Can Thoughtful Landscape Design and Rapid Growth Sustain One Another?

Whimsical, whirling accents add a thoughtful ambiance to this residential landscape installation.

They do at Aden Earthworks, where vibrant designs meet clients’ demands for sustainability across multiple industries.

For Ben Zlotnick, starting a landscaping business was like planting a garden. “I started from the ground up,” he says of Aden Earthworks, the innovative landscape-design and -maintenance company he launched in 2003. “I grew the business from landscape design and construction to landscape maintenance, and then added snow-removal services in the winter season.”

Toronto-based Aden Earthworks has blossomed from a small company to one of Canada’s fastest-growing businesses, thanks to its innovative design and clear-cut, sustainable initiatives. “Our business is different than other landscaping companies,” Zlotnick says. “We focus on organic solutions, energy-efficient machinery, and low-maintenance design. This is obviously good for the environment, and this model of efficiency has an inherent cost savings.”

THE WORD ON GREEN

Aden Earthworks CEO Ben Zlotnick utilizes sustainable practices in his landscaping business. Here’s his take on some other ways sustainability is shaping the world.

RENEWABLE ENERGY: “All organizations should be moving towards renewable-energy sources, because it’s the right thing to do. When you do it intelligently, the result can also have significant cost savings. It’s a win-win.”

COMMUNICATION: “Communication is changing fast. People receive their information now through media that didn’t exist even just a few years ago. Word-of-mouth recommendations reach even more people now because of social media—from Facebook to Tumblr to online updates—Aden Earthworks is reaching out to its clientele digitally without the use of paper.”

TRANSPORTATION: “I’ve noticed that people are making efforts to minimize transportation as much as possible in their companies—using meeting points and carpooling to avoid having people drive across the city.”

Zlotnick decided to pursue his love of landscape design following a stint working in medical supplies, which he says he fell into after graduating from York University with a business degree. He utilized his business savvy to attract customers and grow Aden Earthworks at a rapid rate. Today, the firm completes projects ranging from suburban residential homes to exclusive high-rise condominiums along downtown Toronto’s lakeshore. “Aden also stands out from other businesses from a technology standpoint,” Zlotnick says. “We have a major marketing initiative that includes Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and regular e-newsletters.”

But it’s the company’s green practices that garner the most attention, in addition to its affiliation with respected organizations such as Landscape Ontario, the Canadian Nursery Landscape Alliance, and Live Green Toronto. “We gain business for that specific reason,” Zlotnick says. “People want to hire responsible organizations.”

The company has many environmental initiatives, both large and small—from mulching grass clippings on-site rather than bagging them for the landfill, to large-scale xeriscape landscapes requiring no irrigation. “Native plantscapes are another of our specialties that are in high demand,” Zlotnick says. “We are regreening the suburbs, bringing back natural flowers and berries to feed the songbirds, butterflies, and restore the land to a healthy and clean ecosystem, all beautifully designed around people’s homes and families.”

In its construction department, Aden Earthworks also reuses quality materials like reclaimed stone and aggregate, which increases efficiency and decreases spending, while also benefitting the environment greatly.

“On a construction site, we separate the clean fill, leaves, and branches, then compost what we can, and reuse what quality materials are available rather than wasting them by sending them off to the landfill,” Zlotnick says. “This gives us beautiful, old stone and even established plant material that we can offer to other clients at a cost savings and at a better quality than starting from scratch.”

Zlotnick and his team used that appro-ach on one of their latest projects: landscape construction for a downtown condominium building. “We built a large-scale, low-maintenance garden right on the second-floor terrace, [using] plant material, ground cover, and highly valued granite stone.” Zlotnick says. “It’s a beautiful place to be—an amazing result—and it provides a cost savings on installation as well as maintenance.”

In early 2010, Zlotnick sprouted a new online venture that takes his efforts to an international level: the Plant Encyclopedia. “We’ve built the largest resource for global plant information ever compiled in one place, in all human history,” he says. “There are over 300,000 plant pages. That’s a page for every species of plant on earth—every plant ever recognized by the science of botany. We’ve been working in cooperation with such respected institutions as Kew Gardens UK.”

That same year, Profit magazine ranked Aden Earthworks 118th on its list of the 200 fastest-growing businesses in the country—quite a feat for such a young company. But despite its success, Zlotnick hopes that the company continues to offer a personalized, environmentally friendly approach with its customers. “Our mission is to provide great quality along with great service,” he says.