April 14 2011 12:00 AM

Marking its 41st anniversary, Earth Day 2011 will be celebrated on Friday, April 22, with festivals and special events all centered on the importance of protecting the environment.

There are very few professions that are intrinsically linked to an international holiday the way the landscape industry is to Earth Day. From cleaner air to water conservation, to establishing a healthy, vibrant biosphere, we are the real protectors of our planet whose job it is to care for Mother Earth each and every day.

With so much media attention on this worldwide event, if you haven’t as yet been offering ecofriendly sustainable landscape programs to your clients, Earth Day is a golden opportunity for you to hop on board the green train and ride it all the way to the bank.

More landscape companies are adding green alternatives that provide eco-friendly products and services to their clients. During the month of April, you can promote Earth Day specials as well as offer new services to your existing clientele. What a great opportunity to offer your clients a totally green, full-service approach to their property. In addition to being ecologically compliant, your company will begin to develop an additional revenue stream.

The demand is there and a growing awareness of being environmentally compliant can only drive more business your way. There are several key areas that are part of an eco-friendly landscape program. We’re just going to give you an overview of going green.

Sustainable landscaping primarily involves proper plant selection, using water appropriately and avoiding waste. Let’s start with plant material:

Eco-friendly contractors are u s i n g m o r e n a t i v e p l a n t material in their l a n d - s c a p e s . T h e s e p l a n t s are able to tolerate local conditions and can thrive with very little water once their roots are established. In addition, by using mulches around flower beds and under trees, you can prevent water loss through evaporation.

In addition to working with natives, there is other plant material that doesn’t require as much water as some. Begin to think about incorporating them into your eco-green sustainable landscape. There are a number of turf seed companies that have developed more drought-tolerant grasses and that could be a welcome change.

But being eco-friendly doesn’t stop there. Let’s look at other methods to conserve water. With many municipalities offering rebates on water conservation devices, this can be just the right incentive for your clients to replace existing manually-programmed controllers with the new ‘smart’ controllers, along with soil sensors and wireless remote controls.

And what about the new low-precipitation spray heads? They can save not only a lot of water but also money on your client’s water bill. How about low-volume and drip irrigation. There are many ways to be eco-green.

Under the water conservation umbrella is recapturing rainwater. This includes all the areas of rainwater harvesting, which is then used for irrigation. Recycling is the buzzword when it comes to Earth Day and nowhere can you take advantage of the popularity more than with rainwater harvesting techniques.

Rain barrels have been making a comeback in recent years in many communities. These systems are fairly easy to install and another eco-friendly selling tool that will add to your client’s additional water savings.

Beyond the practicable, there are also ascetically-pleasing landscape designs and products that are green. Permeable pavers are an area that is gaining interest. Not only are they pleasing to the eye, they effectively help recapture rainwater.

As far as clean river and streams, no other landscape product has been under as much scrutiny in recent years as fertilizer. With more and more municipalities regulating the use and, in some cases, outlawing all fertilizer use containing phosphorous, many fertilizer manufacturers are producing organic alternatives and developing environmentally-friendly applications. These can be a huge advantage for landscape contractors who add these types of products to their service options. New companies that manufacture organic fertilizer keep popping up.

Corn gluten meal is a popular product used by many in the green profession as a natural weed suppressant and fertilizer for turf.

When it comes to insect control, there are a plethora of organic products on the market that are deadly to bugs, but non-toxic to animals and humans. Beneficial bacteria is another method to control insects.

Sustainable landscapes are limited only by your imagination.

Although retaining walls are necessary, using living walls not only do the job, but are more pleasing to look at, instead of concrete block walls.

Green “living” walls are springing up on building structures at a very rapid rate.

And we haven’t even spoken about green roofs. Since the growi n g a w a r e n e s s o f LEED buildings, green roofs abound in certain parts of the country. However, they are just beginning to be seen in the western region. Not only do they add to the ambiance of city skylines, they help cleanse the air of carbon dioxide and offer major opportunities for your business to grow upwards, through the roof, literally.

Conserving energy is just as important as conserving water. We don’t have too many areas in the landscape to conserve energy, but if you install landscape lighting, using LEDs instead of halogen bulbs will certainly do their part in conservation. LEDs use about 80 percent less energy and can last more than 25 times longer than conventional lighting. If your company has a lighting division, installing new landscape lighting fixtures with energy saving LEDs goes a long way.

As you can see, Earth Day can be celebrated long after April 22, with sustainable landscape techniques, it can last all year.