Sustainability: Is It Right for Your Landscaping Business?
Sustainability—reducing the environmental impact of operating a business—is a concept frequently debated for businesses both large and small, and landscape contracting companies are no exception. What risks and benefits are there in providing sustainable outdoor living designs for homeowners? What kinds of sustainable material choices are available? These are questions worth evaluating when deciding how to operationalize sustainability in your landscape contracting business.
The one major risk when it comes to prioritizing sustainability for a landscape contractor is financial. Making a hard switch to sustainable landscape design may require a substantial investment at first, and this may not be fiscally prudent for all landscaping companies. Since there is an increasing demand for sustainable products and outdoor living options (Source), the cost of those products may be more than your business is used to paying for materials. If your company is still mostly in the red, it may be too early to consider switching entirely to “green” options for your customers. Start slow, making one change at a time, to ensure you remain financially viable, before making the full switch.
When landscape contractors make the decision to “go green” for their company and for their customers, there can be a wide range of benefits. Take a look:
Excite Current Customers
Staying relevant is one of the greatest challenges for companies in the landscape industry. Once a project is complete, it is difficult to excite homeowners about other facets of your business. Informing your current customers that your business is providing sustainable landscaping services can pique their interests and secure the sought-after relevance that leads to longtime relationships. Your company will be able to offer eco-friendlier outdoor living choices, inspiring current customers to receive “green” updates from your team, even after other projects have been completed.
Attract New Customers
According to a SolarCity report, 75% of consumers are more likely to buy a service if the company is making an effort to be environmentally sustainable. The demand from buyers for sustainable businesses and “greener” options has skyrocketed over the past several years (Source), providing an opportunity for landscape contractors to attract new customers. Many homeowners, separate from current customers, use sustainability as a qualifier for hiring businesses. Showcasing the “green” choices that you make for your business and that you offer homeowners attracts a new breed of customer that previously would not have considered your company.
There are a number of tax benefits that landscape contractors stand to reap by undertaking sustainable projects. Federal, state, and local governments offer various financial incentives for companies that take on environmentally sound jobs. These incentives can include production-, investment-, and consumption-based income tax credits, exemptions from state or local sales taxes, and even cash grants. Conduct research at the local, state, and federal level to discover the kinds of tax breaks your landscape contracting company could receive from “going green.”
While the fear of early investment in sustainable business choices may be daunting, this investment can be supplemented by the potentially higher ROI (Return on Investment). The modern day homeowner expects that, when it comes to environmentally responsible landscaping, prices will be higher. In fact, a Nielsen survey found that 66% of respondents would be willing to pay more for eco-friendlier products or services (Source). Although sustainable products may cost more to the landscape contractor, today’s homeowners anticipate that it will cost more for them, too, and they are prepared to pay for it.
As the landscape contracting industry is growing in popularity, it has become overcrowded and very difficult for businesses to separate themselves from the herd. Sustainability is a great way to show that your company is seeking something different: providing not only easily maintained, stylish outdoor living spaces, but also spaces that have a low-impact on natural resources and decrease the environmental footprint. Specializing in sustainable landscapes can help solidify your company’s niche in this overcrowded market, differentiating your business from the rest.
Once you have decided to move toward sustainable landscapes, it may be difficult to know where to start. You may want to pick an angle or two to try before jumping straight in. These are a few different ways to transform your landscape contracting projects into sustainable outdoor living spaces:
Nurturing a landscape’s local ecosystem demonstrates that your company cares about its environmental impact, while reducing long-term maintenance costs. One of the best ways to do this is by protecting soil microbes during planting projects. These are tiny organisms that, although unseen by the naked eye, are essential for the health and longevity of soil. Minimizing the amount of pesticides and chemical fertilizers used while planting actually allows the soil microbes to act as a natural fertilizer for plants.
Planting shade trees is another excellent way to offer sustainable landscaping. Deciduous trees, like maples and oaks, are great at providing shade during the hottest times of the year. As a result, homeowners burn less energy keeping their air conditioners running. This can cut your carbon footprint by substantial amounts, and it illustrates your business’ consideration of the customer’s energy costs.
The installation of rain gardens makes for very sustainable landscapes. Rain gardens collect water runoff from roofs, driveways, and yards and infiltrate it back into the ground. As well as having numerous environmental benefits, rain gardens can also provide opportunities for landscape contractors to get creative with design, often incorporating colorful perennials and other attractive plants.
More and more homeowners are enjoying the benefits of installing permeable paver projects into their landscaping to help divert rainfall away from sewer systems and back into the natural ecosystem. The pavers used in permeable installations, although sometimes appearing similarly to traditional concrete pavers, are installed with slightly larger joints. This allows rainfall to seep back into the ground, rather than running off into sewers. Unilock Permeable Pavers include a wide variety of styles and specific purposes, so they fit perfectly into any outdoor living space. For example, Unilock’s Dura-Mat interlocking concrete units are used for erosion control in pond lining. They link together on all sides, forming a “permanent protective carpet.” Unilock’s Eco-Line pairs a permeable, heavy-duty paver with beautiful style and design opportunities. With a wide range of custom finishes available and the ability to be mechanically-installed, Eco-Line pavers are both visually stunning and cost-effective.