A year ago, staff members at Larry H. Miller Subaru Boise, in Idaho, leaned on their shovels and uprooted the grasses and shrubs decorating the property. The thirsty, non-native plants were composted, making way for more eco-friendly plantings suggested by the Idaho Botanical Garden.
"In Idaho, grass needs about 2 inches of water per week to grow, and in the Boise area, we only get 12 inches of precipitation a year," said Eric Smith, Internet sales manager at the dealership.
The idea to hook up with the Idaho Botanical Garden came from dealership employees who had visited the nonprofit during its Winter Garden aGlow display and raved about it at work.
"At the store, we felt with Subaru's commitment to the environment and sustainability, this might be a perfect partnership," said Smith. "So we just picked up the phone and gave them a call."
Smith ran the thirsty-plants problem by Toby Mancini, horticulture director for the garden.
"Toby came to the store and created a design for the space," Smith said. It included plants native to Boise.
"He then lined up the professionals that got the job done," said Smith, adding that the grounds now are irrigated through a drip system. That's a low-pressure, low-volume watering system, in contrast to the drenching that the grounds previously needed and got.
Both the new plants and a partnership blossomed: The dealership has become a major contributor to the garden.
"Rather than sponsor a single event, we are a part of the garden and its mission to provide a full garden experience for all ages," Smith said.
The dealership displays a new vehicle at all Great Garden Escapes, a concert series that runs every Thursday from late spring to early fall. "We had a new Subaru Forester with eyelashes and spots at the garden for the bug day event, and we will have cars at all other events throughout the year," Smith said.
General Manager Ty Leuthold said the dealership provides tickets to garden events to staff and others through its Facebook page. "We understand the importance of taking care of our community," Leuthold said.
Smith admits there is one outdoor plot at the dealership that's not ecologically correct: the vegetable garden near the service area. Water-thirsty tomatoes thrive here, and customers ask for them when they bring their cars in. It's a tradition, he says.
Saving natural resources is not limited to landscaping. Solar panels on the south side of the showroom gather power for its charging desks built from used pallets from fixed operations. The bar-height desk area can be used by waiting customers to charge their electronic devices.
And last spring, to commemorate founder Larry H. Miller's birthday, staff members spent part of a day at the Boise Bicycle Project refurbishing bikes or, in many cases, building them from used parts, promoting pollution-free transportation while enjoying a chance to learn new skills -- and get greasy.