This is a column by landscapers, for landscapers. In it, you’ll find knowledge, views and insights from professionals just like you, who are currently working in the industry
Q. How important are sustainability and environmentally friendly practices in landscaping?
Wellington Gardens Limited
Interviewee: John Muller - Director Location: Wellington
Staff: 10 sub-contractors
Carrying out business in an environmentally friendly way is certainly becoming more relevant, but practicality seems to get in way. I’ve found that some of the things we could do to lower our carbon footprint aren’t practical as a landscaping business.
As a landscaper, I always want to be more sustainable, but how far do you take it? You can stop using chemicals in your work, but sometimes that’s not practical – especially in this environment with clients who are more concerned about you finishing the job than doing things in a sustainable way. Saying that, we try to make sure the little things we have control over are done in a sustainable way.
All my guys are using battery-operated tools as a matter of course, and I try to plant a lot of native plants – which is sustainable in its own way.
We use hardwood rather than treated timber, and some clients ask for timber from sustainable forests, but that’s a given, because we don’t source from unsustainable forests.
Something that does frustrate me is a lack of recycling infrastructure. I’ve tried to take plant pots back to the nursery,
but the last time they wouldn’t take them! I hate dumping plastic.
Second Nature Gardens
Interviewee: Chris Ballantyne - Founder
The need for good landscape design and rehabilitation has never been as important as it is now. Our understanding of liveable cities, landscape degradation and climate change puts landscapers, as green technicians, in an incredible position to address these problems, and that bodes well for our industry.
But first, we need to look at our practices. We want to improve our sustainable and environmental credentials and that comes with challenges, because the industry does produce a lot of waste.
One of the things we do to tackle our own waste is to use reusable planter pots and biogradable ground pegs. Planter pots used to be a significant portion of our waste stream, so this has helped us to reduce waste.
We also use electric tools where possible, and we’ve switched to battery-powered hedge trimmers and blowers, so we’re making moves in that direction. At the end of the day, it’s a consumptive industry, and when there’s such supply shortages, it’s hard to be picky about your materials.
Additionally, we’d love to use more electric vehicles in our trade fleet. Our management fleet consists of some hybrid or electric vehicles, but there’s no option for trade vehicles.
JRM Landscapes Ltd
Interviewee: Ross Marriott - Owner Location: Canterbury
Both from a business and personal point of view, I think becoming more environmentally friendly in our practice is important. The market is starting to demand that we focus on sustainability and taking care of the envrionment is what we’re about as a business. We’re about growth and nature, and I want to protect that.
Having said that, I find that demands like this usually rest on bigger companies, as there’s a greater expectation on them to be more environmentally friendly.
I used to run a larger business, but I downsized a few years ago and I’m definitely not experiencing the same pressures as I used to, including meeting environmental targets.
You could say I’ve been a bit removed from the larger world since I downsized. When you’re bigger, there’s definitely a lot of waste that’s hard to reduce when you’re putting down concrete, laying paving or building.
When running the larger company, one of the things we did to try to reduce our carbon footprint was reducing mileage by doing shorter trips in our utes and making sure we carpooled whenever possible.