Feature Article - April 2011
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Maintenance Series: Eco-Friendly

Clean and Green
Eco-Friendlier Maintenance Practices

By Dawn Klingensmith

Bug Off

Integrated pest management (IPM) techniques should be part of your maintenance regime to control disease, pests and invasive plants. IPM is a systems approach to pest management based on an understanding of ecology. It relies on preventive measures and biological controls to keep pest populations within acceptable limits. IPM reduces health hazards and soil, water and air pollution. It also reduces costs associated with hazardous waste disposal.

Santa Barbara County in California practices IPM in all areas of its 8,000 acres of parks and open spaces, and has all but eliminated the use of herbicides and pesticides in its South County region. A controlled flame with a burn bottle is used to kill weeds in parking lots, sidewalk cracks and decomposed granite areas, and black plastic covering is used to kill weeds in limited problem areas. The use of mulch in planter beds inhibits weed growth, while also discouraging snails and retaining moisture for plants.

Compost tea, made by steeping compost in water, is used throughout the county for fertilizing and soil enrichment. Eliminating regular use of broad spectrum herbicides does increase the amount of time and cost of weed abatement. In fact, the cost of mechanical weeding, including labor and equipment, costs the county up to 10 times more per square foot than for previous controlled use of herbicide.

However, sustainable landscaping on the whole can save money. North Lake College in Irving, Texas, in 2003 initiated a program to introduce native plants to the campus, with cost reduction as a primary objective. Since implementing the program, irrigation volumes have been reduced by 50 percent or more in converted gardens and landscapes. Labor costs are down 70 percent, and seasonal plant material costs have been eliminated or reallocated.

When it comes to facility maintenance, "green" is not a destination. It's an ongoing process and the philosophy that drives better decision-making on behalf of current and future generations, as well as the planet. As case studies here have shown, there are degrees of green, and little steps can go a long way toward reducing your carbon footprint and operating costs.