About the Project

The Native Suburbia site serves as a way to share the experience of transforming a typical suburban yard in Bartlett, Illinois into a native plant preserve. Pictures, essays and links are presented to convey the story of how Don and Benia Zouras are continually learning about the environment and using that knowledge to make their yard into something better.

In the beginning we had no thoughts of the Native Suburbia project.  It all started, in early 2004, as a quest to avoid cutting grass, but instead became a new awareness of the environment and a real desire to treat ourselves and our planet better.  While searching for alternatives to the traditional lawn, we found ourselves reading about topics such as organic gardening/farming, water conservation, plant and wildlife preservation, and protection of the environment in general.  This convinced us to do our part by transforming our little corner of Bartlett, Illinois into a tiny nature preserve.  We are learning as we go, and we hope that others will follow our example someday.  The Native Suburbia website was created as a way to share our vision and experiences.

There are sections filled with details about our progress, pictures of plants and project activities, as well as links to other useful sites. The pictures of plants were all taken by us.  We must admit that text was freely borrowed from a wide variety of web sites.  While thankful for the information provided on every site we visited, none of them was comprehensive in every way.  Picking pieces from here and there, but not really knowing where the Native Suburbia project was going, we did not attempt to document all of the sources.  Some of them are listed on the Resources page.  This site will never be a commercial enterprise, so we hope that all of our contributors would be merciful if they were to discover that they are helping our cause.

Take a look around and hopefully you will be encouraged by our attempt to create Native Suburbia.

-Don and Benia Zouras


Native Suburbia Staff

Don is in charge of lawn mowing and other manual labor.  His dislike for such chores led him to look for the alternatives that eventually became Native Suburbia.   This has been a chance to reawaken the memories of his childhood.  Growing up in Glennie, Michigan gave him the opportunity to explore the wonders of forests, meadows and even swamps.  It is easy to forget how much those experiences can teach us.  Growing up in the sterile, lawn covered neighborhoods of modern suburbia, today's children are disconnected from the importance of nature.  Don hopes that the concept of Native Suburbia will spread and offer future generations a chance to reconnect.

Don is the technical lead on this project as well.  His day job as a computer programmer helps to pay for the project, but he maintains this website in his spare time.  He does not normally speak of himself in third person, but it seemed appropriate in this case.

Benia grew up in the typical suburban environment of Des Plaines, IL.  While she did not have the same childhood experiences as Don, she has always had a soft spot for nature.  When Don first suggested turning the yard into a prairie, Benia was cautious, but the more she learned, the more excited she became.

Benia serves as the plant identification and documentation lead for the project. Her patience is extremely helpful and she is great at identifying plants.  When new things pop up in Native Suburbia, she is sure to be there with a camera and numerous plant guides to solve the mystery.