Baker Commercial Landscaping proves you don’t have to sacrifice quality for sustainability

Baker Commercial Landscaping places a premium on customer experience and is proud of the quality service delivered by its employees.

Orlando, Fla., is known as the home of Disney World, which places a premium on customer experience and demands the highest quality service from its cast of workers. The same town is headquarters to Baker Commercial Landscaping, owned by Ted Baker, which does big business in maintaining commercial properties such as manufacturing facilities, shopping centers and company headquarters, where looks really matter.

Baker Commercial Landscaping

President: Marc Blum
Owner: Ted Baker
Headquarters: Orlando, Fla.
Founded: 1991
Market Area: Orlando and central Florida
Services: Full-service maintenance; design and installation; irrigation design, installation and repair; lawn, tree, shrub fertilization and pest control; annual and perennial installation; tree and palm care; site cleanup and debris removal; mulch; property enhancements and upgrades.
Number of Employees: 60

Bob Jensen, sales manager for Baker Commercial Landscaping, says, “Our market is customers who expect their properties to look like Disney World every day.” Therefore, the company pays attention to its image by using the latest equipment, having fully uniformed employees with their shirts tucked in, and using freshly washed white trucks displaying an attractive logo.

The company also prides itself on its sustainability. Baker says, “We are committed to promoting the conservation of environmentally sensitive products and services in order to maintain a positive stewardship with the environment. Our goal is to reduce the adverse impact of our operations on the environment through the use of improved landscaping practices and economically feasible technology.”

Baker’s Green Policies

To reduce the adverse impact of its operations on the environment through the use of improved landscaping practices and economically feasible technology. All employees receive up-to-date training on new conservation efforts.

Maintenance & Installation Division

  • Lawn mowers are converted to use propane fuel, providing reduced emissions while eliminating toxic spills or waste.
  • Debris removed from maintenance sites is recycled and composted where possible.
  • Plants and shrubs that are suited to Florida’s climate, that promote slow growth and are drought tolerant, are offered and installed when requested.
  • Irrigation Division
  • Rain sensors are recommended and installed when requested to decrease water waste.
  • Drip lines and low-pressure heads are recommended and installed in place of high-volume rotors in shrub and flower beds to decrease water use and maintain proper coverage.
  • WeatherTRAK systems are recommended and installed when requested. WeatherTRAK systems operate via satellite communication and provide weather monitoring to provide accurate water coverage preventing excessive use of water.
  • Prepaid monthly system checks provide routine maintenance and oversight to prevent malfunctioning or broken equipment from leaking water onto the ground continuously.
  • Fertilization & Pest Control Division
  • Insecticides utilized have the lowest toxicity available.
  • Fully organic fertilization and pest programs are offered.
  • Integrated pest management (IPM) procedures, according to University of Florida’s IFAS Extension, are followed. IPM is a reactive program in which no insecticide is sprayed unless there is a pest control issue present.
  • Office & Administration
  • Preference is given to recycled products when purchasing office supplies.
  • A recycling program is available for those employees who wish to recycle their waste.
  • All toner cartridges purchased are returned to the manufacturer for recycling.

A big part of this was a recent decision to convert its mowers so they operate on propane fuel. Marc Blum, president, says, “There are so many positives for the machines operating this way, and a lot of our customers ask questions about it. They’re impressed with the fact that emissions from our mowers are substantially eliminated during operation on their property.”

Propane-fueled mowers offer many advantages over gas-powered mowers:

1. Depending on the always-fluctuating price of gas, propane is usually cheaper. More importantly, demand for fuel in the landscaping business peaks in the summer, when demand for propane throughout the U.S. is lowest. Says Blum, “We felt there was a cost-savings potential with demand for propane decreasing in the summer months when we use the most fuel in our mowers.”

2. Propane burns cleaner than gasoline because it is a white fuel with no carbon buildup when it burns. Therefore, propane-powered equipment requires fewer oil changes, as well as less ongoing maintenance where moving parts tend to last longer.

3. Propane also offers emissions benefits. Propane generally burns with up to 95 percent less carbon monoxide emissions than gas. Since the fuel is transferred through compression upon fill-up, toxic spills are virtually eliminated in contrast to frequent spills that occur filling gas cans and equipment tanks from gas station nozzles.

Baker Commercial Landscaping has converted its fleet of mowers to propane, like the John Deere model seen here.

Baker Commercial fields 18 maintenance crews and has about 43 commercial mowers, with 39 having been converted from gas to propane. The company began its conversion to propane-powered commercial mowers in 2010 at a cost of approximately $800 to convert a large commercial riding mower. Baker’s commercial riding mowers have 10-gallon propane tanks mounted horizontally, and the commercial walk-behind mowers are equipped with 4.5-gallon tanks.

Baker Commercial Landscape targets commercial clients that expect and the demand highest-quality services.

According to Blum, “We didn’t want to go in and convert all of the equipment at once. Baker worked with supplier Heritage Propane and Metro Lawn representative J.T. Taylor on the conversions, with Baker’s ace mechanic also involved. “We have a good mechanic, Ramon Santiago, and a very nice shop for him to work in,” says Blum. Onyx Environmental Solutions manufactures the carburetors used by Metro Lawn on the conversions and offers kits for sale to customers seeking to convert mowers from gas to propane.

Curb appeal is incredibly important in central Florida because of the year-round growing season and the millions of visitors there each year.

Indeed, the crew at Baker Commercial even has a show mower with a Weber grill attached running off the same fuel tank. Jensen says, “We can mow and grill at the same time!”

Though he adds, “Being the pioneers in this area, we found the problems as we went along. But it’s worth it because this is part of our company’s larger green effort.”

One challenge in using propane was getting rid of backfiring. Eliminating propane from the fuel line system once the mower quits running can solve this. Backfiring can occur when propane becomes a gas and it remains in the fuel line when the machine shuts down. On start-up, the machine will backfire. This, in turn, creates maintenance issues and can destroy mufflers from the pressure. Blum notes, “You have to have a procedure for shutting your mowers down and turning them back on. The best solution is to close the valve and allow the machine to cut off when the propane has burned off.”

Baker Commercial Landscape management strives to send a professional image to the market. This includes washing its white service vehicles, like this lawn care truck, each work day.

To make it all work, the company’s prep team arrives at 5 a.m. to make sure the tanks are full of propane and extra tanks are loaded onto the company’s enclosed work trailers. Heritage comes and fills the tanks on-site about twice weekly. As with other green practices, all employees receive up-to-date training for any new conservation efforts.

Cindy Grahl is a freelance writer who lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio, and has covered the construction and service industries for more than 25 years.