NORTH FEATURES


Going Electric One Step at a Time

Strathmore Landscape takes its Zero-Emission program to the next level
By Mike Ingles




(L. to R.) Employees Kathleen Roy, Stephanie Houle and Jamie Lee Wilt display one of the Strathmore Landscape's electric vehicles.

Strathmore Landscape, based in Montreal, Canada, has staked its reputation on landscape's Golden Rule: "Our employees treat a client's property the way they would want their own to be treated," says Jessica Milligan, one of three owners and a granddaughter of the founder. "No upgrade or proposal is ever made that would benefit the company and not the customer."

Strathmore Landscape Contractors, Inc.

Founded: 1963 in Dorval, Que., Canada
Owners: Danny, Jessica and Jordon Milligan
Headquarters: Montreal, Que., Canada
Services: Maintenance, design/build, restoration, LEED, seasonal flowers, ornamental vegetable garden and winter decor
Awards: Landscape Ontario Award of Excellence 2010, 2012, 2013
Employees: 65
Website: www.strathmorelandscape.ca

This philosophy has allowed Strathmore to continuously expand since its inception in 1963. President Danny Milligan took over the reins in 1974 from his father, Elmer, and in 1997 refocused the company to concentrate on maintenance services for property management companies and commercial owners, including services in turf management, design, restoration, renovation and Mosa<0x00EF>cultures. This synergy has led the company to become a leader in sustainable landscape practices and ecological designs, including its "Go Green" concept, which facilitates LEED and BOMA BESt (Canadian sustainability) certifications, and to develop its Zero Emissions program.

"LEED plans are often a cooperation between a Strathmore designer, a LEED consultant and a property manager. The three will develop a strategy based on the number of points the building needs to earn (usually a maximum of five points can come from landscape practices.) Because we work in urban gardens, these public spaces must be restorative and beautiful for their users as well as ecologically responsible. Therefore, the balance between sustainable and beautiful is important to respect," says Milligan of the "Go Green" concept.

One of the most successful ways Strathmore has done this is to install a "dry river" rock bed planted with seasonal tones of blue and green creating the illusion of water.

The company was instrumental in retrofitting the landscape of the ICAO Building, Montreal's first LEED certified building. Milligan adds, "LEED plans are usually developed over two to three years to align with the client's budget."



Danny Milligan, Gordon Milligan, Jessica Milligan and Stephanie Houle, account manager. Danny took over the family business in the mid 1970s, and now the third generation of the family runs the show.
IMAGES COURTESY STRATMORE LANDSCAPE.

Strathmore's second front in sustainable environmentalism is its Zero Emission concept, born out of the need of property managers and commercial owners trying to reduce their carbon footprint upon the environment. It utilizes battery powered trucks, mowers and trimmers. After experimenting with various methods and equipment for the previous two years - servicing smaller venues in downtown Montreal - Strathmore will be launching a similar program for larger commercial and industrial sites. Since launching its first Zero Emission team in 2011, Strathmore has seen a 25 percent increase in production on all properties serviced by these teams. The company will now offer larger-scale properties a similar service of non-polluting landscape maintenance and lawn care.

Powered by batteries

Strathmore has taken delivery of commercial-grade lithium electric mowers manufactured by Mean Green Products, LLC, Hamilton, Ohio. The CXR-60, zero-turn utilizes two lithium batteries and will be used to cut 5- to 10-acre sites around Montreal. The batteries hold a four-hour charge and will be resupplied by two additional 36-volt batteries the company keeps in reserve.

Just as with Strathmore's prototype, the Zero Emissions team of 2011, this year's pilot program will also feature Stihl electric FSA 85 line trimmers, HSA 65 hedge trimmers, AP 160 lithium-Ion battery, AL 300 rapid battery charger and the Stihl battery belt and bag. The smaller electric mulching mower, used in smaller properties, is manufactured by Utopia with a 21-inch cut, side-discharge and electric start. Stihl hand tools hold a charge for about 45 minutes, so the team will recharge tools several times a day.

"These machines, together with our Stihl lithium battery powered trimmers and weed eaters, enable us to eliminate 75 to 100 percent of carbon produced from gas mowers and trimmers," says Milligan. "Depending upon the size of the property, we may be able to do all landscape maintenance tasks with zero emission for the small- to medium-size properties, and to 75 percent zero emission on larger properties; some gas-powered equipment may be needed to supplement the electric equipment. At some sites, where we have onsite tool storage, we can eliminate the use of gasoline trucks to carry tools to the site making it a totally zero emission service."

Strathmore began offering its Zero Emission team concept two years ago, however that service was geared toward smaller commercial sites in downtown Montreal and utilized the Goupil G3 electric utility truck for transporting equipment and technicians. "Because the Goupil G3 electric utility truck is so quiet, we had our marketing people design bells and flashing lights to make it stand out and ensure the public didn't think it was just another city truck. Needless to say, it gets noticed," Milligan explains.

"There was a learning curve. We were prepared to operate at 70 percent efficiency of a standard maintenance team. We determined that we would complete a season and work out the kinks before marketing the team as a separate service, so we didn't charge a premium for the service. We did, however, use the marketing to help us win two competitive bids in the spring of 2011," she adds.

Meeting clients' demands

Strathmore's motivation behind the initial Zero Emission team was simple, according to Milligan. "The clients need it. Property management companies have become more focused on environmental impact in all areas of their businesses. There is pressure to be more sustainable at every level. Our goal was to offer them this service before they even realized they wanted it."



Strathmore Landscape planted and maintains an ornamental vegetable garden at a shopping center. The garden features corn, sunflowers, peas, arti- chokes, chard, cabbages, broccoli, herbs, tomatoes and more. The garden has been a big hit with tenants.

A second Zero Emissions team was launched in 2012 after results were shown to include a 25 percent increase in production using electronic equipment and saving 1 ton of CO2 emissions in the process.

The stage is now set for this year's evolution to servicing larger commercial properties. After researching commercial-grade electric mowers, Milligan chose the Mean Green mower because she believes the lithium technology has advanced to equal that of gasoline and propane mowers. The company is anxious to develop its zero-emissions concept further.

Strathmore's LEED strategies differ to the client's needs, but may include: retrofitting plant material to focus more on native and acclimatized plants; prioritizing perennials over annuals and encouraging biodiversity by planting material which attracts birds and pollinating insects; reducing irrigation on-site by 50 to 95 percent; installing clover lawns requiring minimal care; utilizing organic products and eliminating pesticide use; composting all green waste; and where possible, paved areas are replaced with gardens.

In addition to the Zero Emission teams and LEED strategies, Strathmore has pioneered the building and maintenance of edible gardens in shopping centers. If Milligan has a passion for zero emissions, she has a compulsion for combining the beauty of horticulture with the practicality of vegetable gardening.

"Ornamental vegetable gardens were first proposed to a shopping center client who wanted to incorporate agriculture into their horticulture. Every year our in-house designer changes the design, but the pallet remains local fruits and vegetables, including corn, sunflowers, peas, artichokes, chard, cabbages, broccoli, herbs, tomatoes and more. Our annual flower planting team plants the garden. It's maintained by the full-time technicians we have on-site at the shopping center."

Produce that isn't eaten by shoppers is harvested by team members and the shopping center staff and donated to a local food bank. Strathmore has since done a second smaller vegetable/flower garden for another urban client.

"We are also working with two local schools to incorporate vegetable gardens at the elementary school level. We feel there is an important connection to be made between children, plants and food," says Milligan.

New Electric Zero-Turn with Steering Wheel

Cub Cadet is the latest mowing manufacturer to offer a fully electric zero-turn riding mower, and the first with an electric zero-turn with steering wheel control and four-wheel steering. It is the latest edition to the Cub Cadet line of RZT S zero-turn riders. The RZT S Zero, which is equipped with 42-inch stamped mowing deck and dual-drive direct motors, is powered by four batteries.

Being electric, the mower has zero engine noise, zero gasoline and oil, zero emissions and zero belts to maintain. With the advent of direct drive power system, the RZT S Zero provides a full 60 minutes of mowing without power fade, says the company.


Still growing

Despite sluggish real-estate markets and the downturn in the economy, Strathmore has grown rapidly in the past seven years and the outlook is green for 2013. Milligan sums it up this way, "These busy real estate professionals do not simply need suppliers; they need partners. The number one question for us is 'How does the property look?' Not only the plants or the turf, but how does the whole site look overall?

"Taking a proactive approach helps us differentiate from competitors. Clients are provided with seasonal updates on their properties along with budget worksheets for immediate and future projects. We believe in proactive partnerships with our commercial property managers."

Mike Ingles is a freelance writer in Columbus, Ohio. Contact him at duckrun22@gmail.com.