The historic drought hasn’t stopped San Jose native Alan Hackler and his landscape business, Bay Maples: Wild California Gardens, from thriving. Bay Maples rips out lawns, educates and transforms yards to environmentally appropriate and sustainable gardens and landscapes.

Hackler majored in Environmental Studies at San Jose State where he shaped his passion for the environment into a sustainable business model the uses recycled materials and greywater irrigation systems for landscapes. Hackler sat down with to talk about Bay Maples and his passion for landscaping with innovative designs with minimal water usage.

We’re in the middle of a severe drought. How is that affecting business at Bay Maples?

Our phone doesn’t stop ringing, ever. We were designing sustainable landscapes before anyone was actually doing it. A lot of companies have caught on because of the drought and it’s become a hip thing, but we were doing it because it was something we believed in. People really gravitate toward us because they realize that we really can follow through on some of the green aspects of design rather than using it as some sort of marketing ploy.

What kinds of drought-tolerant plants are working best for you in San Jose?

We only use native plants or edibles like ceanothus, sage, manzanitas, different native grasses, a lot of fruit trees, herb gardens and vegetable gardens.
What are some other simple steps people can do to reduce water usage with their landscaping?

Remove their lawn. People can put in drip irrigation, install greywater systems, sheet mulch, use compost and don’t use chemicals.

What are some common landscaping features that you think people should avoid to have the greatest impact on water conservation?

Grass, at all costs, and the use of chemicals—especially round up because it kills habitats and wildlife and it puts pollutants in our air and bodies. Also, gas blowers and gas power-lawn maintenance tools and overhead sprinklers, in general, don’t make any sense, which is basically what people use for lawns.
In addition saving water, you often travel by bike to jobs. What inspired you to do that and tell us about your custom rig?

We use the bike more for promotional stuff now because we’ve gotten to a point where there is more work than can actually be handled on a bike. It was a cargo bike with a flatbed on the back of it that I would use for taking material and plants to projects.

I didn’t want to rely on the car and it demonstrates that we’re kind of doing what we preach. I mainly use a bike for my own personal use to get around when I’m not working.

Do you enjoy biking?

Yes, because I hate driving a car. It’s annoying sitting in traffic in a hot car and paying money for gas, supporting wars I don’t believe in and supporting companies I don’t believe in.

What inspired you to start Bay Maples with a focus on sustainability?

There is no alternative. If your business isn’t sustainable economically, environmentally and socially then it’s not a true business model. To me it’s not about why am I doing this; it’s why would you not do this? Because this is the way it should be done. If you’re just there to make a buck, then I think that’s a bullshit business model.

You are also involved with the Emma Prusch Farm Park Foundation. What do you do there?

I’m on the foundation board, so I help with educational programs and managing the park, helping put on events and works with the city.

Where else do you like hanging out when you are not at work?

I’m either at Bay Maples, at my house or at a job site. This is what I believe in; I enjoy doing it so I don’t really consider it work.

For more information, visit Bay Maples online.

This post has been sponsored by Bay Maples: Wild California Gardens. If you'd like to sponsor an existing or future post, please contact our advertising team.