Jeff Sebert founded Sebert Landscape in 1985. Worth $35 million, Sebert Landscape is one of the top landscape companies in the dynamic Chicago regional market and a leader in environmental consciousness.
I met Jeff at a recent media event hosted by Husqvarna. The name of the event was Silent City North America, a title appropriately chosen to highlight one of the main attributes of battery-powered landscape equipment – its quietness.
Sebert reinforced this observation when he generously shared his company’s experience using Husqvarna professional, battery-powered, handheld trimmers and blowers. One of the features he particularly appreciates about battery-powered gear is that it is significantly less noisy than gasoline equipment.
Sebert sold on battery power
Sebert had a lot of other nice things to say about battery-powered handhelds, which his company now embraces. These are things he may not have said about it six years ago when he first began investigating their professional use. The company had a bit of difficulty incorporating them at first, mostly logistics, such as how to carry and charge the units.
But the biggest issue dealt with familiarity. His workers just didn’t know what to expect in terms of performance and dependability compared to the gas-powered units they had been using. Once they began using the battery-powered units, however, their skepticism melted, said Sebert.
Seeking a solution to keeping the battery-powered handhelds charged, the company looked to trailers topped by solar panels. As of this writing, 15 of the company’s 72 maintenance trailers have been equipped with solar panels to recharge batteries while crewmembers work in the field. That arrangement is working well, and the company is adding six more trailers with solar charging panels this summer.
Sebert said that each solar trailer conversion was costing the company about $8,000 initially. The company has since been able to drop the price to about $5,000 for each conversion. Sebert considers this reasonable since the battery-powered units are less expensive to run and to maintain than gasoline equipment. Over time they repay the investments he has made in them in that they require no gasoline, no oil, no spark plugs to change and no carburetors to clean or repair.
Equally important to Sebert – convinced that the landscape industry, as a whole, must redouble its efforts to provide a more sustainable level of services and products – is that the handhelds are cleaner for the atmosphere and do not produce fumes for operators to breath in during each workday.
“We now have crews that are disappointed if a battery-powered unit goes down and they have to pick up and use a gas-powered machine to finish a job,” said Sebert. “We truly believe the future of our industry will revolve around battery-powered equipment.”
Sebert Landscape’s commitment to seeking ever more sustainable landscape solutions extends well beyond batteries.
Sustainability on multiple fronts
Sebert said that about 60 percent of the companies mower fleet is fueled by propane, also reducing the amount of harmful emissions released into the air. The emission-reducing landscape gear (handhelds and mowers) is just one component of Sebert’s “New Green” philosophy.
“What is ‘New Green?’ It’s our vision for reshaping the landscaping industry. By eliminating the conflict between what’s best for customers and what’s best for the environment, we want to change the way people think about sustainability,” according to the company website.
Not surprisingly, Sebert Landscape, which has adopted “lean principles” along with an open book management style, is generally recognized as one of the most environmentally conscious landscape companies in the Midwest, if not the United States. The company’s environmental initiatives include:
- Recycling plastic pots and wooden pallets
- “Water smart” irrigation systems
- Composting and re-use of landscape waste
- Reducing chemical use through environmentally based tools that help prevent pest infestations
- An eco-friendly corporate headquarters featuring a green roof, solar panels, rain recapture and more
Headquarters supports Sebert’s green mission
Sebert Landscape’s headquarters building is likely the most visible symbol of the company’s dedication to sustainability. Completed on Sept. 10, 2010, the LEED Certified Gold headquarters, at its 29,000-square-feet Barlett, Illinois site, features a green roof that provides a comparable energy use to the roughly 7,000 square feet of building the company occupied prior to 2010.
A $50,000 grant stemming from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, helped make the green roof possible.
Said Sebert at Husqvarna’s recent Silent City North America event: “I truly believe that if we, as an industry, don’t capture the moment that is in front of us, somebody else is going to come in and tell us ‘Well, this is our program, this is our idea and this is what we’re going to create healthier life styles, better places to work and play – and we’ll find ourselves on the back side.
“We have a great opportunity in the next several years to go out and support this idea of sustainability,” added Sebert.