In the Green

This year’s Water Challenge winner is creating outdoor spaces that can lower flood insurance costs and increase property values.

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When Fabian Harper — licensed horticulturist, landscape contractor and owner of local landscaping business Flourish NOLA — learned he had won both the grand prize and “Audience Favorite” title at this year’s Water Challenge, presented by Propeller and Thrive New Orleans, it was the culmination and recognition of many years of work in landscaping and promoting eco-practices, and a growing reflection of the dedication of local professionals working to make changes right here at home.

“It meant a lot to win the challenge and audience favorite,” he said. “For me it validated that I have a saleable service.”

 


Did you know?

Want to be more eco-friendly in your landscaping? Aim to do some, or better yet all, of these things:
Harvest rainwater (for instance by using rainwater barrels like those installed by local nonprofit Green Light New Orleans).

Use eco-friendly, natural mulch (like newspapers, straw, pine bark, peanut shells, eucalyptus and rubber).

Choose native plants, including natural ground cover. (For more information on what those are, visit LSUAgcenter.com.)

Start composting. (Check out Schmelly’s Dirt Farm and Compost NOW.org).

Avoid chemicals.


 

With more people spending time at home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many homeowners are investing more time and money into their home’s exterior living spaces and landscaping. Couple that with the reality of climate change presented with each passing hurricane and rainy season, and eco-friendly landscaping practices have increased in popularity as homeowners look to maximize their investments, preserve their land, prevent runoff, incorporate native plants and include water management solutions at home.
This is where Propeller and Thrive New Orleans’ annual Water Challenge, now in its 11th year, comes into the picture. The competition is a call to local businesses to pitch their solutions to “improve our region’s water economy.” The grand prize includes not only publicity and accolades, but a $10,000 award. Harper also took home this year’s $1,250 award as the “Audience Favorite.”

Although Flourish Horticulture is relatively new on the scene — the certified DBE, bio-friendly and environmentally conscious lawn, garden and landscape construction company launched in 2018 — Harper has more than 28 years of experience in landscaping and using “green” practices. His connection with a supportive ex-employer and a nonprofit called LaunchNola — whose mission is to provide small business support to entrepreneurs of color — proved to be a pivotal spark in getting his business going and growing in an eco-conscious way.

“When I worked for a green company called Fleurish Ecoscapes, led by Mr. Matthew Allen, he encouraged me to start my own business,” said Harper. “He introduced me to LaunchNOLA’s Green Business Academy. It was at LaunchNOLA that I begin to seriously think about the green industry and how I can contribute to water-related challenges facing New Orleans.”

LaunchNOLA connects businesses with professionals that are trained in New Orleans-specific stormwater management skills, but also trains new landscape contract professionals and entrepreneurs through a 12-session, once a week program that focuses on both increasing participants’ business skills and technical stormwater skills.

For Harper, his training has been a key part of his business, the practice of which is reflected in how he works and the tools he uses. Flourish NOLA uses only battery-powered equipment and offers landscape design and services that are “in balance with the local climate and require minimal fertilizer, time or water.” The company also provides solutions to rain and stormwater management, with the promise to “lower your flood insurance and increase your property value with rain gardens and French drains.”

What type of return on investment can site owners expect from converting to a sustainable landscape? According to a 2018 report from Assisted Housing Management Insider, “Depending on your geographic location, the estimates range from 35% to more than 100%. Case studies have shown savings in water costs can range from 40% to 75% per year… When other savings, such as decreased costs of fertilizer and pesticides, are factored in, the complete ROI can be amazingly quick, as short as three years.”

 


More About The Water Challenge

The June 1 Water Challenge — sponsored by JPMorgan Chase AdvancingCities, New Orleans Business Alliance, Entergy and the City of New Orleans — featured a judges panel of industry leaders and experts, growth stage venture panel, a virtual address from Mitch Landrieu, 61st mayor of New Orleans, and a total of $17,500 awarded to finalists.

“’We need to cultivate and empower the unseen Black and Brown Indigenous people who are truly invested and committed to the future of New Orleans and its disproportionately affected communities. We have a solid foundation of local commitment that needs to be built up through education, funding, and resources. This is the philosophy behind the mutual efforts of Thrive New Orleans and Propeller,” said Bernadette Carriere of Thrive New Orleans.


Flourish NOLA currently includes one full-time employee, one part-time employee and a growing client list of nearly 50 to date.

“Bringing water conservation practices to New Orleans is wonderful for me. I believe that we are called to be stewards of the earth,” said Harper. “I am contributing to something significant. It gives me the opportunity to not only help individuals but to make my small contribution to environmental health.”

Harper said he entered the Water Challenge to introduce an overlooked aspect to managing water.

“So much is said about rain gardens, bioswales, French drains, but rarely is there a mention of soil health,” he said. “Without healthy soil, none of those mentioned systems can work effectively…The core thing that sets my business apart from others is my intentional focus on soil health and the environment. Science informs all our services. That said, our mission is to offer science-guided, environmental-conscious landscape construction and lawn and garden maintenance that improves soil health and ecosystems to reduce flooding, improve air quality, water quality, lower carbon emissions, eliminate noise pollution, health risk, and cool the atmosphere while adding aesthetic appeal and value to properties.”

 


Flourish NOLA FlourishNola.com
225-326-2023 // nolaflourish@gmail.com