Employee Sustainability Spotlight: Darrell Hutchinson

Darrell Hutchinson: Sustainability Spotlight

We’re excited to share another Employee Sustainability Spotlight, where we highlight the ways in which employees across the City of Austin organization are centering sustainability in their own lives. Today, we bring you Darrell Hutchinson, a Conservation Biologist with Austin Water’s Wildland Conservation Division.

Darrell relocated to Austin with his wife, Monica, in 2010. Shortly after their move, Darrell and Monica were faced with the challenges posed by the 2011 drought. To lessen his impact, Darrell decided to shut down his in-ground sprinkler system. This bold step, while temporarily compromising the lawn’s aesthetics, underscored a commitment to water conservation.

Darrell and Monica kneel in their garden smiling.

Following the decision to shut off the sprinklers, the property underwent a green transformation. Darrell planted and seeded over 200 species of trees and shrubs that now flourish in what was once a conventional lawn. Today, the couple’s yard stands as a testament to sustainable landscaping, educating neighbors about the benefits of native vegetation and serving as a refuge for local wildlife.

Greenery and Global Conservation

In the backyard, a greenhouse nurtures approximately 1,000 potted plants, many of which hail from endangered ecosystems like the Madagascar Thorn Forest. Darrell’s endeavors also extend to global conservation efforts, as he actively contributes to the repopulation of plant species in conservation areas in South Africa.

Darrell also constructed 11 raised beds for vegetables and ornamentals and repurposed the irrigation system from sprinklers to underground soaker hoses to water the beds. The yard has about a dozen trees, including climate-adapted citrus varietals, figs, and persimmons, although Darrell admits that wildlife enjoy more of the ripe fruit than his family. The spaces between the trees have native wildflowers and drought-tolerant native Buffalo Grass.

Photos of Darrell's greenhouse and front garden.

Interior Innovations

Indoor enhancements also align with the couple’s sustainable vision. Darrell installed a metal roof to improve home energy efficiency, which also helps harden the home against wildfires and improves rainwater harvesting. The gutters were extended from 3” to 4” to capture more run-off, and three rain barrels were installed with a total capacity of 1,650 gallons. The addition of a skylight also improves indoor lighting and reduces energy use.

Leveraging City Rebates

To help offset the costs, Darrell leveraged several City of Austin programs. Austin Energy’s Duct System Improvements Incentives provided partial reimbursement for increasing their home’s insulation. Austin Water’s Residential Rebates provided funds to install rain barrels and convert turf to native plants.

We thank Darrell and the whole Hutchinson family for all they are doing to support a more sustainable city and world! Learn more about what you can do to support a sustainable city.