Got Your Goat.. Or Sheep? Four Solutions For Sustainable Grounds

An ESFM project manager offers ideas for greener groundskeeping implemented at their corporate clients.

ESFM has brought sheep in to graze around a solar field at a client location in New Jersey during the summer months.

Turf’s April edition on Sustainability should be hitting inboxes and mailboxes soon! Keep an eye out and in the meantime, here’s four ideas for greener grounds at corporate facilities.

By Jared Kelty

Landscaping and grounds can bring more to a facility than just ambience and aesthetics. They can play a critical role in contributing to a thriving ecosystem, and—when utilized optimally—can help support a companies’ or building owners’ commitment to reduce their carbon footprint, meet net-zero goals and, ultimately, contribute to a cleaner, healthier planet.

But for grounds departments looking to go green, knowing where to start can be a daunting task. The key is creativity and innovation. As a project manager with ESFM, the corporate Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) division of Compass Group U.S., I’ve assisted our clients in finding ways to help drive positive environmental change when it comes groundskeeping. Here are four:

1. Embrace Electric. For one ESFM life sciences client, where landscaping equipment across six sites was converted to electric, annual fuel consumption was reduced by 5,500 gallons. In fact, replacing just one piece of equipment eliminates 216 pounds of NMHCs (non-methane hydrocarbons) and 900 pounds of CO (carbon monoxide) each year. Compound that over the number of pieces of equipment replaced and the picture becomes clearer (as does the atmosphere) for why electric is a great option for sustainable landscaping.

2. Get The Goat. While battery-power is a great long-term option, there is yet another seasonal alternative which is completely natural and uniquely suited to areas of large acreage outside of city limits: animals! 

Some companies have “hired” such additional help, bringing in sheep, goats, and other grazers into their landscaping fold. While the animals chow down, keeping weeds and grass at bay, they simultaneously add fertilizer and aerate the grounds with their hooves, tilling and enhancing the soil. 

The benefits are twofold. With the sheep enjoying a vacation from their farm, companies can reduce their use of chemicals to remove invasive plants like poison ivy and other vines and eliminate emissions from gas-powered mowers.

ESFM has brought sheep in to graze around a solar field at a client location in New Jersey during the summer months. The animals are welcome guests and the employees enjoy seeing them keeping overgrowth from interfering with the panels as they come to work.

3. Make Meadows. Another sustainable mowing alternative would be to convert previously manicured lawns to meadowlands. Reducing or eliminating the amount of area that needs to be mowed can cut down on labor hours and costs while reducing emissions and water usage.

4. Bring On Biodiversity. A biodiverse garden, one that includes a wide variety of native plants and wildflowers, is an excellent way to boost the local ecosystem organically. These gardens create habitat and attract many pollinators like honeybees and butterflies. In fact, nearly 90% of plant species rely on these pollinators to survive. For an oil & gas client in Houston the pollinator garden serves as a rest stop for migrating monarch butterflies, millions of which head south to Mexico each year for the winter months. 

Biodiverse gardens also attract soil decomposers like earthworms and millipedes, along with natural pest controllers such as birds, frogs, ladybugs, and so much more. Plus, native plants require less water, no fertilizer, and fewer pesticides, resulting in “greener” landscaping design. As an added benefit, because these plants do not need as much water as non-native plants, their inclusion in a biodiverse garden can help reduce erosion and water runoff.

These natural areas provide beauty and serenity for facility employees and may also provide an opportunity to give back. One of ESFM’s life sciences clients supplemented their garden with beehives. Honey is harvested annually and sold onsite, with proceeds donated to a local non-profit organization. 

Actions taken today, like investing in native plants, electric equipment, and innovations that are better for planet and people, can reduce a company’s carbon footprint, while making a meaningful impact on the environment of tomorrow.

Kelty is a project manager with ESFM, the corporate Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) division of Compass Group US. Kelty leads the implementation of innovative solutions to help bring value and efficiency to ESFM’s clients’ operations. ESFM is a Keystone member of the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) and has helped clients achieve Gold Conservation Certification from the Wildlife Habitat Council. ESFM’s sustainability approach to IFM, prioritizes innovations by ROI toward client-specific carbon reduction goals.

Want more articles on sustainable landscaping?

Read Journey To Sustainability on why and how McCoy Horticultural transitioned to eco-landscaping. 

Read Why Mighty Oaks Should Be On Your Planting List by famed ecologist Doug Tallamy.

Or check out more here.