The Environmental Impact of Landscaping

4 mins read

As a Drew Student, it is impossible to miss the landscaping crew that shows up everyday like clockwork, interrupting our sleep with their noisy machines. Is Drew’s Campus really that high maintenance? I would argue that it is not nearly as high maintenance as the university makes it seem. Universities as a whole are trying to include more green spaces for students to study and enjoy the outdoors. This area is commonly referred to as the Quad where you normally see students throwing frisbees or trying to get a tan on a blanket. This space would not be complete without a lush green lawn. At Drew this lawn might as well be maintained by an army of Dads competing to see who has the nicest lawn. It’s not necessary. The environmental impact of daily landscaping tarnishes Drew’s status as a green university.

Many universities are doing their best to be environmentally friendly. Where many campuses excel, Drew fails. Oberlin College for example, has water gauges in the showers on campus that change color according to how much water you are using. If this gauge turns red you are using too much water. Drew primarily falls behind, because of its incessant need to trim every blade of grass and remove every leaf from campus. Landscaping at this extreme is simply unnecessary. In the last week, I have had an email exchange with the head of facilities Stephanie McCormick. She is aware of the environmental impact, but claims that there is not an alternative to many of the gas-powered machines they use. Again, Drew is failing to see the most obvious answer: hand tools. 

Leaf Blowers, Lawnmowers, and even their ATVs could be replaced with environmentally friendly tools. Why is landscaping incapable of using rakes, shovels, hedge trimmers, and even manual or electric powered push mowers. Would it take longer to perform tasks that were made easy by leaf blowers, and lawnmowers? Yes, but in return it would reduce the pollution from gas powered machines, and greatly reduce the noise pollution from these machines. The ATVs could be replaced with the battery powered golf carts that are already used en masse on campus. The environmental impact would be greatly reduced and students would be much happier to see that the university actually cares about the environment.

Finally, does Drew actually need all this landscaping to maintain its appearance as a green university? Research indicates that the amount of landscaping could be reduced with little to no impact on the existing ecosystem. In the last fifty years, the New York Times has published several articles indicating a need for a more natural approach to landscaping. This process involves planting indigenous trees and flowers. The various animals on campus that students love to see, would be happy to eat certain grasses, and plants. My father who is an outdoorsman maintains a food plot for deer. Here he plants buckwheat, and serviceberry bushes which deer love. Various birds and insects like the honey bee will be attracted to indigenous plant life. Many of the shade trees on campus create a natural fertilizer in Autumn when the leaves fall. The grass would go brown, but that is part of its natural lifecycle. In 2019, Drew did use an all natural weed killer made from citrus. Is marketing a green campus really that important to Drew even if it is artificially green?

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