Guest Blogger Tony Campisi
January 10th, 2023
Imagine for a minute, life without nature. Imagine a spring morning without a robin, a summer night without fireflies. Think of a drive in the fall without the changing of leaves. Close your eyes and really think of a world without trees. Imagine if children rolled logs and found nothing underneath. Imagine a beach without gulls, a lake without fish, and a mountain without sheep. Imagine never smelling a summer rain on the wind, or the crunch of snow beneath your feet. Think of a cool mountain stream, its waters crystal clear, never flowing. Imagine never getting to experience the change of the seasons, as summer’s heat finally gives up its grasp, or the rebirth of life in the spring. Imagine how dramatically this life without nature would change everything about your life. Imagine culture, without a frame of reference. What would we paint? How would we make our clothing? What would we teach our children? Why? Without nature, you would not be reading these words, for even your laptop was sourced from nature.
The truth is, we can’t imagine a life without nature. Not truly. The very thought requires nature. Our entire earthly lives are sustained by nature and yet the average person sadly believes that nature exists “somewhere else”. We take for granted, all that is around us. I believe that is by design. Despite the consumption of nature, it is fully capable of working for us at all times, not requiring us to charge it, fuel it, replace it, etc. It’s all “built in.” The part I feel most people are missing is the responsibility to care for nature. We cannot, in good conscience, simply consume the natural resources we need, without the desire to care for the source of those resources. It would be like getting a flat on the highway, someone stops to help change the flat while cars speed by at 65mph, and once finished, simply slamming the trunk, hopping behind the wheel and driving off without so much as a thank you to the good Samaritan!
Nature is the one thing we all have in common. Regardless of race, religion, orientation, age, demographics, or financials, we all depend on nature equally. Nature provides our basic needs, which I like to categorize as follows. Clean air, clean water, clean food, safety/shelter.
“Without humans trees would do just fine. Without trees, humans would perish.” – Matthew Sleeth, MD
I grew up in rural Pennsylvania. It was paradise to me. A creek just down the road, acres of woods behind our house. It didn’t get any better. Living in this setting, I developed an early appreciation for nature. My father is a huge fan of turtles, and that meant for my brothers and I growing up, a lot of the time we spent together was in the creek. We always kept an eye out for turtles. It was during these young years of my life that I developed not only an appreciation for nature, but a need for it. The natural world was full of adventure, beauty, but also safety. I felt more secure directly connected to nature than I did directly connected to “indoors”. I slept with the windows open for as late in the year as my parents would let me just to hear the sounds of the night and to feel to cool breeze. Much to my brothers (who shared a room with me) dismay, who would have described the breeze more “cold” than cool and would have seen fit to comfortably and without reservation, sleep with the windows closed. Water under the bridge, my friends. It’s safe to say, early on I recognized a deep dependance on nature, and that has heavily influenced much of my life as I grew older. Naturally, that led me to an outdoor career.
“There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.” – Aldo Leopold
Campisi Property Service LLC was unofficially founded in 2009. At the time, the business my dad and I started was called Campisi Lawn Service and as the name implied, centered around mowing lawns, cleaning up flower beds, and installing mulch. As things grew, our reach grew, our project sizes increased, and we began to hire. Things were going quite well in business, and we found ourselves deeply lodged in the “conventional” landscaping industry. We were cutting it down, mowing it over, and ripping it out to achieve “neat, tidy, and well kept”.
As our company grew, my dislike for what we were doing grew as well. It felt that in order to be in landscaping, one must work in opposition to nature to be effective, and to remain relevant in the industry. The biggest customer request we had during those years can be distilled down to this one phrase, “I want it to look good, and be low maintenance.” At first glance, that request doesn’t sound too bad. Looking good and requiring little maintenance would make 99% of your neighbors quite happy! We’re talking about the natural world, however. The space in which nature is to exist and natural processes carried out. Cleaning our water, air, providing food and the systems that support food production (like pollination) just as an example. We count on nature to do all that and most folks are content reducing it down to how it looks and the amount of effort it takes for us to keep it that way! Imagine if nature shared our desires! Nature works tirelessly, day and night, and never ceases. The processes that sustain life cannot quit for even one minute and those processes happen as a result of nature. I firmly believe this is due solely to the fact that most people are innocently ignorant. Ie: they have no clue. People just don’t make the connection between what they do on their property, and the environment. To most people nature exists “over there” and they exist “here”.
In 2020 I was introduced to The Surfrider Foundation’s “Ocean Friendly Gardens” programs. This program was designed to help homeowners design and construct eco-friendly, watershed friendly landscapes to better protect the oceans from polluted runoff. This was my first experience with landscaping coming together with conservation, and from the minute I heard about this program I set out to make that connection in our company. It wasn’t long before we began offering “Sustainable Landscaping Solutions” and I was registered for my Level 1 CBLP certification course through the CCLC.
Our mission statement: To make sustainable landscaping the new normal by helping people make the connection between their property, or the properties they manage, and the health of the natural world.
To say this transition has been fulfilling would be an understatement. To say it’s been difficult and overwhelming would adequately describe it as well. Breaking the “conventional landscaping” chains isn’t easy and turning a large ship doesn’t happen on a dime. In making these changes, we have certainly “outgrew” some of our customers and sadly had to let them go. We also have had to blaze much of our own trail because in this part of the world, conventional landscaping is king, and sustainable landscaping is still the black sheep.
I work as the estimator and project manager for our company and let me tell you, since making the switch, things have never looked better! I tell everyone that the most fun I have nowadays is converting people from conventional landscaping to sustainable landscaping. I am so encouraged by how little opposition I receive! People in the industry ask why we haven’t changed our name to some catchy acronym. My answer is simply, “If we did that, I still wouldn’t get the calls for conventional landscaping!” If we changed our name, we might only attract those who have already embraced these concepts, but if we are to truly make a change, we must influence the masses. Not to mention, there is nothing wrong with our name! I would comfortably say that 90% of the folks I speak with are open, and even excited about the concept of being able to steward the environment with their yards. Some are just refreshed to hear there is another option that doesn’t end in a sterile unexciting landscape. Most people have never heard of such an idea, and when presented with the two options after their enlightenment, they find themselves in the sustainable camp. Most folks can’t argue with the fact that nature is very important, and most folks also want to be a part of the solution. This is why I firmly believe that the greatest leverage we have for the natural world is the commercial and residential landscape. These landscapes can be manipulated right now, to be a value to the environment or a detriment to it. To illustrate this point, in my lectures I often ask the crowd, “Who here can simply walk on to the nearby corn field or park and start planting trees?” No one ever raises their hand. I follow that question with “Now who here can go home and start planting trees in your yard or a family member’s yard?” They all raise their hands.
If you’re a homeowner, or a business owner, this new way of landscaping should excite you to no end! The future of conservation is in your hands. You just read about it, and now you can be about it. Join the movement, and become a conservationist.
I’ll see you out there!
Tony Campisi is the owner of Campisi Property Service LLC, located in Dover, PA. Tony is passionate about sustainable landscaping- to learn more about him and his work visit his YouTube channel .