Start In Your Yard is an ongoing educational program led by Elmhurst Cool Cities Coalition and our community partners. Our call-to-action is based on Douglas W. Tallamy’s book, Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts In Your Yard, which urges homeowners to take environmental action into their own hands, one yard at a time, to restore biodiversity and critical ecosystems.

“Wildlife populations are in decline because the native plants they depend on are fast disappearing,” writes Tallamy. His solution: Plant more natives!

“Homeowners everywhere can turn their yards into conservation corridors that provide wildlife habitats.”

Check out our Demonstration Native Garden, located on the north side of the Elmhurst Park District’s Wilder Conservatory.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, native plants are adapted to the local climate and soil conditions where they naturally occur. These important plant species provide nectar, pollen, and seeds that serve as food for native butterflies, insects, birds and other animals. Unlike natives, common horticultural plants do not provide energetic rewards for their visitors and often require insect pest control to survive.

Additional benefits:

  • Native plants do not require fertilizers and require fewer pesticides than lawns.
  • Native plants require less water than lawns and help prevent erosion.
    The deep root systems of many native Midwestern plants increase the soil’s capacity to store water. Native plants can significantly reduce water runoff and, consequently, flooding.
  • Native plants help reduce air pollution.
    Native plantscapes do not require mowing. Excessive carbon from the burning of fossil fuels contributes to global warming. Native plants sequester, or remove, carbon from the air.
  • Native plants provide shelter and food for wildlife.
  • Native plants promote biodiversity and stewardship of our natural heritage.
  • Native plants are beautiful and increase scenic values!

We’ve hosted a number of educational presentations and events to increase awareness around the Start In Your Yard effort: a Friends of the Elmhurst Public Library-sponsored (virtual) author visit with Doug Tallamy; our Nature’s Best Hope book discussion co-hosted with Wild Ones Greater DuPage; an educational presentation on the Importance of Dark Skies; tips on how to Rehabilitate (or Replace) Your Lawn the Natural Way; a discussion on Easy Care Natives; and much more.

Tallamy also is the author of The Nature of Oaks: The Rich Ecology of Our Most Essential Native Trees. “Native trees sustain a complex and fascinating web of wildlife,” says Tallamy. “Oaks support more forms of life and more fascinating interactions than any other tree genus in North America.”

In addition to increasing ecological diversity in your own backyard, learn how residents are working to preserve trees and open space in Elmhurst. Check out Keep Elmhurst Green.

We encourage you to take part! Add native plants (and trees!) in your yard and get on the Homegrown National Park interactive map. Every little action makes a difference.

Want to learn more about natives and where to buy them? Visit The Conservation Foundation’s website, attend First Congregational UCC’s Green Garden Fair, or purchase plants from one of the many local native plant sales.

Don’t know where to start? Check out these native garden designs created specifically for our region, provided by Wild Ones and The Conservation Foundation.

Also, check out our Resources page, featuring expert organizations in Elmhurst, DuPage and beyond.

Douglas W. Tallamy is co-founder of Homegrown National Park, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization ( The purpose of the Homegrown National Park is to raise awareness as broadly as possible about the critical issue of degraded biodiversity and ecosystem function due to loss of habitat and the simple science-based solution. HNP’s strategy is to make it as easy as possible for the newly informed to take action.

GETTING ON THE HOMEGROWN NATIONAL PARK™ MAP: The interactive Homegrown National Park MAP is the metric, the community and the point of on-going engagement for each individual who plants native. It shows in (almost) real time how individual actions impact the greater whole, creating new ecological networks and conceivably connecting with preserves and national parks.