“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein

I passed my driver’s test several weeks after turning 16, and my father, Cliff, entrusted me with a black, two-door 1951 Ford. I was thrilled to get it, although I soon discovered that the car didn’t run well.

“Ahaa, tune-up time!

Lugging my dad’s incredibly heavy metal toolbox from our cluttered garage onto the driveway at our home, I promptly began attacking the car’s smallish V-8 engine with an assortment of screwdrivers and wrenches.

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“Whoaa, what are you doing?” Cliff yelled from the front porch as he saw me. My father, a skilled auto mechanic and the former owner of a busy service station near downtown Detroit, saw the drastic and unprecedented measures I was taking to fix a simple problem (as he soon discovered): spark plug wires that I had crossed in my haste and carelessness. He then began instructing me on the finer points of basic engine maintenance.

While I’ve long since given up on auto repairs because of the complexity of today’s engines, his advice, boiled down to “stop, investigate and understand” before tearing into any project, remains with me. “Start with the simplest explanation first, and work from there,” he said.

About five years ago the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) asked me to write a Crystal Ball Report on the topic of sustainability in the landscape/lawn service industry. I was flattered. I considered it an honor, and I still do even though the project turned out to be a much tougher task than I had envisioned.

Every couple of years PLANET selects a topic that it feels is important and timely to the industry. It then selects a small group of knowledgeable stakeholders to investigate and, in some cases, debate the information to be included in the report. They spend two to three busy days together hashing out the report’s main message and the evidence needed to support the message.

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The scribe’s job is to gather and record the information and, eventually, condense it into a booklet-sized report. I was the scribe for the sustainability report entitled “Green Industry ECOnomics – Innovating Toward a Sustainable and Profitable Future.”

The report, still available through PLANET, covers a range of topics related to sustainability in the landscape/lawn service industry, and contains great information thanks to the selfless, sharing efforts of 23 knowledgeable industry participants.

Acknowledging that, I nevertheless feel the starting point for sustainability in any endeavor, including delivering our landscape services, is pretty simple. It’s doing the right thing for people, our families, our acquaintances, our employees and, especially, our clients. The right thing is also treating the urban and suburban properties we’re entrusted to improve and beautify in an environmentally responsible way.

In my experience, doing the right thing generally delivers good results whether it’s in our personal lives or our businesses.

Ron Hall
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