“We owe it to our patrons and the citizens of Philadelphia to give them a usable, sustainable space,” says the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks Kayla Anthony. She helps oversee many of the historic landmarks in and around Philadelphia. One particular landmark, the Hill-Physick House, needed its outside lawn renovated to withstand foot traffic. The staff found a choice that offers residents of Philadelphia a luscious, green lawn, at the same time it ensures the longevity of one of the city’s most treasured landmarks, inside and out.
When Anthony took the executive director job, she knew she wanted to keep the tradition of Hill-Physick House for generations to come. That included making a decision that had been “a long-time source of agony.” Soy-biobased SYNLawn provided the perfect solution.
“The outside green space sees a lot of visitors each year,” Anthony says of the backyard addition created by the last private owner of the House before PSPL took over ownership. “People love to come out and see the space and even sometimes have receptions or wedding ceremonies out here.” The space offered the House a chance to increase foot traffic during a time when historic landmarks are still dealing with the effects of lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, high foot traffic and mother nature can bring challenges, such as sustaining healthy grass growth and drainage issues due to heavy rainfall.
“So much foot traffic hurt the grass,” Anthony recounts. “Even worse, mud got tracked into the House during rainy seasons. So, we wanted to find a solution to not do any damage to such a historic place. SYNLawn’s soy-biobased grass offered so many solutions.”
SYNLawn’s artificial grass is made with a soy-based backing called EnviroLoc™ which uses polyol technology made from U.S. soybean oil that is widely available as well as rapidly renewable. Its use of soybean oil displaces 60 percent of the petroleum-based polyurethane.
“U.S. soybean growers are incredibly proud that the crop we grow is also used to protect historic landmarks like the Hill-Physick House,” says Ralph Lott, Chairman of the United Soybean Board, and a soybean grower from Seneca Falls, New York. “This project is another example of how U.S. Soy delivers sustainable solutions to so many lives.”
The House’s caretaker, Megan Thibodeaux, reached out to JoAnne Seifert of SYNLawn of Eastern Pennsylvania. Seifert, understanding the sensitivities around any changes to a historic landmark, shared how SYNLawn’s grass, made with oil from sustainably grown soybeans, offers a huge sustainable benefit that also keeps the historic nature of landmarks intact. She explained that SYNLawn’s grass eliminates the need for watering, pesticides and fertilizers. It also reduces maintenance as well as air and noise pollution from lawn moving.
“I understand historical societies have to think creatively about how to sustain themselves for the future,” says Seifert. “I think that’s why we talked so much about sustainability through our soy-backed grass. I really wanted to show Kayla that she was adding positive value.”
After speaking with her board of trustees, Anthony and the Hill-Physick House leadership agreed they had their solution. She explained that the positive environmental impact and the performance benefits of the new green space offer much-needed longevity for historic facilities.
“This space isn’t just lush grass,” says Anthony. “It’s an extension of our historic house museum. Finding a sustainable solution like this one keeps our historical landmarks thriving and surviving.”
Because of the potential for biobased products to create new markets for soybeans, U.S. soybean farmers have invested millions of dollars to research, test and promote biobased products. Much of this work was done through the United Soybean Board, which is composed of 78 U.S. soybean farmers appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to invest soybean checkoff funds. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services has oversight responsibilities for the soybean checkoff