korte Co.

To build the Demo Garden’s storm water management best practices, a grant was received from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 7, through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. Section 319 grants help protect water quality by reducing non-point source pollution.

Thanks to our generous donors and in-kind support from the City of St. Louis, Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Marine Corps, the Demo Garden was built in one week’s time under the guidance and generous support of Alberici Constructors.  Today, a once-blighted street corner is a community asset and destination which features beautiful Missouri native plants and trees and demonstrates urban conservation practices to area residents and professionals. Stop by and visit, the garden is open for visitors to come and explore.

Landscape Photo Credit: SWT Design, Jim Diaz

What’s happening In The Garden

Neighborhood Beautification with Neighbors Naturescaping

Do you have a space in your neighborhood that you wish was full of native plants?  Consider applying for a Neighbors Naturescaping grant through Brightside!  Last year, we awarded 12 projects all across the city!  Learn more about this small grant program and about the benefits of using native plants in your garden.  If you are interested in this small grant program to beautify a public space in your neighborhood, learn more about Neighbors Naturescaping.

The 2023 St. Louis Urban Gardening Symposium was June 10th!

The 2023 St. Louis Urban Gardening Symposium featured special guest, Dave Tylka. You’ll love how Dave shares his wealth of experience and knowledge as an educator, biologist, nature author and photographer!

Immediately following this special presentation, “Green Jean” Ponzi discussed Mosquito Alert STL before we break into small group workshops led by experts in their respective fields. Gardeners learned how to plant and care for a neighborhood or home garden or learn more about native urban wildlife. There were also opportunities to “Ask the Experts” before and after the sessions plus a native plant sale after the workshops.

Check out photos from the Symposium on Facebook!

Brightside’s 2023 Summer Newsletter!

We will have so many successes to share about cleaning, greening and beautifying St. Louis!   The 2023 Summer Newsletter is available for download!

Be sure to sign up for our e-blast mailing list so you can stay in the know about our programs, projects and partnerships that make St. Louis a cleaner, greener and better place.


The best way to learn from the Demonstration Garden is to visit in person. The Demo Garden is always open so come by anytime.  See four seasons of interest in the Missouri native trees and plants and learn about their benefits to wildlife.  While you’re here, take a look at some of the other sustainable and energy-saving features of the Demonstration Garden.

Interpretive displays can help explain all of the features in the garden but if you have questions please call us at 314-772-4646.  It’s best to let us know in advance if you want to bring a group so we can make arrangements to help you get the most out of your visit.

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