Five Steps To Greener Groundskeeping

Sustainability is more popular than ever across the board, and forward-thinking environmental practices can no longer be ignored. As a result, many facility management executives continue to move toward sustainable landscapes as a part of an overall commitment to social responsibility in their organizations. Beyond that aim, many are also finding that their sustainable landscapes promote the long-term health of grass, trees, shrubs, and flowers; save money on landscape investments in the long-term; require less maintenance; and improve curb appeal. It seems the grass is in fact “greener” on the other side.

Sustainable landscapes—which can be defined as those that are balanced with local climates and require minimal resource inputs, such as water, energy, and nutrients—are now seen as a necessity in ensuring a commercial property’s success. For those not sure how to take the first step toward sustainability, here are five best practices to keep in mind when going green.

1. Identify small changes that will make a big impact. If the idea of creating a sustainable landscape seems overwhelming, keep in mind that there are many low-cost, high-impact projects that do not require a major overhaul of existing plants and trees.

For example, facility managers can substantially lessen the environmental impact of their landscapes by working with a landscape professional to manage water use. A professional will begin by taking stock of any existing irrigation systems on the property. They might also recommend implementing regular irrigation system inspections, using efficient irrigation heads, and transitioning to smart controllers, which automatically adjust irrigation system run times based on local weather conditions. Irrigation system flow sensors, which can detect leaks, can also be added to help track water use, and reduce waste, liability, and costs.

In addition to water conservation practices enabled by smart technology for irrigation, natural stormwater volume can be harnessed through strategic design. A landscape professional can help with the design and implementation of bioswales and rain gardens—shallow trenches filled with vegetation—that are considered effective alternatives for retaining water runoff and reintroducing it back into the soil.

Both bioswales and rain gardens can be installed with a property’s existing native plants that require little to no maintenance—a win-win for facility managers and the surrounding environment.

2. Nurture existing plants and trees. While some believe that it’s best to start sustainability efforts with a clean slate, by removing all existing plants, most landscape professionals will advise that a landscape’s natural process not be disrupted. If existing plants aren’t doing well in their current environment after regular maintenance and pruning, a professional might recommend these be moved to a new area to see if they thrive, before removing them from the property entirely.

Large, well-established trees should be properly maintained and pruned throughout each season to ensure their long-term health, as well as the safety of the facility’s regular occupants and guests. After all, trees not only add a great deal of aesthetic value to a commercial property but also promote sustainability by providing oxygen and sequestering carbon dioxide.

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