Allied Landscape Revamps Business to Build a Greener Future for Customers and Community
Everyone knows that “sustainability” and “going green” are must-haves, at least when it comes to vision statements, core values, and marketing materials. As society and the world as a whole becomes more environmentally conscious by the day, businesses must accept social responsibility for the actions of its leadership.
Although many businesses are striving for at least some green goals, the reality is that profit margins and decade-long practices often get in the way of real, lasting change. Allied Landscape recently made the switch to EcoMight, a naturally organic systemic herbicide, as part of its glyphosate-free promise to customers. It was one step in the company’s Herculean efforts to change the very core of their business to align with its sustainability goals.
Building on a Foundation of Caring
Established 15 years ago in Pleasanton, Calif., Allied Landscape has focused its company on caring for its customers, employees, environment and community.
“Our purpose has been to care for and understand the value of landscaped environments, which can preserve a greener and healthier future for our world,” said Loren McIrvin, owner of Allied Landscape.
“We believe that a well-managed landscape improves the value of a property, local ecology, and physical and mental health as well as encourages a sense of community.”
McIrvin grew up in the landscape and construction industry and has certifications and experience as a general and specialty contractor; certified irrigation designer, contractor, and auditor; certified landscape technician and professional; and arborist. Today, he sits at the helm Allied Landscape, which employs more than 200 team members, and is refocusing his entire company to focus on environmentally-conscious practices.
Focusing Its Core Business Strategy
Over the years, Allied Landscape has delivered complete landscape management services to its customers, which includes planning, design, installation, and maintenance. The company serves the Greater Bay area as well as the Central Valley.
“The way landscapes are designed now is very different than 15 years ago,” McIrvin observed. “Back then, landscaping was really about grass and a few shrubs around buildings. Today, customers want landscapes to be usable, outdoor rooms. They want to design spaces around gardens, outdoor yoga areas, bocce ball courts–they want functionality.
“Then, when the pandemic came along and more people moved outside, there was an even greater awareness of what kind of chemicals were being used around us. How are those chemicals affecting our families? Our pets?”
Allied Landscape had already committed to a glyphosate-free strategy in 2019 in order to address those growing questions.
“We’ve seen months of media coverage regarding lawsuits and health concerns when it comes to glyphosate,” McIrvin said. “Many countries around the world have banned its usage. Even in California, a group of Sacramento homeowners demanded their HOA stop using RoundUp within their neighborhood. We want to do our part to create family and pet-friendly landscapes.”
McIrvin went to his typical distribution networks to find a safer solution but could only find expensive, organic contact herbicides. Then, one day, he noticed a story on social media about EcoMight, a company that sells a naturally organic systemic weed killer directly to professionals.
“We saw an article about DeSantis Landscapes, which does a lot of the same work we do in Oregon,” McIrvin said. “We knew it was working for them, it would probably work for us as well.”
In addition to this forward-thinking move, Allied Landscape has also committed to smarter, technology-based services focused on transparency and efficiency as well as building landscapes that prioritize water conservation and best “green” practices.
“Our results-driven customer service efforts are focused on helping our customers save money, reduce liabilities, and improve the value of their landscape assets,” McIrvin said. “We are in the process of implementing the ReScape California principles as the core of our standard practices across our customer base. ReScape California is a fantastic, local resource that ‘educates about and advocates for a regenerative, whole systems approach to landscaping’.”
Allied Landscape is committed to evaluating each of its customer sites carefully to assess the soil, test area drainage, survey and protect flora and fauna, and consider the potential for fire. The company uses local and natural plant communities as their models.
“We recognize that built landscapes are part of the larger ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay watershed,” McIrvin explained. “These watersheds can contribute to the area’s overall health if designed and maintained using sustainable practices.”
Another area that Allied Landscape is focusing on is reducing waste. Not only will the company strive to select appropriate plants and keep all plant debris on-site, but the team will water and fertilize judiciously, use goats for controlling weeds, and create fire breaks. The company will also work to use salvaged items and recycled content materials as well as reduce and recycle waste.
“As a landscaping company, we will reduce waste by choosing the right plants and avoiding invasive plant species on our properties,” McIrvin said. “Besides using recycled and salvaged materials in the landscape, we will also compost, mulch and green cycle all our plant debris.”
Nurture the Soil
According to McIrvin, nurturing the soil means recognizing that it is a living ecosystem. “We work to plan landscape practices that allow the soil food web to thrive. That way, it can filter pollution, store water, provide plant nutrients, and help plants resist pests naturally.”
Allied Landscape works to remove and store topsoil before grading properties and tries to protect soil from compaction and erosion. Before planting, the company amends the soil with compost and works to green cycle and mulch regularly.
“We also aerate compacted soil, feed soils naturally, avoid synthetic quick release fertilizers, and minimize the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides,” McIrvin said.
After using organic contact herbicides for a time, Allied Landscape switched to EcoMIGHT’s systemic weedkiller to manage unwanted plant growth for its customers. “The systemic effectiveness of EcoMight was a huge advantage over the organic contact solutions,” McIrvin said. “By making the switch, we cut our labor by between 35% and 45% and reduced our frequency of application by 50%. EcoMight is the most cost-effective product we’ve tried. It’s safe for our employees to use, and the odor was much more pleasing than the odor of other organic contact herbicides.
“EcoMight has given us a unique tool to ensure we are providing excellent weed control while preserving the soil food web and ‘regenerative landscape practices’,” McIrvin continued. “Many synthetic chemicals have a devastating impact on the natural systems that support plant life. They also put the landscape manager in a position of needing to use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides because we worked against nature instead of cooperatively with nature. The future of farming and landscape management should take a holistic view how we work with and regenerate natural systems.”
Landscaping companies have a unique role in working to sequester carbon emissions through nurturing healthy vegetation. “Everything that grows works with the soil that’s rich in organic matter and beneficial microorganisms to remove carbon dioxide from the air,” McIrvin said. “These plants store it as soil carbon, which plays an important strategy for addressing climate change.”
By applying compost and feeding the soil food web, the company adds organic materials to nourish the soil, limits soil compaction and minimizes disturbances. Allied Landscape works to plant and protect large, mature trees as well.
Conserving water is a top priority in the Bay area, and Allied Landscape uses a holistic approach by creating drought-resistant soils with compost and mulch. “We also select plants that are naturally adapted to summer-dry climates as well as use stormwater, greywater, and recycled water in the landscape as much as possible,” McIrvin said. “We offer irrigation audits to our clients, and our high-efficiency irrigation systems use self-adjusting, weather-based controllers as well.”
By using California-native or Mediterranean plants, the company can minimize the amount of lawn used in a landscape. Allied Landscape also uses the idea of hydro-zoning, which means they group plants by their individual water needs.
Allied Landscape helps customers conserve energy by reducing the need for mowing and shearing, shading buildings and paved areas with plants and trees, using efficient outdoor lighting, and buying local landscaping products.
“By working to help shade buildings to moderate temperatures, we can reduce the heat island effect,” McIrvin explained. “We also carefully choose and maintain our equipment and vehicles with fuel conservation in mind, specifying low embodied energy materials whenever possible.”
Protect Air and Water
Allied Landscape cares about the impact of pesticides, fertilizers, and equipment on our air and water.
“Our shift to organic-based products and improved management of chemical and fertilizer applications is rooted in our commitment to the environment. We also have a program, The Giving Tree, where we plant trees at no cost to contribute to the removal of carbon dioxide and absorb air pollutants.”
Finally, the Allied Landscape team recognizes that biodiversity is crucial to the health of natural ecosystems. As a result, the company increases the diversity of native plants to build landscapes that can provide food, water and shelter for birds, butterflies, beneficial insects and other creatures.
“We work to use those California native plants first that can provide water and shelter to the animals and insects in our ecosystem,” McIrvin said. “By using organic pest management, we can restore our natural areas and wildlife corridors.”
In conclusion, McIrvin stressed that “as landscape managers, we need to remember that we are taking care of nature. We need to understand how to leverage the power in those systems in a way that is both efficient and environmentally responsible. We see a paradigm shift on the horizon with younger generations of customers and employees demanding more than the lowest price or a weekly paycheck.
We are thrilled to partner with companies like EcoMIGHT to show them what we are doing to help build that future.”
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