As vice president of sustainability, Warren Gorowitz doesn’t just lead water conservation efforts at Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply. Throughout his 23-year career, he has proven to be a proactive leader on the cutting-edge of promoting sustainability to the entire green industry and beyond.
And his interest in the industry really got started where a lot of people enjoy retirement.
Across the street from his childhood home was Rancho Park Golf Course in Los Angeles, where Gorowitz started working at age 14 – and even worked several PGA and LPGA tournaments. This experience, combined with green influences he grew up around, like neighbors who had gardens, sparked his interest in the horticulture industry.
“Some of my first memories during childhood were being outdoors,” Gorowitz says. “I knew I wanted to do something that was connected to the outdoors.”
Rising in the ranks.
Thinking he might want to become a golf course superintendent, Gorowitz decided to study ornamental horticulture at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo). He also worked in the college bookstore selling computers, which honed his other interest in technology. By combining these two passions, Gorowitz narrowed his focus to the technical side of the green industry – irrigation.
At a student career fair in January 1994, a friend introduced Gorowitz to a wholesale irrigation distribution company called Ewing, where Cliff Woodbury was recruiting Cal Poly grads.
“I was extremely impressed with Warren,” says Woodbury, now Ewing’s executive vice president of culture and engagement, who had just started working at Ewing about a year before he met Gorowitz. “He was a well-prepared, professional kid whose passion and sincerity stood out.”
Gorowitz was hired by Ewing right after graduating in 1994, initially to do outside sales for irrigation control systems like the ones he used at Rancho Park.
He started on a Friday, helping move Ewing’s Anaheim store to a new location. Then the following week, the branch manager there turned in his two weeks’ notice and Gorowitz ended up in that position. With no prior experience managing people, he lived out Cal Poly’s motto, to “learn by doing.” He went on to manage and open several different branches for Ewing, often with a simultaneous role of salesman, selling the company’s specialty products.
“It’s not normal for somebody to come into our company and start taking on increased responsibility, but he was of that ilk,” Woodbury says. “I’ve watched him grow quickly because he genuinely loves the business that we’re in – every aspect of it, from the horticulture to the distribution to the customers.”
Gorowitz says that when he started working at Ewing, people thought of him as Mikey from the Life cereal commercials, because he’d try anything. “I don’t tend to say no to things because I’m always wanting to learn and take advantage of opportunities to grow,” he says. “I have this continuous hunger for knowledge, and how to take that and apply it to help people.”
Forging a role in sustainability.
The product that cemented his (and Ewing’s) focus on water conservation was the MP Rotator. Seeing how this technology could reduce water use, Gorowitz started spending his spare time learning everything he could about water management and efficiency.
“That’s when we realized we have a role to provide solutions that help people conserve water,” Gorowitz says. “From there, we created a water management sales team that I managed. As soon as people started talking about ‘sustainability,’ I knew it was going to be an important part of our industry.”
Three years ago, Gorowitz moved into his current role as VP of sustainability. Gorowitz oversees all of Ewing’s sustainability products and initiatives, both internally and externally throughout the landscape industry.
“He was always an early adopter and a champion of new and different ways to use water more efficiently and effectively,” Woodbury says.
Woodbury says the drive and passion that Gorowitz demonstrates has helped Ewing and its customers stay relevant through changing environmental concerns over time.
“Warren keeps Ewing a step ahead when it comes to conservation and sustainability,” says John Farner, government and public affairs director at the Irrigation Association. “Because Warren has that foresight into industry trends and what the customers want, they’re able to be proactive in the marketplace.”
As the demand for more eco-friendly practices and products has increased, so have the opportunities for Gorowitz to promote sustainability – not just inside of Ewing, but throughout the industry.
“There’s environmental value, financial value, and the whole health and wellbeing value that come from outdoor green spaces,” Gorowitz says.
“So, as an industry, we’re realizing that all these systems work together and understanding the positive and negative effects that we can have, depending on how we use our resources.”
With the goal of improving the perception and the impact of the “original green industry,” as he calls it, Gorowitz speaks regularly at industry events to promote responsible resource management and sustainability.
“My biggest passion is trying to figure out how we all can work together to develop a cohesive, collaborative message about the benefits of what we do every day as stewards of the environment,” says Gorowitz, who’s active in numerous trade associations.
Farner calls this “The Year of Warren,” as Gorowitz was inducted into the Green Industry Hall of Fame in May, and he will become president of the Irrigation Association in November. An IA Certified Landscape Irrigation Auditor and Texas Licensed Irrigator, Gorowitz is also co-chair of the USGBC Water Efficiency Technical Advisory Group. He has been involved with the National Association of Landscape Professionals – particularly its National Collegiate Landscape Competition – for many years.
“He’s always held an interest in how regulations affect the industry and promoting the benefits of (sustainable) irrigation and green infrastructure,” Farner says. “He’s always willing to help out, from menial tasks to high-profile speaking on behalf of the association. He’s well-spoken and he cares about the work he does.”
Lynda Wightman, who has known Gorowitz since his days at Cal Poly, agrees. “Warren walks the talk,” says Wightman, industry relations manager at one of Ewing’s partner irrigation equipment manufacturers, Hunter Industries. “He truly believes in making our world a better place to live, and works relentlessly to develop an awareness of how our industry can do that.”
Though he has a long list of honors and accomplishments, Gorowitz says his proudest accomplishment came last year, when he earned an executive master of sustainability of leadership from Arizona State University.
“It reignited my passion for our industry, and helped me understand my purpose of really wanting to make a difference,” he says. “It gave me an opportunity to learn from others in the sustainability field outside of our sector and most importantly, it gave me a strong appreciation for what an amazing industry I get the honor to work in every day.”