DEEP: Sustainable Practices and Resources For the Landscaping and Lawn Care Industry

Sustainable Practices and Resources for the Landscaping and Lawn Care Industry
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Landscapers and other land care related businesses are uniquely positioned to impact the environment in important ways simply due to the nature of their work. Although the industry has seen a dramatic decline1 in these tough economic times, professionals in the industry have used the opportunity to gain additional expertise in new areas that promote sustainable environments.
In nature, it is not survival of the strongest or the smartest of the species but the species that is the most adaptable to changeCharles Darwin
In 2011, Irrigation and Green Industry estimated the numbers of landscape contractors in the U.S. to be 35,000 to 38,000, even with an estimated loss of 12.5% of companies from three years ago. And lawn care companies nationwide number 3,500 within the industry. Similar to landscapers, they are diversifying their services (e.g., mowing, tree care, irrigation). Some lawn care companies offer turf topdressing with compost as a new service. 
In the last few years being "green" has become popular with the public and landscaping in a sustainable way has become a way of addressing many of the negative effects of development. 
Sustainable landscapes require less maintenance, reduce environmental harm, benefit wildlife, provide seasonal interest, use native plants, and encourage the use of local, renewable, and recyclable materials.
Below are resources to learn more about new technologies that can help grow your business in sustainable landscaping. 
What is sustainable landscaping?
Sustainable landscaping comprises numerous practices that address environmental issues related to the design, construction, implementation, and management of residential and commercial landscapes. (Source: Sustainable Landscaping)
Rain Gardens
What is a rain garden?
It is a depression that collects runoff from a roof, driveway or yard and allows it to infiltrate into the ground. Rain gardens are typically planted with shrubs or perennials and can be colorful, landscaped areas in your yard that will also provide important environmental benefits. (Source: NEMO )
These resources are from the training "Rain Gardens: How to Site, Design, Construct and Maintain Them" in Nov. 2010. DEEP and others presented this training for the industry and community.
Native Plants
...native plants have adapted to the climate of a geographic area, making them naturally hardy. Wildlife has evolved using them for food, cover and shelter.
Proper selection, care and placement of trees and shrubs can produce a landscape that is both visually attractive and beneficial to wildlife.
Organic Land Care
Composting and Grasscycling
A 1/2 acre lawn in New England produces over 3 tons or nearly 260 bags of grass clipping each year!
  • Comprehensive information from the DEEP compost  website about how to compost, sources of compost in CT, resources, videos and more.  
  • Did you know grass clippings are banned from disposal in CT? Grasscycling  - leaving grass clippings on the lawn - can improve your customer's lawns and save you money and time.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
  • IPM is a systematic method of managing pests using non-chemical pest management methods and the judicious use of pesticides when pest populations exceed acceptable levels.
Low Impact Development (LID)
LID is a way to manage water that reduces the impact of built areas and promotes the natural movement of water within an ecosystem or watershed.
(Source: EPA)
  • LID uses site design principles and small-scale treatment practices to manage runoff volume and water quality at the source. For new development, LID uses a planning process to employ site design techniques to first optimize conservation of natural hydrologic functions to prevent runoff. Learn more about LID Guidelines and Standards (pdf)
Sustainable Landscaping Materials
  • UConn's Cooperative Extension resources on landscape construction helps you choose effective site construction techniques and materials to minimize water pollution.
  • Landscape For Life helps you choose materials that are healthier for the environment and your customers and perform as well or better than conventional materials.
  • Learn about organic land care standards and training opportunities through NOFA Organic Land Care Accreditation Course. More info.
  • Grassroots Healthy Lawn Program offers professional training program and DVD learning tools for landscapers and municipal turf managers.
Water Conservation
  • Xeriscape landscapes are defined as "quality landscaping that conserves water and protects the environment." Learn about the seven principles of xeriscaping.
  • Find more information about xeriscaping  in the CT Stormwater Water Quality Manual, Section 5.4.1 Xeriscaping and General Landscape Management.
Other Resources
  • Sustainable Landscapes has information on rain gardens, rain harvesting, plant selections, green roofs, permeable pavements and more.
  • EPA New England is trying to Soak Up the Rain with a new website for citizens, businesses, and communities about rain gardens, tree planting, rain barrels, permeable pavement, green roofs and more.
  • Sustainable Sites Initiative is a program supported by the American Society of Landscape Architects to introduce sustainable standards of practice within a points-based system.
  • Ecological Landscaping Association is a nonprofit organization that supports landscape practices that are environmentally safe and beneficial.
  • Harvard University shares its experience in transitioning to organic grounds maintenance.
  • NEMO (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials) is a UConn program for local land use officials addressing the relationship of land use to natural resource protection.
  • Sustainable Landscaping, The Hidden Impacts of Gardens (pdf) from EPA and Smithsonian Institution's Horticultural Services Division, presents information on the impacts to air, water, land and biodiversity of traditional landscaping and offer alternatives such as using native plants in the landscape. 
  • 1See BioCycle, Sept. 2011, Vol. 52, No. 9, p. 57, Selling Compost To The Landscape Industry for full article
Content last updated October 2019