When it comes to your landscape maintenance operations, going green is not just about using alternative fuels and equipment. It’s not just about practicing IPM, and it’s not just about converting properties over to water-saving irrigation systems and native plants. It’s about the entire picture—making sustainable maintenance affordable for your customers and profitable for your business.
Educate Customers on Cost Savings, Carbon Footprint
In Austin, TX, Greater Texas Landscapes is part of a team to help maintain a Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) pilot project at National Instruments’ corporate headquarters. Except for the building footprint, walks, drives and parking area, most of the landscape has been preserved in its natural state.
A Greater Texas Landscapes crew maintains the site using alternative-fuel equipment, applying organic and bio-solid fertilizers, and controlling pests following Integrated Pest Management (IPM) guidelines. “This property is unusual because it was designed with sustainability in mind from the beginning,” explains company president Deborah Cole. “Most of our properties are not like this, and part of our charge is to educate customers about the benefits of reducing their carbon footprint.”
Cole’s company offers a Sustainability Community Program designed to educate homeowner associations about the value of having a more sustainable landscape, with updated irrigation systems and plants that require less water, along with other renovations. “We give them a new twist on Xeriscaping,” adds Cole. “We also talk about some of the new technologies our crews use to be more environmentally friendly.”
The company’s education efforts don’t stop at the adult level, either. Cole and members of her staff work with area elementary schools, helping prepare and present lessons designed to get the sustainable message to young students.
This summer, Oregon-based Pacific Landscape Management, hosted its second annual Sustainability Fair designed to pique interest among current customers and prospects. Attendees had a chance to talk with irrigation suppliers, equipment dealers, bark and soil suppliers, solar vendors and several volunteer groups. Company president Bob Grover highlighted several examples of sustainable projects as well, including rain gardens, bio-swales, green walls and an eco-lawn.
“The economy is challenging for those of us in commercial maintenance,” says Grover. “Customers may want to incorporate sustainable principles into their landscapes, but budgets are just not there. Still, we see an opportunity to save them money by using weather-based irrigation that reduces water consumption, and ecological lawn mixtures that reduce fertilizing and mowing frequencies.”
Even if there is little or no immediate return on investment, educating customers now helps shape the discussion about what landscapes are supposed to look like in the future. “When the economy turns around, I fully expect that there will be redesigning, retrofitting and renovation opportunities,” Grover adds.
Kurt Bland, vice president of Bland Landscaping in Apex, NC, has been offering customers sustainable solutions for several years. His company’s efforts were recently validated in two distinct ways. Last year, Bland Landscaping received Green Plus Certification from the Institute for Sustainable Development. This certification, available in 17 states, recognizes companies that excel in triple bottom line sustainability: conducting a financially sustainable operation, having a positive environmental impact, and fully engaging its employees and stakeholders in its success.
In May, Bland Landscaping also received a state Department of Transportation award for operating a sustainable fleet. “The certification and award has helped us promote our sustainable services,” says Bland. “Some of our customers, including two very large commercial clients, are very interested in conserving natural resources. On the other hand, landscape management companies have to weigh their sustainable initiatives against current economic realities. Frankly, for some customers, it just comes down to price and not what is good for the environment.”