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ritchiem 12-17-2007 10:42 AM

Keith wrote an article for us. What are your thoughts on this topic? What can you add?

Global Warming. Carbon Footprints. Al Gore. These words are on the lips of many Americans today. As a Lawn Care Business owner, if those words are not on your lips, they should at least be on your mind.

We live in an age of environmental conservatism. I will not step foot into the debate as to whether global warming is a man-made phenomenon vs. a natural cycle which man is powerless to counteract. I will, however, make a statement that all lawn care business owners can benefit by being environmentally aware.

By the very nature of our jobs, we alter our environment. We cut grass, we shape shrubs, and we chop trees. Doing so does not have to be environmentally harmful. Smart lawn care business owners take steps to increase profitability alongside being good stewards of our Earth.

Most lawn care customers want an air of environmentalism from their lawn care provider. This isn’t to say an LCO must give each tree in their yard a name before hugging it but it does mean following conventional standards and being smart about business practices is essential.

Think for a moment how a negligent lawn care operator might damage the environment on a daily basis. Each morning he starts his 5.7 liter Chevy Van, loads his trailer noticing both tires have low air pressure, and drives to the gas station. He fills each of his 5 gallon red plastic gas containers to the rim and drives away without closing the lids completely. Arriving at his first customer’s yard, he lowers the lawn mower blades on his 22″ push lawn mower to the first position and cuts the grass as short as possible. Starting his 5 year old string trimmer is a chore and he fiddles with the fuel mixture settings. It starts with a steady stream of visible blue/grey exhaust. His leaf blower starts in a similar fashion. From excessive exhaust fumes he has breathed, he feels dizzy as he reaches for his 2.5 gallon pump sprayer. He hasn’t bothered to read the weed killer directions and just guesses how much water to add after dumping half the container into his sprayer. After this job is finished, he loads up and drives back across town knowing he will be here tomorrow to do the neighbor’s yard next door.

Wow, what a mess. Without completely tearing this guy apart, we can come up with methods of better performing his business.

Let’s begin with his van. If an LCO is doing large scale work, he probably has a Z-rider and a commercial walkbehind lawn mower or two. At this scale, it is easily understandable that he needs a trailer to haul his equipment and a large engine to pull it. The LCO in our example is just doing 1 yard with a small push lawn mower. Even if he doesn’t have another vehicle available, he can leave the trailer at home and load his lawn mower inside the van. From experience, I know a drop gate trailer can easily cost you 3 miles per gallon from wind drag and extra rolling resistance. Additionally, this guy’s tires have low air pressure. He stopped at a gas station but didn’t bother to air his tires to an acceptable psi. Under inflated tires can quickly drop fuel mileage another 2 miles per gallon.

Fuel containers are not meant to be filled to the rim. On every fuel container there is a fill line. On a 5 gallon container there is 5 gallons of volume up to that fill line. More fuel added is likely to be lost to expansion escape during heating of the day or spillage from the fuel sloshing around. Caps to these containers are often cumbersome to replace properly. Take the effort to keep them snapped securely at all times.

He cuts the grass too short. Most fescue lawns are not meant to be cut ultra short. Tall fescue grows thick when it is allowed to maintain a height of 2 1/2″ to 3″. Thick grass chokes out unwanted weeds and allows for greater drought tolerance. This, in turn, reduces need for weed killers and expensive watering during dry summer months. Speaking of weed killers, our example LCO above did not bother to read the label on his weed killer. Most weed killers will do their jobs at the prescribed mixture levels. I am not sure why we think adding an extra cup of solution to a sprayer will kill weeds faster. However, we have all done it (me included). Next time you mix weed killer, read directions and follow them carefully. You will be amazed they actually work as prescribed and you will save money by not pouring unnecessary chemicals into the earth.

His 2 cycle motors are maladjusted. Any lawn care operator in business for any amount of time knows the difficulty keeping trimmers and blowers tuned year after year. We have all fiddled with the adjustment knobs thinking we were getting it just right. Out of tune motors pour massive amounts of pollution into the atmosphere. If you have any doubt in your ability to adjust a 2 cycle motor, take your equipment to a trained technician.

The last obstacle our LCO faces is a routing problem. It pays to plan your route intelligently. If you have two customers close together, service those clients on the same day. If you have neighbors getting their grass cut, park your van or truck and do them both at the same time. Not only will you reduce travel time and additional fuel expense, you will also reduce the time it takes to load and unload your equipment.

It never ceases to amaze me that if we operate our businesses with an understanding of environmentalism, not only will we help protect our environment but we will also very often reduce expenses while increasing profitability.

Oh, there’s also one other benefit to being environmentally aware…it will keep Al Gore off all of our backs.

Steve 12-17-2007 11:15 AM

For quite sometime I had been on the fence about global warming, whether it was really happening or not. It does now appear to me that it is and I do think it's good we are all becoming more and more aware of this. I hope we can find more renewable sources of energy that don't adversely effect our world.

I think there are big opportunities for lawn care businesses that focus on this and market it what makes them unique.

What's your view?

FourSeasons 12-17-2007 11:21 AM

Me and my friend were talking about this and we completely disagree on this.

I'll just keep my thoughts to myself on this but I agree you could definitely use it to your advantage.
The manufactures of the equipment we buy do. Some of them anyways have little things for there new products about lower emisissions or whatever.

ritchiem 12-17-2007 11:30 AM

I agree that this topic is highly controversial. But how can you go wrong by trying to reduce emissions?


Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]Me and my friend were talking about this and we completely disagree on this.

I am definitely not trying to start an argument by saying this...but are you commenting on Team Gophers comment? Did you read the article?

I am not on the fence about this is right in front of our eyes. Problems are occurring everyday around the globe. I am all for doing my part by reducing emissions.

FourSeasons 12-17-2007 11:46 AM


Originally Posted by [b
Quote[/b] ]I am definitely not trying to start an argument by saying this...but are you commenting on Team Gophers comment? Did you read the article

Yes I read it. this sounds like a combination of being lazy, not caring, and no common sense that can cause more waste than we realize and thats neccesary.

Little changes like that we could all probably clean up our operation.

Steve 12-17-2007 11:52 AM

From my perspective I haven't seen too many lcos take advantage of this in their marketing.

What's your view? Have many in your area played this up in their marketing?

Do customers care?

Do they care enough to choose a lawn care operator who is more conscious of such issues?

FourSeasons 12-17-2007 11:57 AM

I think some would.
I've had a few customers that I did cleanups on their properties and they were very strict about what was to be cut and how much because they were enviromentalists or whatever they call themselves. It was pretty ridiculous.

ritchiem 12-17-2007 11:58 AM

I have not yet seen anyone in my area try to use this as a marketing tactic. I know of companies in Toronto that use it and I know that in larger cities it can pay off when you have hundreds of companies competing for the same clients.

Steve 12-17-2007 12:02 PM

If you thought there was more of a call for it, would you jump on doing this?

Can you see anytime in the near future where this would give you a competitive advantage or not for a while?

ritchiem 12-17-2007 12:08 PM

Well I already make sure that I do what I can but I am not in a market where people seem to care in a sense. I live in apple country where the crop growers freely spray pesticides on windy days They use there old oil mixed with diesel fuel to start their fires Too old school here.

But a younger generation is moving in and I believe that they are more environmentally conscious. So one day, it may prove to be effective...just not yet.

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