Living Sustainably - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2018122

Living Sustainably

First, my thanks to The Express News Group and to Kelly Ann Smith for last week’s article on our garden and property [“At Home With Sarah Hunnewell and James Ewing,” Residence, September 1]. We are grateful for the opportunity to share some of what we have learned about living more sustainably.

To elaborate a bit on the piece: Our home environmental journey began with a Long Island Power Authority home energy audit and then progressed to solar panels, electric cars, fruit and vegetable gardening, finally arriving at native plants.

Our eyes were opened to the benefits of native landscaping when we were introduced both to Doug Tallamy and local environmental landscaper extraordinaire Edwina von Gal. As Edwina points out on her website, “North America has lost close to 3 billion birds since the 1970s, almost a third of the entire bird population.”

And, as she goes on to say, “Birds are the messengers for a much larger problem: canaries in coal mines, they are warning us about ecosystem-wide biodiversity collapse.” Birds need insects, and those insects need native plants. Exotic plants, ornamentals and wide lawns create food deserts for our essential creatures. Chemical pesticides compound the problem.

Everyone, no matter how small their property, can help: first, by removing any invasive species; second, by removing any lawn that is not essential; third, by stopping all spraying; and, finally, by adding native plants. Edwina emphasizes that you don’t have to get rid of all your non-natives but suggests “two-thirds for the birds,” or that that much of your property is planted with beneficial natives.

To get started, here are a few useful references. First, I suggest watching Doug Tallamy’s video “Nature’s Best Hope” on YouTube, or reading his book, explaining the problem and solution.

Also, the National Wildlife Federation website includes a native plant finder on their website, showing what plants are most beneficial, by zip code. If you would like to consult with an expert on your property’s potential, contact Anthony Marinello at Dropseed Native Landscapes. If you are seeking a good nursery for native plants: Long Island Natives in Eastport.

Finally, we would be happy to invite anyone interested in more information or in viewing our gardens to contact me at

At a recent lecture on native plants at Marders, the Marders representative told the assembled crowd that people didn’t want to plant natives because they believed them to be “ugly.” I can attest to the fact that they are not! And it is hard to overstate the enormous pleasure of seeing bees, monarch butterflies and flocks of goldfinches return to the garden.

Sarah Hunnewell

Water Mill