9 Ways We Strive to Be Environmentally Friendly
The landscaping industry has been referred to as the green industry for decades because we work with plants. But with the growing popularity of environmentally friendly living, being "green" has taken on a whole new meaning, and the landscaping industry hasn't always kept up. Landscaping companies are criticized for use of chemicals, poor water management, using plants that don't build up rich ecosystems, and more. Here at 317Grow we are interested in bringing green back to the green industry. Here are some of the ways we're doing that.
Each year we collect several tons of leaves during our fall clean-ups and leaf removals. We turn these leaves into compost to enrich soils on our projects. We turn the leaf pile 6-8 times a year, and after about a year of decomposing, the leaves are ready to be reused to naturally fertilize plants and improve soil structure. Learn more here.
Here in Indiana we don't usually have to think about water waste. However, with the drought of 2012 and the current drought in California, people are starting to think more and more about smart water use. We address this problem from multiple angles. We recommend that clients with irrigation systems get a rain sensor that keeps the system from watering if there has been a 1/2" of rain recently. Our field workers are trained to notice problem areas that are too wet or too dry, and they know how to adjust irrigation controls accordingly.
This is one we have fun with! We love to take something old and turn it into something new. In our office, our doors and an accent wall are all made from reclaimed barn wood. At the 2015 Flower and Patio Show we turned a massive stump into a unique table and used reclaimed wood to build our planters. Earlier this year we made an ornate gate out of antique French garden panels. When we reclaim materials, we are saving them from being thrown away and giving new life to be appreciated for years to come.
It may seem like recycling plastic pots, cardboard, paper, and other such materials is a no-brainer, but not all landscaping companies take this simple step. We recycle tons of paper, plastic, and metal each year to be re-used instead of filling landfills.
We love native plants! Native plants are important because they can cultivate a diverse web of life adapted to our environment. When you have diversity in an ecosystem (your yard counts as a mini ecosystem!), it is more resilient to stress and change. Learn more about why we love native plants here. We understand that not every client wants a totally native landscape (although we do get to design these sometimes - check this one out!), but we like to incorporate garden-friendly native plants into designs as often as we can. Some of our favorite native plants for landscaping have been featured as plants of the month on this blog.
Chemical use gets the landscaping industry a lot of bad press, but we take care to do this part of our job safely. We have 8 state-certified chemical applicators who are trained and qualified to apply chemicals in a way that keeps people and the environment safe and that uses the minimum amount needed to be effective. Part of being a state-certified applicator is completing ongoing education to make sure we stay on top of new requirements. One additional way we reduce risk of exposure is by taking such good care of our clients' lawns that we typically only need to do spot treatments to control diseases and weeds on properties we have maintained for years. The chemicals we use are safe when applied by professionals according to the label, but for those who want to avoid all synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, we can offer organic lawn care.
As with native plants, eco-friendly lawns aren't for everyone. They tend not to have the dark green color or density that comes with more traditional lawns, so they can't provide a golf course aesthetic that many want out of their grass. People are drawn to these eco-friendly lawns because they require less mowing (or no mowing in some cases) and irrigation, and they generally have better natural disease resistance. The picture on the right shows an eco-lawn we planted this past year shortly after the seed started to grow, and the property we featured for native plant use has a lawn made from an incredibly tough and low-input grass species.
Environmentalists have been concerned about combined sewer overflows (CSOs) for years, and the issue is now making its way into general awareness. For decades paved surfaces have been designed to divert rain off the pavement and into sewers as quickly as possible when it rains. However, as more and more surface areas in cities is being paved over, more and more water is suddenly dumped into our sewer systems when we get a heavy rainfall. We have reached the point here in Indianapolis and other major cities where a heavy rain can overwhelm our system and cause rain mixed with untreated sewage to overflow into our waterways. Rain gardens and bio-swales are becoming common on commercial properties and along roads to help collect that rainwater and prevent CSOs, and some homeowners are planting them as well. Another way we at 317Grow contribute to reducing CSOs is by using permeable paving systems when appropriate. Permeable pavers are designed to let water run through the spaces between pavers and into the ground instead of running off into sewers. The entry to our office is built with permeable pavers, as you can see in the picture to the right.
The world of sustainable landscaping changes rapidly as new products are developed and new research is presented. We are committed to keeping our employees on top of the latest education and information in our industry, and as we send our people to trade shows, conferences, and workshops we are always learning more about what we can do to improve our company and make our practices more environmentally friendly. In fact, this week is Indiana's landscape industry trade show, the Indiana Green Expo. We have several members of our team downtown listening to lectures and learning about the latest innovations to continue to improve our landscape design, construction, and maintenance.