January 1, 2012

Come Alive Outside Helping unglue Canadians from video screens

There is a movement afoot to entice people outdoors. I believe everybody wins when somebody goes outside, and I know for the green industry to survive and thrive in coming years, we must share the value of outdoor living with children and their parents, with property managers and their tenants and every other place that outdoor living can make a difference.


Over the past year, as my company JP Horizons has passionately shared our vision to get people outside again, every individual or group I have spoken with has understood the dangers of our coach-potato society, spending way too much time inside absorbed in technology. In general, we have forgotten the simple pleasures of Coming Alive Outside. I ask them to raise their hands if they have more scars on their knees than their children or grandchildren. After a moment's hesitation the hands begin to go up and a light goes on in their eyes. Grown men get tears in their eyes as we discuss the childhood obesity and diabetes epidemics, and everyone agrees that we all spend too much time engaged in technology every day.

When we initially started sharing this message I struggled with how to efficiently explain why we need to Come Alive Outside. The following is from Linda Coors, our director of the Working Smarter Training Challenge, who captured the emotional essence on what it means to come alive outside.

"Why is it important to come alive outside? Reach back into your memories, and what stands out to you? I learned to enjoy hard work from my dad because he made it a game. Getting wood for the winter was fun because carrying it to the wood pile was a competition to see who could carry the most and get back with another pile the fastest. Then we'd get to have a huge brushfire when night came, and we'd gather around to eat hot dogs and watch the fire reach to the sky.

"How about finding a grapevine to swing out over the creek? Did you ever have a favourite tree? Mine was a weeping willow in the backyard and it belonged to me. I'd climb up there and sit for hours, just thinking. What about the feeling of picking the first mess of beans and digging new potatoes from the garden and having them with fresh tomatoes, green onions and peppers all because you had the privilege of putting seed into the ground and nurturing it to produce?

"What would it be like to never roll down a hill and come up covered in freshly cut grass? What can compare to the learning experiences of nature? Take a child on a walk and you will be amazed to see things through his eyes, and you'll remember why we truly do come alive outside."

Doesn't that evoke a great emotion? Why wouldn't we want to encourage individuals and families to run and jump and play, and even just sit and relax in the wonderful outdoor spaces we create? Why not sell memories rather than plantings and pavers and well trimmed grass? A few months after introducing these ideas, dozens of landscape companies around North America have heightened their awareness and have gained the Come Alive Outside Edge, energizing their company culture, defining their marketing message and growing sales.

Just imagine what we will do as an industry when we become committed to helping customers, employees, families and communities Come Alive Outside! What better marketing message for your company or battle cry for you and your family than to remember  Everybody Wins When Somebody Goes Outside!
Jim Paluch of JP Horizons has been training and inspiring the green industry for 22 years.
To get the Come Alive Outside edge visit to www.comealiveoutside.com.

CAO message builds connections in Picton, Ont.


The Come Alive Outside message resonated with Scott Wentworth OALA, of the Scott Wentworth Landscape Group in Picton, Ont. "We've all heard the statistics that have resulted from our sedentary lifestyle — that childhood obesity has risen 350 per cent since 1976 and the Heart and Stroke  Foundation's report that 59 per cent of Canadians are now overweight or obese. Yet we don't question these facts; no one is doing anything about the problem," says Wentworth.

The Scott Wentworth Landscape Group has been designing outdoor spaces and actively involved in the local community for years. The company's 20th anniversary seemed like the right time to embrace Come Alive Outside and energize the community.

Picton is the county seat of Prince Edward County, a close-knit community on the northeastern shore of Lake Ontario which, thanks to the leadership and urging of the Scott Wentworth Landscape Group, has officially declared itself the first Come Alive Outside Community in North America. As part of his commitment to this movement, Wentworth hired a Come Alive Outside program coordinator last summer to arrange and publicize events that encouraged people to get outside and be active.

In June 2011, Wentworth formed a Come Alive Outside committee with representatives from the municipal community, services department, board of education, the business community, service clubs, the family health services team, sports associations and the media specialist for the chamber of commerce and tourism. "By July 1, we were able to celebrate our first Come Alive Outside event. Picton's B.I.A. offered us the use of a parking lot, on which we laid 6,400 ft. sq. of sod."  Wentworth says the event was a great success, with families coming out to experience the lost art of unstructured play in the temporary green space.

"We've had wonderful support from the green industry, as well as other leaders in the community," says Wentworth. "Our committee presented an outdoor activity event plan to the community that takes us through December 2012."

A big focus for this year is the creation of a two-km fitness trail that touches schools, childcare centres and a community centre. Interestingly enough, Wentworth notes that a year ago, the Parks and Recreation Department completed a survey of activity levels in the County. "We're hoping that another survey in a year's time will show an increase in outdoor activity."

Wentworth is proud to report  all his employees have been energized by the Come Alive Outside message, and as a bonus, spearheading this worthy program has enhanced the company's image as a leader in the community.