Portland Company Earns Tax Breaks by Reducing Emissions

DeSantis Landscapes is taking a leadership role when it comes to sustainability in landscaping, reducing greenhouse gases and pesticide use.

A discussion about environmental sustainability during DeSantis Landscapes’ annual strategic planning session in 2005 took an interesting turn. In addition to its longstanding commitment to natural landscaping practices, the company decided to focus on improving the environmental impact of its internal business operations, beginning with its fleet of vehicles and equipment.

Results are impressive. DeSantis Landscapes has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by more than 500,000 pounds, the equivalent of taking 45 vehicles off the road. At the same time, the company is saving money on fuel costs as petroleum prices rise, receiving tax breaks, and enhancing its reputation for environmental sustainability by placing bumper stickers promoting biodiesel use on company vehicles that have high visibility in traffic.

DeSantis Landscape’s experience is a model for other companies. “There are so many ways even small businesses like ours can help the environment, and one of the easiest ways to have an impact is by ‘greening up’ your fleet of vehicles,” said Dean DeSantis, president and second-generation owner of DeSantis Landscapes, a nationally recognized, family-owned business with offices in Salem and Portland. “It may seem risky at first, but the benefits to your community and your business are worth it.”

The company’s fleet and equipment initiatives have included switching to hybrid passenger cars and smaller fuel efficient pickup trucks for executives and management team members, and using biodiesel instead of petroleum diesel for trucks, tractors, large mowers and other large equipment. Since 2005, DeSantis has avoided using more than 61,285 gallons of petroleum fuel for its fleet of 38 vehicles.

Now, working with the local Tualatin office of Enterprise Fleet Management, which specializes in meeting the needs of businesses with medium size fleets, DeSantis Landscapes is partnering to offset 100% of its verifiable greenhouse gas emissions from its entire fleet. The program offered by Enterprise Fleet Management, an affiliate of Enterprise Holdings, Inc., which operates the Enterprise Rent-A-Car brand, is part of the company’s nationwide comprehensive environmental platform pledge to match up to $1 million of customer carbon offset purchases. Enterprise estimates that the average fleet vehicle each year will log 20,000 miles and emit anywhere from 19,000 to 27,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Along with its commitment to environmental sustainability, DeSantis holds weekly training meetings for employees that include sessions on driving tips to conserve fuel by limiting idle time, avoiding jack rabbit starts and taking the most efficient routes between jobs. The company also has a dedicated sustainability team leader who manages its participation in the national pilot program, Sustainable Sites Initiative, which is a third-party certification for landscapes similar to the LEED certification through the U.S. Green Building Council.

According to Dean DeSantis, his was the first landscaping company in Oregon to meet the strict Eco-Logical Business standards, certifying its practices as eco-friendly and sustainable. “To do green well, you gotta BE green,” says DeSantis on the company’s website at www.desantislandscapes.com. “Our commitment to sustainability has become the foundation of our company. It goes beyond our commitment to natural landscaping practices and into the day-to-day operations of our business.”

In addition to the company’s fleet of vehicles and equipment, DeSantis has reduced its pesticide use and waste costs by more than 60 percent and 25 percent, respectively. The company also is developing several landscape and irrigation projects under the guidelines for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the United States Green Building Council.

DeSantis efforts have earned a number of awards, including a Grand Award in the 2010 Annual Environmental Improvement Awards sponsored by the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), and a Small Fleet of the Year Award from the Columbia-Willamette Clean Cities Coalition, a national organization supported by the United States Department of Energy.