The Sustainable Home Starter Kit: How to Transform Your Growing and Garden

Sustainability is a pillar of the work we do at Coughlin Porter Lundeen, but it doesn’t just feature in our projects, it’s a concept we apply at home, especially in our backyards and gardens.

We’re so lucky to live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where the growing season is prolific and the opportunities are endless. In this starter kit, we share sustainable ideas and how-to’s for the kitchen, garden, and yard. All intel is from our talented team members, who make sustainable living a priority at home.


1. Channel Your Inner Landscape Architect
We’re strong proponents of “big picture” thinking at Coughlin Porter Lundeen, and our yards aren’t exempt. Make a master plan so you have a good idea of the finished product. Sun pattern, existing growth, and elevations can all inform this plan. And have fun with it! There’s so much inspiration to be found via Pinterest and social media. Create a collection of ideas and yard details that you love.

A great hack: source bark and mulch from tree trimmers via “” Simply make a donation and they drop off a load in lieu of taking it to the dump.

2. Select Native Plant Species
Opting for native plants has many benefits for both the environment and your own yard care. More likely to establish quickly and remain hardy, local flora are a great choice. In general, native plants have the benefit of being much lower maintenance too. A yard of local greenery means much less watering, mowing, fertilizer, and pesticides, and can prevent water run-off and improve air quality.

With the ability to pull and store excess carbon and support wildlife habitats in our backyards, these choices support the environment too. In addition to supporting pollinators such as bees, birds, and butterflies, local plants help create homes for small animals and microscopic organisms in the soil.

3. Choose Chickens
Coughlin Porter Lundeen has quite a few backyard flocks! Besides the obvious benefit of fresh, incomparable eggs, chickens also serve the backyard by being great composters, soil aerators (turning your soil free of charge), and pest controllers. If just starting out, know that breed matters. We especially like Barred Rock and Rhode Island Reds – hardy hens and reliable layers. Your local hardware store should have the water bottle, feed, and other items you need to get started. And perhaps the best piece of advice: leverage a neighbor! The chicken-owner community is a friendly one and we’re sure your nearby owner would be happy to share and help get you started.


1. Commit to Compost
While most of us compost (especially since Seattle makes it easy with food and yard waste collections), there is always room for improvement. Our best chef tip: keep a large bowl on the counter as you work. It sounds simple but is life changing process improvement. Also, opt for a large compost bin with a lid. The right bin will make all the difference and will make you less likely to give up due to flies or smells. If you’re maintaining your own pile, don’t forget to turn it regularly, as aeration is essential to healthy compost. Compost pile favorites include: egg shells, coffee grounds, vegetable peelings, tea bags, grass clippings, paper, egg cartons, and fallen leaves.

If you’re ready to take it to the next level, you could consider a worm farm like our own William Stone, who makes his own “worm tea,” which can restore polluted soil, increase the soil’s water-holding capacity, and add beneficial microbes to your soil.

2. Rethink Your Recipes
Choosing to follow the rhythm of the seasons makes a big difference in the kitchen. While it’s amazing to grow food for yourself, that’s not the reality for most of us, at least not in full. But we can still choose to cook with fruits and vegetables that are sourced locally. Our area is known for nothing if not sensational farmers markets! You can find the full farmer’s market schedule here:

If you’re looking for inspiration, we love farmer and cookbook author Andrea Bemis. She and her husband run six-acre Tumbleweed Farm in Oregon, and her blog, Dishing Up The Dirt is full of delicious season-driven recipes. We also love Erin Gleeson’s The Forest Feast series. A Californian, her vegetarian recipes are delicious and emphasize fresh, local ingredients. And her cookbook is one of the most beautiful we’ve ever seen.

3. Make Little Changes for Lower Waste
The average American produces nearly five pounds of trash per day. There are so many ways to make your kitchen lower waste. In addition to processing your scraps properly with composting, you can choose bulk groceries (sans packaging), and even upgrade your kitchen gadgets and tools. Opt for wooden handled dish brushes, reusable plastic bags (we love stasher bags), and glass storage. A great source for sustainable products and inspiration is Package Free, a shop founded by Lauren Singer, “the girl with the jar” who went viral for fitting eight years of trash into one mason jar.


1. Read Up
A little research goes a long way! Consider adding some garden-genre titles to your book list. When it comes time to plan our gardens and process our harvests, our top reference recommendations include:

2. Relish the Rain
Rain barrels are a great, easy way to improve your backyard’s sustainability. If you don’t have one already, it’s simple to order one from

Rainwater harvesting is also a great jumping off point to think about the cycle of your backyard. For example, plants can be grouped by water needs, and plants requiring additional summer water can be located nearer to the source.

They’re also a gateway item that can lead to irrigation systems and other creative solutions. You should see some of the underground systems and rain gardens our crew has! In the Pacific Northwest, rock gardens with native plants handle the weather conditions especially well.

3. Celebrate the Bounty
The Coughlin Porter Lundeen gardens are as varied as our team members. Their green thumbs manage everything from flowers and herbs, to robust vegetable gardens, fruit trees, and berry patches. No matter what their yard includes, each knows that even if things don’t go perfectly or precisely to plan, the joy is in the process. There’s magic and fun in the planning, planting, picking, and processing. This attitude and appreciation of the journey can make all the difference! Gardeners learn more each season, and build upon those lessons year after year.

Molbak's Garden + Home - A Garden-Lover's Dream!

And we would be remiss, when talking garden design, to not talk garden center design! We’ve loved collaborating with Green Partners, GGLO and Graham Baba Architects to update the renowned Molbak’s Garden + Home in Woodinville.

The Woodinville Gardens District will be an all-new business and residential hub with gardens, and Molbak’s, at its center. Scope for phase one, which is scheduled to be completed in late 2025, includes 400,000-square-feet of residential space, 150,000-square-feet of commercial office space, as well as the Treehouse Building and Molbak’s House. 

Early concept designs imagined extraordinary possibilities for sustainable redevelopment and pushed the boundaries of creativity with mass timber schemes, stormwater solutions, and immersive biophilic design.

Phase One of the multi-phased project will begin construction in Q3 of 2023 to build out three residential buildings and Molbak’s new garden center. Structural features of the residential portion include exposed DLT floor panels, two heavy timber roof decks and amenity areas, and The Conservatory, a tenant amenity space that uses a heavy mass timber post and beam system.

At the podium level, Molbak’s new garden center integrates a distinctive “Tree House” structure for its seasonal displays. Four heavy-timber “trees” anchor the space, carrying loads for the roof, exterior walls, and glazing. Everything is hung in tension from the roof and all steel exterior components are structural – allowing for the lightest weight and smallest profile members possible to create an exceptionally elegant and airy retail space.

The civil approach to the project minimizes environmental impact by integrating numerous autonomous and sustainable site solutions in concert with several stakeholders. Nearly 100% of the water will be infiltrated on site, a new public green street with bioretention planters will be incorporated, neighboring Woodin Creek and associated wetlands will be protected and enhanced, and a 30K gallon cistern will harvest water from Molbak’s roof to irrigate its greenhouses. The project also includes design of two new public streets and a vehicular bridge spanning Woodin Creek. Master planning efforts for multiple future phases as well as coordination with neighboring developers were a large part of the initial design phase.

Project Team: Owner: Green Partners LLC & Molbak’s Garden and Home / Architect: GGLO & Graham Baba Architects / Civil and Structural Engineer: Coughlin Porter Lundeen / General Contractor: Sierra Construction Company

Rendering courtesy of Graham Baba Architects