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Local/Regional Economic Health


While public gardens are traditionally cherished for their environmental, aesthetic, and cultural value, they are of significant economic importance as well. Public gardens are valued both by locals and visitors, representing both a significant source of economic growth within the local economy and a major component of the region’s tourism industry. The Local/Regional Economic Health Attribute concentrates on the recurring economic impact that public gardens can have off site. Whether through capital projects on site and in their communities that creates jobs, partnerships that draw tourists to other environmental and cultural institutions, or collaborations with local businesses in a variety of industries, public gardens generate economic impact annually. Through internal operations, education, and programming, public gardens can also promote plant conservation, decrease air pollution, conserve water and energy, and dispose of waste and materials sustainably to improve human well-being and the environment, and ensure that negative environmental externalities do not destabilize the local economy. 



Goal 1: Garden generates economic impact through professional development and job creation. 

Goal 2: Capital investments, marketing, and branding enhance the region’s tourism and retain local visitors, creating economic spillover to other cultural institutions and industries.

Goal 3: The garden positively influences human behavior and thinking towards conserving natural resources helping spread sustainable practices and infrastructure at corporate and individual levels.

Goal 4:  Garden forms a mutually beneficial relationship with the municipality that positively impacts the local economy through project collaborations, improving the quality of life and environmental benefits for local residents.


The following UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are aligned with this attribute:

SDG 1-No Poverty           

Despite the fact that the global poverty rate has been halved since 2000, intensified efforts are required to boost the incomes, alleviate the suffering and build the resilience of those individuals still living in extreme poverty.

SDG 8-Decent Work and Economic Growth

Increasing labor productivity, reducing the unemployment rate, especially for young people, and improving access to financial services and benefits are essential components of sustained and inclusive economic growth.




“The Greater Philadelphia Gardens Group started doing some marketing work together, and they just released an economic impact statement collectively, which is, most public gardens aren't really competing with each other, they really are each unique experiences, and in some ways you're looking at the power of a region to attract visitation and tourism. If you can say there's not just one, there are 30 gardens, come to the area, hit as many as you can; I mean that's a lot of powerful impact.”

~CEO, South Coast Botanic Garden


“If you are a garden in a community, taking responsibility for holding all of your site water runoff and filtering it and slowly releasing it back into the community that is a best practice. And if you do not do that, then the community is paying for it, in the sense that they are paying for storm drains, and the larger community is paying for polluted runoff water and those kinds of things. And so, the first job of kind of determining a regions economic and ecological health is to bring all the externalities into the budget.”


“We stopped saying what we do and we started talking about how we do it. And we do it through thoughtful leadership, building connections, figuring out ways to act beyond our borders, and ecological stewardship. And so we have those four big ideas, and they fall across everything that we do. And that became our brand and now people think of our institution as the place that pushes envelopes and does things different and that has benefited us.”

~Facilitator of Outreach & Regenerative Design, Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest


“Part of the relationship we have with our city is that we’re kind of self-sufficient on our own. We provide economic help to the city because we’re privately able to raise the funds through different income streams to run this place without them having to put a lot of tax dollars in to support it.”

~ VP of Gardens, Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden



1. Investigate and Establish a Baseline 

2. Identify Stakeholders 

3. Data Collection/Resources

4. Develop and Implement a Plan of Action 

5. Evaluate and Maintain Success 

6. Report, Communicate, Educate

7. Resources and Case Studies 




1. Investigate and Establish a Baseline


Use the Local/Regional Economic Health Self-audit Worksheet for the self-audit and use it to further track your planning decisions (see Develop and Implement a Plan of Action section below).


A baseline provides some form of inventory that future efforts/years can be compared to. This may encompass a general audit of existing programs, policies, or practices that are known to be in place which are meeting or striving to meet Local/Economic Health goals. The following questions should be considered as part of an initial self-audit process to track economic progress and impact.

In the questions that follow, the terms "economic improvement" and "economic impact" are used. These terms are defined as follows:

Economic improvement: The overall building up of the economic structure in an area by activities which result in the creation of new jobs.

Economic impact: The change in economic activity in a community, city, or region as a result of an event, project, business, or organization, policy, or other activity or program (the contribution of an organization to the economic activity).

Negative externalities: A cost that is suffered by a third party as a result of an economic transaction. In a transaction, the producer and consumer are the first and second parties, and third parties include any individual, organization, property owner, or natural resource that is indirectly affected.




  • Is higher visibility/brand awareness somewhere in your strategic plan as a goal/tactic?

  • Does your garden have an external advocacy policy or statement?

  • Does your garden advocate local products, equipment, materials, and food that are affordable and obtainable to diverse demographics?

  • Has your garden reached out to external sources such as a local government agency to identify areas of concern (e.g., poor air and water quality) that you could assist with through collaborative funding campaigns and capital investments (ecological design standards and principles, certifications, etc.)?

  • Has your garden invested in promotional/informational brochures with your logo and associated partner logos/branding at your local Chamber of Commerce or similar outlets (e.g., Visitor’s Bureau)?

  • Does your garden invest in any marketing/branding for national campaigns tied to your mission and that demonstrate your commitment to a nation-wide issue?  




Gardens that not only follow environmental compliance regulations, but also go a step further in creating their own internal policies and reporting requirements can provide tremendous economic benefits to their communities and municipalities. This ensures a garden is held accountable and that their operations, maintenance, and facilities are held to the highest standards on site so that they do not negatively impact shared natural resources that communities that surround them rely on. Improper management of natural lands and on-site operations can contribute to higher taxes and time a local government invests in natural resources management, for example, improving water quality from shared sources (rivers, lakes, streams). Ensuring proper pest management (IPM), striving to maintain and improve soil health, proper tree and plant collections placement, the implementation of green infrastructure, are all ways that your garden can generate positive impacts on social, environmental, and economic health off site.

Consider the following questions when determining whether your garden is forming a mutually beneficial relationship with your municipality and ensuring POSITIVE externalities:


  • Has your garden adopted an economic valuation framework (GHG inventory) from your municipality that can help track environmental harms that permeate beyond garden boundaries?

  • Does your garden regularly review on-going operations and maintenance practices to reduce negative externalities (a cost that is suffered by a third party such as a natural resource as a result of an economic transaction)?

  • Does your garden invest in natural resource management projects on or off site that have the potential for economic impact to the entire community (e.g., treatment of effluent water on site for reuse)?

  • Does your garden have contracts with utility companies (e.g., water, energy), parks and recreation departments (mowing/maintenance of natural lands), catering companies, etc., and  if so, does leadership staff meet to ensure BMPs are being followed (e.g., no polluted sources impacting off-site natural resources and private properties)?

  • Does your garden coach volunteers and interpretive staff to highlight on tours and guided walks the steps your garden is taking to ensure sustainable best practices (e.g., green infrastructure that can be emulated at home such as rain barrels)?

  • Does your garden have operational plans and policies that are transparent and observable for visitors? Examples include the following (Look for multiple “YES” answers)?

    • Local recycling and waste streaming (composting)
    • Green infrastructure (equipment such as non-fuel powered mowers, renewable energy such as solar panels, etc.)
    • Sustainable agriculture (cover crop/vegetable gardening demonstrations, stated use and sources of food at café/restaurants)




  • Does your garden offer internships, trainings, volunteer opportunities, fellowships, or jobs for career advancement (ensuring not all offerings require advanced degrees and extensive job experience)? 

  • Does your garden offer scholarship opportunities or travel awards to students and professionals interested in attending professional development offerings such as events, symposiums, conferences, or workshops?

  • Does your garden invest in affordable or free programming that can lead to job training and leadership roles for community members (e.g. course and continuing education certifications)?

  • Does your garden target any areas of your community for core programmatic focuses that align with municipality goals (e.g., adult education training in sustainable agriculture where there is desertification/food deserts, at-risk youth gardening programs, etc.)?

  • Does your garden provide job training for students at all levels that have an interest or need credit for undergraduate or graduate level work projects (e.g., evaluation for those pursuing careers in environmental education or healthcare)?



2. Identify Stakeholders


Identifying the right stakeholders can increase opportunities for career advancement, jobs, the profile of local businesses, and tourism to your state, region, or province. No matter which goals your team chooses to tackle, the process will be a group effort. Many diverse stakeholders that make up your garden community will engage early and be represented throughout the process. Consider the following questions on how to identify the right stakeholders to assess Local/Regional Economic Health:


  • Does your garden have staff responsible for marketing collaborations with community organizations, individuals, and agencies (community engagement)? 

  • Has your garden aligned efforts with local government agencies or organizations (e.g., NOAA, CLEO, The Nature Conservancy-Local Chapter, etc.) that have strict reporting requirements or frameworks for tracking economic impact (See Case Studies section)?

  • Has your garden collaborated with a college/university for research purposes to identify economic impact through natural resource management practices?

  • Does your garden collaborate with any local businesses, government agencies, or other organizations in your community for cultural events and programs off site or on site?

  • Has your garden engaged your community in non-traditional ways such as featuring guest speakers and artists from other cultures, countries, regions?

  • Has your garden engaged community leaders in underrepresented areas to see if there is interest in working together on future projects/events (See Engagement, Outreach, Education Attribute)?

  • Does your garden hold regular meetings amongst leadership staff and board members to determine what role you should play in engaging local businesses and other cultural institutions in your community? 



3. Data Collection/Resources


“An institution can at least lead through metrics because what essentially those metrics are doing is they are putting some rationale behind moving externalities into internalities.”

~Facilitator of Outreach & Regenerative Design, Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest


The data collection process is a key part of understanding a gardens impact on their local/regional economic health. Internal and external data collection can provide valuable insight on the impact of garden operations, programs, and events. This also helps the garden better understand who a majority of their visitors are and how they can engage new demographics.



  • Annually track aggregate garden attendance. Many gardens are ticketed and can easily define their attendance on an annualized basis. For others, attendance is more challenging to project, either because the gardens are not ticketed or tracked, or because the gardens are a component of a larger institution of attraction such that garden visitation is not separately segmented. In such cases, those gardens should use volunteers at visitor centers, cameras, and technology (electronic or infrared counters in parking lots and trails) to determine visitation numbers.

  • Determine average visitor demographic in survey respondents. For example, “the average age of survey respondents was 45 years old, had at least a bachelor’s degree, and had an annual income of $80,000.” In addition, analyze whether visitors who completed the survey were primarily local to the area. Respondents should be asked if they lived within one hour of the garden. Those who responded “yes” should be considered to be from the region. Another important metric to consider is whether non-local visitors are visiting the region on a day trip or for multiple days. These out of town visitors are particularly relevant from an economic impact standpoint because they bring new dollars into a region (as opposed to local spending that may be shifted from another sector). The majority of overnight visitors may report staying in paid accommodations, which benefits the local hospitality industry.

  • Determine through surveys what visitors are spending their money on during their trip to the garden such as:  Admission, food on-site, gift shop purchases, plants, a specific garden program, membership, etc. A good economic impact analysis will also include questions on whether the garden was one of several stops on their visit to the area or the only planned destination.   

  • Data gleaned from the visitor intercept and member surveys can be utilized to develop an estimate of the proportion of garden visitors that generate new spending in the regional economy and include those visitors who likely would not have come to the region absent the presence of the garden. This is a powerful statement that can be made to board members and future partners and can help establish relationships with the local Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau.

  • Collect data via visitor surveys (intercepting visitors based on demographics-families, individuals, etc.) but also online internally via employees to ascertain more in depth information on:

    • Visitation Information
    • Event Programming
  • To learn more about where they are coming from and what motivated their visit, your garden should collect the following information from visitors:

    • Satisfaction level  
    • Reason for visiting 
    • If garden was only destination/stop on their trip to the area 
    • Distance travelled to garden (miles) 
    • Garden mission awareness level 
  • Determine whether visitors are from another state or country to analyze percentage of local versus non-local visitors and if there are trends at different times of year. 

  • Consider collaborating with your local government, a consultant, or other regional gardens to adopt and standardize best practices for surveying visitor motivations.


Consider the following questions for the data collection/resources self-audit process:




  • Has your garden kept track of earned revenue that is redistributed back to the community for the public good (e.g., a charitable gift or campaign/cause/external program your garden strongly supports)?

  • Does your garden use IMPLAN to model the economic impact from direct expenditures associated with both organizational operations and visitor spending?

  • Has your garden used any of the following to conduct an economic impact assessment (Look for multiple "YES" answers)?

    • Lifecycle Cost Analysis (LCA) 
    • Money Generation Model (MGM2)   
    • PV Watts Calculator 
    • Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES)   
    • Green Values National Stormwater Management Calculator 
    • National Tree Benefit Calculator 
    • Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs (InVEST) 
    • The Value of Green Infrastructure: A Guide to Recognizing Its Economic, Environmental and Social Benefits 
    • STAR Community Rating System (STAR) 




  • Has your garden tracked and collected data on employee retention rates for volunteers and staff?

  • Has your garden tracked and collected data on participants in workshops, projects, or programs who went on to get employed at your garden or another cultural/environmental institution (reducing the unemployment rate)?

  • Does your garden participate in surveys and examine data and tools available from the U.S. Census Bureau for select sectors/topics (small businesses, women/minorities) in your region?

  • Does your garden use data, tools, and information from NICH in order to document, comprehensively measure, and disseminate the economic impact and benefits of consumer horticulture?

  • Does your garden record the number of visitors per month, season, and year to ascertain busiest times of year and when additional hires are needed?

  • Does your garden regularly interview and survey volunteers, interns, and community members to ascertain areas of interest and job skillsets that the garden could provide for them?




  • Has your garden collaborated with any of the following for mutually beneficial partnerships (Look for multiple “YES” answers)?

    • Local/regional restaurants (e.g., cooking demonstrations/tastings with vegetables from your garden).
    • Local garden centers (plant supply stores).
    • Local/regional nurseries/plant production facilities.
    • Local/regional outdoor recreation clubs (e.g., hiking, biking, etc.)
    • Other cultural institutions (e.g., zoos, museums).
    • Other local/regional public gardens
    • Government agency programs (e.g., USFS, USDA, RISA).
    • Tree protection & health (arborists).
    • Green infrastructure construction firms and landscape design companies.
    • National/regional campaigns such as involvement in Green Challenges or initiatives. For example, The National Pollinator Garden Network (NPGN), an unprecedented collaboration of national, regional, and local gardening clubs. The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge (MPGC) is a nationwide call to action to preserve and create gardens and landscapes that help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators across America.
  • Has your garden held any social/cultural events (a cultural event is a “live” event and an avenue for understanding the culture of a nation, people, or group — the arts, beliefs, customs, practices, values, and social behaviors) and determined  highest attendance and, in some cases, revenue generated? Examples of such events (Look for multiple “YES” answers):
    • Multi-cultural festival 
    • Multi-faith community event 
    • Art exhibits  
    • Garden demonstration (e.g., sustainable agriculture practices). 
    • Cooking demonstrations and classes (e.g., recipes catered to specific demographics).
    • Music and performing arts showcases 
    • Public forum-presentation, speaker, Q&A conversation (e.g., renowned conservationists, ecologists, artists, experts in land use planning and design).  
    • Local charity events 
    • Environmental community events (National Public Gardens Day, Earth Day) 
    • Galas 
    • Plant sales 
    • Environmental education/citizen science data collection opportunities (e.g., plant exploration).
    • Recreational events (e.g., outdoor yoga, hiking)
    • Wine festivals 
    • Garden or other symposium  
    • Conferences 
    • Fireworks displays (not related to national holidays) 
    • Light shows (garden after dark programs)
    • Special flower events (e.g., camellia show, floral design show, spring bulb show, etc.) 
  • Has your garden hired a consultant (sometimes a firm/agency will provide free consultation) or plan on working with an external partner such as a local college/university to conduct an economic impact study?

  • Does your garden track in your budget what is coming from local/regional (e.g., food, equipment, plant materials, office supplies, etc.) sources?

  • Does your garden track whether you are one of the most visited sites in your region via external sources (e.g., trip advisor, etc.)?

  • Has your garden identified which online presence (e.g., garden website or social media platforms, etc.) is reaching the broadest audience (web analytics)?




4. Develop and Implement a Plan of Action



Just as data collection should be goal driven, the planning process must also help the garden to identify the important criteria for action decisions. Financial oversight includes matching action steps to existing resources and developing realistic timelines. Consider the role your garden plays in your community and how its presence impacts other local businesses and institutions.




  • Conduct an economic impact study that your garden can promote and present to your board and stakeholders using the Association benchmarking platform or through collaboration with a nearby business school. For example, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanic Garden had the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University complete a study in 2012-2013, which they’ve been able to use to engage new stakeholders. These studies can be completed via consultants or your local university/college to better understand your visitors and what has been effective in getting them to your garden.

  • Promote and use local sustainably certified products and materials that are harvested and extracted in sustainable ways to raise awareness and education about destructive harvesting processes and to control the chain of command for goods and services. This helps improve the local/regional economy by creating more visibility for those products and services. Additionally, advertising and collaborating with for example, landscape architecture companies and other green design and planning companies, can further enhance your mission while benefitting local businesses and services.

  • Cross-promote and collaborate with other cultural institutions, public gardens, and local businesses online and with printed materials for workshops, events, galas, notable speakers, etc., that can provide innovative research  and a learning experience that is multi-disciplinary and is relevant to horticulture and conservation practices and enhances the power to attract visitation to your region.

  • Through development and program related investments ensure career advancement opportunities are available for volunteers, students, interns, and employees. Conferences, events, workshops, and distant learning opportunities need to be encouraged. Mutually beneficial collaborations with K-12 schools, college/university programs, and community organizations can help develop job skills for horticulture professions and generate interest in environmental professions at an early age. The garden is then directly contributing to reducing unemployment rates in your region.. Decide what program investments should continue for career advancement and job training and where there needs to be divestment based on attendance and interest.

  • The garden advocates on behalf of local products, equipment, materials, and food that are affordable and obtainable to diverse demographics.  

  • The garden collaborates with local city officials (office of sustainability/environment/energy) and government agencies to fund capital investment projects/programs (ecological design standards and principles, certifications, etc.).  

  • The garden invests in promotional/informational brochures that can be distributed to the local Chamber of Commerce or similar outlets (e.g., Visitor’s Bureau).

  • The garden invests in marketing/branding for national campaigns that strengthen commitment to mission and draw attention to local/regional commitment to a national issue (e.g., National Pollinator Garden Network, forest stewardship council).




  • Account for all externalities. A key component of garden management is social responsibility.  Your budget should factor in both positive and negative externalities. While initial costs for materials and labor may be high in investing in proven green infrastructure standards and natural processes as opposed to traditional modes, they can also save your institution money long term and help spur positive economic growth in environmentally friendly ways. Research, plan, and then design ways to keep negative externalities such as water pollution run-off on site.

  • On-going research needs to assess the economic impacts of the garden in terms of carbon mitigation (usually based on vegetation coverage) and the health effects garden visitors enjoy from exercise and stress relief (horticulture therapy) associated with visits. For example, regular visitors to garden natural lands and trails may lower incidences of obesity, which lowers healthcare spending for hypertension, cardiac disease and diabetes. Ensure this kind of messaging is available to the public via panels, interpretation, or other informational signage to better educate the public on the multi-disciplinary role gardens play (positive social, environmental, and economic impacts).

  • Using IMPLAN, model the economic impact from direct expenditures associated with both organizational operations and visitor spending an industry standard input-output model software program. Such models are designed to estimate two sets of spillover impacts from direct expenditures:

    • The indirect effect, which measures the multiplier effect from the purchase of goods and services from local vendors; and

    • The induced effect, which measures the multiplier effect from the spending of labor income by employees within a particular geography.



5. Evaluate/Revise/Monitor and Maintain Success


Evaluation tools should be determined by effectiveness and available resources (including personnel time). This section helps your garden determine what is best for the site, providing guidance where goals were not achieved in order to revise the plan, research, and take further action.

  • Online and in person survey questions should be constantly revised, distributed, and analyzed regularly based on busiest times of year. This data and information is invaluable to understand the guest experience and what the garden can do differently in the future to improve that experience. Those questions can be tailored to specific programs, events, and demographics so your garden can constantly evaluate what needs to improve (e.g., programs that the community rates highly in terms of career advancement).

  • In cases where information is not provided by surveying or other research methodologies, economic impact can be determined based on publicly available information, notably IRS 990 non-profit organizational reports, and publicly released attendance figures.

  • Regularly evaluate how visitors are finding out about your garden through web analytics and online resources such as trip advisor.

  • Evaluate percentage of visitors that are local versus non-local annually.  

  • Evaluate and revise budgets that only contain line items that you can put an on-site value on.

  • The overall economic and fiscal impact that a garden can have on the vitality of the region, state, or province can be evaluated in the following ways:
    • Direct and indirect employment impacts (capital expenditures, operational expenditures, payroll and benefits).

    • Government revenue impacts at the local and state levels.  

    • The impact of visitor spending on the economy (goods and services, wage premiums, job creation, etc.).

    • The impact to local businesses in the region (retail/merchandise, hospitality, etc.).

    • The impact of increased visibility to innovative green infrastructure, research, rare and endangered plant species.

    • The impact that employees and students have on the community through labor, volunteer work, and research.

Regularly review and evaluate:

  • Capital costs
  • Operation and maintenance costs
  • Life-cycle costs
  • Annualized costs
  • Cost per unit of stormwater volume reduction or infiltration
  • Cost per pound of total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and/or TSS removed
  • Cost per unit of peak flow reduction
  • Cost per greened acre and wetlands improved or created and associated value of wetland services.
  • Cost of green infrastructure techniques compared to grey or traditional approaches
  • Cost of construction disruption based on amount of extra time local residents will spend in construction-related traffic.
  • Cost of flood control facilities and landscape infrastructure (bioswales, culverts, etc.)
  • Cost of natural lands trails maintenance and management
  • Cost of water quality treatment (effluent water).
  • Cost of program investments, events, workshops aimed at career advancement and job training.  
  • Cost of heating and cooling systems and investments in renewable energy and associated savings.
  • Cost of reducing carbon dioxide emissions due to energy savings and carbon sequestration (e.g., trees, grasslands, etc.).
  • Cost of creating upland habitat in the local area (e.g., habitat provided by green roof).
  • Cost of investing in staff and technology to measure visitation and recreation (e.g., trail and parking counters).
  • Cost of imported water costs (e.g., capturing stormwater runoff for reuse).



6. Report Communicate and Educate


When gardens identify meaningful accomplishments, they must determine how and what to share in an internal capacity with stakeholders and in an external capacity with the public/target audiences or on a national scale (such as through our Association’s network). It’s important to recognize the external partnerships and collaborations that increase a gardens social, environmental, and economic footprint. 


  • Annually report on contributions to the local community such as number of visitors per year, especially when at record numbers. Use the garden benchmarking platform.

  • Determine both organizational spending and direct ancillary visitor spending (from attendance and industry sources). Use this information to help create a sustainability report and indirect economic impacts that permeate outside garden walls.

  • Communicate special interest stories, events, programs, projects. In particular, highlight and promote non-local guest speakers or renowned figures nationally or internationally. 

  • Communicate the status of community-based projects and new and emerging programs that may be of interest to local businesses and individuals. 

  • Report online through newsletters, e-blasts, magazines, social media platforms, new projects/programs outside your garden walls that are providing jobs and income to local residents and institutions. Spotlight individuals who through programming, volunteer work, or an internship is now a full-time employee either at your garden or another.

  • Communicate through all relevant channels career advancement opportunities for employees, volunteers, and visitors (trainings, workshops, internships, certifications, etc.). Have a policy or statement that supports a commitment to diversity and inclusion, including publishing stories that have helped change community members lives through innovative programming (See Employee Development, Diversity, & Inclusion). 

  • Publish and communicate to internal and external stakeholders economic impact study findings.

  • Communicate with current and new partners expectations for a mutually beneficial partnership or collaboration that stays true to your mission. Report on partnerships established with local government agencies.

  • Advocate to the public other nearby cultural institutions (museums, zoos, research centers, etc.) that you collaborate with through communication channels.

  • Collaborate with your local Visitor’s Bureau or Chamber of Commerce for free advertising and promotion.

  • Utilize social media and other platforms to communicate events (National Public Gardens Day, Earth Day) and educational opportunities for students and volunteers.



7. Resources and Case Studies 



Resources for determining environmental & economic impact designed to identify and forecast good and bad consequences of an action on the environment and potential impacts on human health:

  • i-Tree  
  • National Stormwater Calculator 
  • Aquatox 
  • Environmental Benefits Calculator 
  • Landuse Performance Scorecard and Criteria 
  • Landuse Evolution and Impact Assessment Model (LEAM) 
  • Residential Environment Assessment Tool (REAT) 
  • Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) 
  • Green Values National Stormwater Management Calculator 
  • National Tree Benefit Calculator 
  • Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs (InVEST) 
  • The Value of Green Infrastructure: A Guide to Recognizing Its Economic, Environmental and Social Benefits 
  • STAR Community Rating System (STAR)


Association Resources found in the Library & Media Center:


Economic Consultant Resources:


Conservation Tools:


EVRI - Environmental valuation reference inventory:


The International Society of Ecological Economics Resources:


The Review of Environmental Economics and Policy (REEP) fills the gap between traditional academic journals and the general interest press by providing a widely accessible yet scholarly source for the latest thinking on environmental economics and related policy:


Publication of the American Agricultural Economics Association:


United States Census Bureau-Economic Census:


Economic Impact of Greater Philadelphia Gardens, See Appendix B for sample questions:


Calculate your economic impact:


For breakdown of capital cost assessment and benefit-cost analysis:


The Economic Impact of Local Parks on the United States Economy:


Economic and Community Impacts of the University of Virginia:


Economic Benefits of Biodiversity:


Benefits of Urban Trees:


A Bibliography of Economic Valuation Literature:



The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones

Garden Tourism by Richard W. Benfield



The Public Gardens Sustainability Index Working Group is made up of diverse field-wide professionals. Does your expertise lie within an Attribute area? Help us build content for Principles and Best Practices. Have success stories? Let us collect your Case Studies. Contact Tommy Rosenbluth:


Case Study 


Moore Farms Botanical Garden

Moore Farms Botanical Garden draws over 8,000 visitors each year through its whimsical designs, educational programming, and southern hospitality. This “very public private garden” has been a powerhouse of change both within the garden gates and beyond, growing new initiatives through community revitalization every day.

The Moore Farms Botanical Garden was founded in 2002 by South Carolina native Darla Moore, who sought to prove that her family’s ancestral croplands could be transformed into a place of beauty, and an example of horticultural excellence. As her garden grew, so did Ms. Moore’s vision for the future of the property. Soon she began to see the potential of the garden as a place for horticultural research and education, and as a place of enjoyment for visitors. Moreover, she saw that the garden could become a source of pride for the people of her hometown and home state. The garden, she determined, would become a gift to the ages – an enrichment to the lives of others.

For a private garden, Moore Farms is no stranger to the public. Beyond the garden gates, Moore Farms’ reach extends throughout nearby Lake City, Ms. Moore’s hometown. Educational programming has been specifically designed to fit into local grade school curricula so that teachers are able to easily coordinate with the garden.

Additionally, her influence and generosity can be seen throughout the community in any number of public landscapes including the Village Green, over 50 containers, and many other pro bono consulting projects completed for local businesses. As a private garden, Moore Farms is able to give back to the community because it directs all monetary returns from events and programs back into other local groups and organizations. 


The Dallas Arboretum

In North Texas, there are many environmental challenges that make selecting the right plants crucial to successful gardening. Although most catalogs and books provide information about plant requirements, many of these descriptions are based on growing experience in northern states. Dallas has weather conditions that require resilient plants. The Trial Gardens at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden were created for the purpose of expanding research efforts and providing information to the public. The focus of the trial program is to grow and evaluate many different plants in the drastic climate of the Metroplex and North Central Texas. Information generated from the trials is provided to commercial plant producers, retailers and home gardeners. Between 3,000 and 5,000 plants are trialed yearly from over 150 plant breeding companies. The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden hosted its annual Plant Trials Field Day in 2017 and included data on what plants performed well and which ones survived the Texas weather in late 2016 through spring 2017. This trial program helps local retailers supply the right variety of plants for people to be more successful gardeners and provides income to these local businesses.


The Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest

The Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest features the first LEED Platinum certified building in the state of Kentucky – the Bernheim Visitor Center.  The visitor center is 6,470 square feet and is mostly constructed of reused wood and recycled materials. Key sustainable design features included a geothermal HVAC system for heating and cooling the building and a peat sewer treatment system to minimize environmental impact.  Water is harvested from the roof and held in an 8,000 gallon underground cistern for use on site.  The visitor center also has automatic photocell and occupancy sensor based controls.

Before the visitor center came to fruition, Bernheim brought in stakeholders that knew about living roofs. They decided to be innovative and not build their roof with Sedum mats (common practice). There roof was composed of native plant species and materials reflective of their region and that adapted well to periods of drought, absorbed and filtered water well, and were used to open sunlight conditions with high mineral content soils. The roofs became educational tools for those interested in their local ecosystem. Their innovative practices in the green roof industry were recognized and they have now built several living roof systems including one for the University of Louisville. It has made them leaders in the green infrastructure industry and has been a major source of revenue internally but also externally to the communities that surround them.