Impact Conference

Impact Conference: Building Sustainable Landscapes

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The Impact Conference: October 16, 2018


Join us for the 2nd annual Impact Conference: Building Sustainable Landscapes!

ILCA and the Chicago Botanic Garden have come together to present invigorating sessions on sustainable and ecological landscape practices. Nationally known experts will serve up some of the newest ideas in sustainable landscape services and help attendees talk the talk with members of this emerging market. Plus, the sessions will show attendees how to create vigorous, low maintenance landscapes that endure over time. The day will also include vendor displays featuring the latest in sustainable products & practices and networking opportunities with those new to sustainable practice and old pros who know the ropes.



7:30am-8:30am REGISTRATION

8:45am-10:00am KEYNOTE

Plants are the Best Mulch: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes
Thomas Rainer, Phyto Studio
This groundbreaking talk presents a powerful alternative to traditional horticulture—designed plantings that function like naturally-occurring plant communities. Join landscape architect Thomas Rainer, a leading voice in ecological landscape design, to learn how plants fit together in nature and how to use this knowledge to create landscapes that are resilient, beautiful, and diverse. As practical as it is inspiring, this talk explores a new synthesis of ecology and horticulture–resulting in an intentionally designed and managed community where population dynamics are encouraged within an aesthetic framework.

Session sponsored by: Davey/The Care of Trees

10:10am-11:10am BREAKOUT SESSIONS

Sustainable Landscaping and the Community: How to Partner with Non-Profits to Connect with Customers and Build Your Business
Ryan Anderson, Midwest Pesticide Action Center
Robyn McMurray Hurtig, Greenwise
Sustainable landscaping, natural lawn care, and native planting can contribute to social well-being, while adding to your bottom line. Many environmental and social programs exist in Greater Chicago and across Illinois that allow for partnerships, collaborations, and sponsorships with your business. The Midwest Pesticide Action Center’s Ryan Anderson alongside two to three leading non-profits and businesses in the sustainable landscaping space cover why as a contractor you would want to partner with environmental and social non-profits, the programs, projects, and opportunities in Illinois to partner and collaborate on, and best strategies for selecting the non-profit programs and projects to partner and support. The Midwest Pesticide Action Center’s Ryan Anderson alongside Robyn McMurray Hurtig of Greenwise Organic Lawn Care  cover why as a contractor you would want to partner with environmental and social non-profits, the programs, projects, and opportunities in Illinois to partner and collaborate on, and best strategies for selecting the non-profit programs and projects to partner and support. 
Session sponsored by: Cardno Native Plant Nursery

Healthy Soil, Healthy Plants, Healthy People
Sandy Syburg, Purple Cow Organics
This presentation discusses the cyclical nature of the impacts soil, plants, and people have on each other. Improving soil health can have a significant impact on the health and quality of life for a gardener or a landscaper. Sandy will discuss soil structure, soil microbiology, and soil nutrition, as well environmental factors of water retention, nutrient leaching, among others.

Session sponsored by: Nels J. Johnson Tree Experts, Inc. 

Creating Successful Native Plant Landscapes
Drew Lathin, Creating Sustainable Landscapes, LLC
This talk will examine the unique features of native landscapes and focus on three critical technical components of making them ecologically successful and aesthetically pleasing to people. We will talk about the design, installation, and management of native landscapes and how they differ from what we have been doing for the past hundred years.

Session sponsored by: Lurvey Landscape Supply

11:20am-12:35pm PRE-LUNCH PLENARY

Blue and Green – Water and the Benjamins
Marcus De La Fleur, de la Fleur LLC
In this presentation residential case studies from past and current work from Marcus will be presented discussing the application of sustainable stormwater management, which includes structural solutions such as porous pavements and green roofs. He will also look in depth at non-structural solutions, such as bioretention (i.e. rain gardens) and its reliance on our native prairie vegetation to assure long-term performance. Marcus will speak about the rationales of designing with, and maintaining native vegetation – both issues that the landscape industry is reluctant to taking advantage of, despite the growth in this market segment. He will further address the all important issue of sustainable soil treatment and soil conservation, which is still too often ignored during construction and installation. Marcus will demonstrate how soil conservation is tied to the success of sustainable stormwater management and will quantify the stormwater benefits from one of his pilot projects and its larger cumulative benefits to the community.

Session sponsored by: Pizzo Native Plant Nursery

12:35pm-2:00pm LUNCH


Dewatering the Planting Holes of Ecosystem Landscaping
Jennifer Boyer and Andi Dierich
DuPage County Stormwater Management
Working across multiple departments in a large government agency is difficult. Creating a successful landscape design and implementing it is even trickier. Add in a dash of native vegetation, ecosystem themes, and ‘personal preference’ and you have a colossal mass that needs to move in the same direction with the same intention, oh, all on a minimal budget. DuPage County recently undertook a large scale native landscape installation from concept to implementation. Staff sold it with bare-root and potted trees to drilling in seed all in highly public and visible areas. From design considerations to specs and bidding, through finding out your site is acting like a hillside seep, we will provide our teachable moments for dealing with these and other ‘on the job’ problems. Participants will walk away with a sample set of DuPage County bid specs that were created for this ecosystem landscape project and the lessons learned along the way.

Session sponsored by: Wakefield Biochar

Managing a Plant Community: Creative Approaches to Site Preparation, Installation, and Maintenance
Thomas Rainer, Phyto Studio
A new way of thinking is emerging that overturns many of the longstanding axioms that guide landscape preparation, installation, and management. It looks at site characteristics such as heavy clay, deep shade, high pH, or dry soil not as stresses which must be eliminated at all costs, but as assets on which long-term planting is built. Join landscape architect Thomas Rainer to learn new strategies of how to work with a site rather than fighting it. This talk explores how to create and manage designed plantings that have the resilience, beauty, and functionality of naturally occurring plant communities.

Session sponsored by: Rainbow Treecare Scientific Advancements


Low Maintenance Landscapes – A New Partnership with Nature
Bill Peregrine, Earthdance Organics LLC
Why is it with all the resources at our disposal – manpower, water, fertilizer, money, mowers, rototillers, etc. – we struggle to “maintain” our customers’ properties and yet Nature does it beautifully without us lifting a finger? What principles does Nature employ to make it all look so simple and how can we turn those principles into practices to use on our customers’ properties? From principle to practice, we will look at how Nature takes care of herself and what we can do to align our properties with the Earth’s naturally occurring systems. The concept is easy –“The closer we replicate Nature’s systems, the easier our work becomes” – but in practice, it becomes a real challenge. Then mix in a customer with their own aesthetic interests and demands for how they use their property and it is no wonder we find ourselves constantly battling the forces of Nature. But rest assured, we can find common ground to give our customer what they want while still supplying Nature what it needs. In the end, we will have a more enduring, resilient and beautiful landscape.

Session sponsored by: Intrinsic Perennial Gardens

The Promise of Electric Technology – Moving from Gas to Electric
Dan Mabe, American Green Zone Alliance
Electric battery technology is advancing, enabling communities to create low noise, emissions-free parks, campuses, and other spaces. With the proper training, it is practical and cost-effective to use for a substantial amount of commercial scale work. The American Green Zone Alliance is helping communities transition to low noise, zero emissions land care. Through its AGZA Green Zone® programs, it led the cities of South Pasadena and Ojai, California to transition from gas to electric operations for all routine maintenance. AGZA also Green Zone® Certified the nation’s first golf course the Arroyo Seco par three. Work performance and ROI considerations for battery electric tools will be covered in this discussion as well as where the technology is today, and where things are heading.

Session sponsored by: Ringers Landscaping

4:30pm-6:00pm RECEPTION

Who Should Attend?
Arborists, Architects, Civil Engineers, Corporate Sustainability Officers, Ecological Restoration Experts, Educators, Public Gardens and Non-Profit Groups, Growers, Nurseries and Garden Centers, Landscape Architects and Designers, Landscape Contractors, Master Gardeners, Municipal Leaders, Park District Leaders, Policy Makers, Product Suppliers and Manufacturers, HOA members, and Students

Want to Learn More?

Contact AnneMarie Drufke ( for further information about Impact Conference: Building Sustainable Landscapes.

Thanks to our Premier Sponsors!

Thanks to our Session Sponsors!

Thanks to our Tabletop Sponsors!

Thanks to our Reception Sponsor!

Thanks to our Reception/Refreshment Sponsor!