Like Grover, Bland isn’t discouraged. He believes in the efficacy of sustainability and is encouraged by those customers who reach out for environmentally friendly solutions. In fact, he recently enrolled in a graduate course on perma culture with the intent of learning more about edible and low-impact landscapes, in addition to new technologies that maximize water conservation.
Making Your Own Company Sustainable
Each of Greater Texas Landscapes’ managers holds Green Garden Certification from the City of Austin, which required four-hour classes once a week for eight weeks. Classes focused on green design, installation and maintenance techniques.
In the Portland suburb of Hillsboro, Pacific Landscape Management was one of the first area companies to receive EcoLogical Business Certification from the City of Portland. The company also has its Master Recycler certification from Portland. Its facility is certified Salmon Safe, meaning it has a water management program to reduce storm water runoff and non-point source pollution.
Both companies have re-engineered the way they provide maintenance services. Cole’s company, for example, fuels its tractors and a few of its truck with bio-diesel. Propane-powered zero-turn mowers allow crews to work on ozone-action days. For the City of Austin, that requires the use of alternative-fuel equipment. Back up in Portland, Grover’s managers drive to accounts with hybrid vehicles while crew members use low-emission and low-noise handheld equipment. “We’re always fine-tuning our routing to ensure that crews travel to and from jobsites efficiently,” Grover adds.
Among initiatives to lessen its environmental impact, Bland Landscaping uses synthetic mix oil, donates reclaimed pine straw, cleans equipment in a wash bay, uses B20 bio-diesel in trucks and some equipment, and operates low-emission handheld equipment. The company also recycles just about everything, including green wastes, scrap metal, paper products, waste oil and other lubricants.
As Bland points out, using 100:1 ratio synthetic oil instead of 50:1 petroleum-based mix oil means that equipment uses less oil and generates less waste. The company’s wash bay diverts waste water into the sanitary sewer system instead of sending it into the storm sewer system.
Sustainable ideas are abound, says PLANET president David Snodgrass, noting that many of them take shape just by changing your mindset.
His company, Dennis’ Seven Dees in Portland, OR, took a sustainable step that wasn’t necessarily easy, but has paid dividends. “We have a full blown recycling center,” Snodgrass explains. “Crews sort debris right at the jobsite. They load it into different containers on their trucks. Then they unload into separate bins at our facility.”
The company separates wood, metals, concrete/stone and green waste, among other material. Green waste is recycled and turned into compost for use as a soil amendment on projects. Any surplus is sold to area vendors. Other material goes to recycling facilities at little or no charge.
“When you consider dumpster fees and the time, labor and miles associated with going to landfills, it used to cost us about $120,000 annually to get rid of our debris,” Snodgrass relates. “Now recycling brings in between $40,000 to $50,000 annually.”
Unfortunately, not all sustainable practices have the ROI that recycling does. Cole, for example, mentions that using bio-diesel is more costly than using gas or diesel, and that propane mowers are more expensive than their traditionally fueled counterparts (although she points out that there have been rebates in the past for using alternative-fuel equipment).
More expensive or not, Cole uses alternative-fueled equipment to be green—and for the ability to work for customers who require it.
Grover sees the relationship between sustainability and economics as a tradeoff. “Contractors must make a profit to stay in business, yet some of the programs we’re advising customers to do, such as taking advantage of ecological lawns, will reduce chemical and mowing frequency. Ultimately, we may not make as much on maintenance services, but will get some of it back with renovation and providing other services.”