You are here

Strategic Planning, Design & Governance

More content on this page is forthcoming. Please return soon to see an Introduction and Goals for this Attribute. Principles and Best Practices along with a six step process model (see outline below) will help your garden plan a scope of work to address goals for this topic.



Investigate and Establish a Baseline

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 Attribute goals. Establishing a baseline may serve to build confidence ahead of all later stages of the process, as public gardens are, by their very nature, already following a number of sustainable mandates (Your Garden is a Conservation Garden) for which they may receive “credit.”

Identify Stakeholders

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. There is no one right way to get to a plan of action for your garden, but the right first steps will involve identifying the people who should be invited into the process. Some of these stakeholders should continue work on this project through the evaluation and dissemination (education) phases. Community-based projects have an increased chance of success when all stakeholders feel that they can contribute to the solution and benefit from the results.  

Data Collection/Resources

In order for data collection to benefit a garden working towards sustainability, there must be a clear articulation of how a data set relates to the gardens greater goals or mission. Data collection must have a finite timeline, resulting in identification of needed resources to make well informed action decisions.

Develop and Implement a Plan of Action

Just as data collection should be goal driven, the action 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 how to continue to cultivate buy-in and demonstrated engagement from the most influential staff members who have been part of all steps in the process.

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.

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).


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 Sarah Beck:


Case Study 

Atlanta Botanical Garden

Managers at Atlanta Botanical Garden conducted a “Green Expansion Plan” highlighting the five following areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, indoor environmental quality. Throughout the completion of the expansion plan, the garden was careful to address environmental, societal, and economic impacts.

Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Green Expansion Plan places a strategic emphasis on environmental stewardship. If you are a facility manager looking for a best-in-class example that demonstrates how a Sustainability Plan can advance the mission of an institution, look no further. This program has institutionalized sustainability by involving staff, volunteers and customers, a product of the Garden’s “flat organizational structure”. By considering life-cycle costs over first costs while also using a “pay as you go” philosophy with normal payback period requirements, an effort has been made to consider all aspects of the Triple Bottom Line – Environmental, Societal and Economic. Its success is measured through environmental investments that do not compromise the economic returns.

Completed in early-2010, the Green Expansion Plan resulted in a new visitor’s center, the building of green roofs, the installation of an underground 100,000-gallon water cistern, the construction of a new pedestrian path, and the planting of a southern seasons garden. Every aspect of The Atlanta Botanical Gardens is driven by what the Garden calls “Sustainability in Action” which has, as its goal, the achievement of responsible environmental stewardship as well as the realization of energy and water conservation. The sustainability achieved encompasses not only the Garden and its interaction with visitors, employees and vendors, but also in its interaction with the City of Atlanta and with other local and national cultural institutions. For more information on the complete case study, click here.