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Opinion: 4 eco-friendly landscaping ideas to boost profits

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If you’ve ever considered taking steps toward a more natural commercial landscape, there are a few benefits to think about from a business standpoint. As a landscaper for the last 23 years, I’ve seen the impact that businesses can make on their bottom lines while making greener choices in design and landscaping.

The options
Here are four ideas:

  1. Grass instead of concrete. Grass has a cooling effect. It doesn’t absorb sunlight and release heat the way hard surfaces do.

That means less cooling costs for your building during the warm months. Grass better mimics the natural climate of the area instead of creating hot spots within the city.

Lawn areas also help to absorb water rather than add to runoff problems already plaguing most municipalities.

  1. Native grasses instead of turf grass. Installing native grasses instead of normal turf grass does require more work and investment upfront.

However, there are certain native grasses that are nearly maintenance free. Imagine never paying for mowing again – well, maybe once a year – while adding native plants back into our ecosystem.

These grasses, such as prairie dropseed or sheep fescue, also promote habitats for insects and microbes that benefit the soil, unlike using concrete, which is the worst-case scenario and eradicates all life. Native grasses are also more likely to survive a drought and don’t need irrigation after they’ve been established. Say goodbye to fertilizing costs as well.

  1. Native trees. The American holly or red oak varieties are better acclimated to our clay soil and won’t need as many amendments or fertilizers. Since they’re used to our weather conditions, they require less water – once established – and are drought resistant.

Trees that last longer mean less investment in the long run. The shade provided by the canopies has a cooling effect on the surrounding area and buildings. There are also several varieties that put on an incredible show in the spring, like dogwoods and redbuds.

  1. Rain gardens instead of water retention basins. Rain gardens aren’t just for your hippie neighbor anymore. There are lots of benefits to your wallet and the local ecosystem when you choose to think outside the box for commercial landscaping.

Rain gardens utilize hydrophilic (meaning water-loving and flood-tolerant) perennials planted in low areas to manage water runoff.

Planting no-mow grass on slopes is a great transition for functional and aesthetic purposes. The deep roots of the plants create natural filters for removing chemicals and fertilizers from the water. That’s important when runoff goes directly into streams or becomes our drinking water. Properly installed rain gardens require only one pruning per year in the winter during dormancy. You don’t have to touch them otherwise.

Besides these tertiary savings and benefits to the environment, rain gardens have a direct financial impact on your costs. As a conservative example, installing a 1-acre rain garden in a water retention basin would cost around $15,000, plus $500 per year in maintenance fees.

Or you could plant grass seed and pay $75 per mow on a 32-week schedule. Over the next 10 years, the rain garden should incur a total cost of $20,000, while the turf grass would cost $24,000 for the same period.

The savings will continue to grow after that point.

Profits and productivity
From my experience, natural landscapes improve patron impressions and employee enjoyment, which increases your profits and productivity. These gardens also support local wildlife and make your neighborhood more inviting. Try getting that from concrete.

Green infrastructure like native plants and rain gardens can make everyone happier and healthier. Employees who enjoy their work environment are always more productive, while a customer surrounded by a visually appealing facade will be more likely to do business with that company. Commercial landscaping, whether native or purely for design in outdoor areas, will have plenty of benefits on the balance sheet.

Kevin Runyon owns Custom Creations Landscaping & Lawn LLC. He can be reached at


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