Last month, the Regional Sustainability Initiative hosted a Spring Cleaning event at Proof Kitchen + Lounge. Attendees at the event came to learn about how to practice sustainable outdoor maintenance for their commercial properties. The first speaker was Bala Gnanam, the Vice President of Energy, Environment & Strategic Partnerships at BOMA (Building Owners & Managers Association) Toronto. BOMA Toronto promotes best practices within the real estate industry through the use of the BOMA BEST program, Canada’s largest environmental assessment and certification program for existing buildings. BOMA BEST critically assesses 10 key areas of a building’s environmental performance and management, including areas such as Waste, Purchasing, Stakeholder Engagement, and Site. Considerations for the site include aspects such as the property’s landscapes and hardscapes, how they are managed and maintained, and the long-term risk assessment of the property. The BOMA BEST assessment and certification program promotes best practices for site management, which include using native and drought-resistant species, protecting/restoring habitat for local wildlife, using environmentally-friendly equipment and products, and considering factors such as waste, water, and noise in the management of the site.  The BOMA BEST program plays a key role in promoting sustainable building and outdoor practices within all areas of the real estate industry. The next speakers, Adam Braun and Anne-Lise Watson from Partridge Fine Landscapes, say that there are three key areas to consider for making our Spring outdoor maintenance more sustainable: The next speakers, Adam Braun and Anne-Lise Watson from Partridge Fine Landscapes, say that there are three key areas to consider for making our Spring outdoor maintenance more sustainable:
  • Carbon –  Most of the carbon emitted during outdoor maintenance occurs from the gas-powered equipment that we use. Battery-powered equipment has advanced in recent years to be on par with gas-powered alternatives. They also provide added benefits such as eliminating oil and gas from your outdoor carbon footprint, requiring less maintenance over time, producing less waste, and generating much less noise. The carbon footprint of your outdoor space can also be reduced by opting for more environmentally-friendly pest control options, such as apple cider vinegar (horticultural vinegar).
  • Waste – To reduce the amount of yard waste that needs to be processed, consider options such as using the waste as mulch or composting. Decaying leaves, perennials, and lawn clippings can help to increase soil quality, protect roots, provide habitat for insects, spread seeds for a naturally growing garden, and improve vegetation. Alternatively, yard waste can be mixed with organic kitchen waste to create a backyard compost (beware of animal by-product kitchen waste that can attract pests!).  
  • Water – Spring is a great time to assess the irrigation of your outdoor space. Firstly, check for leaks and ensure that water is not being used for hard surfaces that do not require irrigation. Consider implementing water saving technology such as installing high-efficiency multi-spray sprinklers or rain barrels. A multi-spray system localizes watering to reduce the amount of water that is diverted by the sun or wind, as well as reduces run-off and erosion. Rain barrels capture stormwater which can then be used to irrigate the space, making them both aesthetic and functional additions to your outdoor area. The folks at Partridge Fine Landscapes also stress having native species in an outdoor space because they require less watering, have a higher tolerance to weather, are lower maintenance, improve soil erosion, and attract other native species and pollinators.
In conclusion, through learning about BOMA BEST practices as well as the three key areas for sustainability in outdoor maintenance, the audience left feeling confident about tackling their outdoor Spring cleaning tasks sustainably this season.