Sustainability has always been important to Zech Strauser, founder and owner of Strauser Nature’s Helpers, based in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
He started his company in 1998 and they serve Class A and HOA properties throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York from their locations in East Stroudsburg, Lehigh Valley, and Lancaster. His company’s goals include leading by example in all things sustainable, inspiring his region-wide team to be all they can be, driving a vision that produces positive results, and bringing more innovation.
Strauser credits his untraditional childhood of growing up in the woods and being more eco-conscious as part of the reason he has spent the last five to eight years making a concerted effort to test things out and make sustainability part of their values. Strauser says it’s not an easy task to be bold and fully committed to doing the right thing. They approach sustainability by asking the question “Is there a better way to do something compared to how we are doing it today?”
Strauser Nature’s Helpers have tried a number of different ways to be better including having 100 percent propane mowers. However, recent supply chain issues have forced them to purchase gas units. In response, Strauser says they’ll shift to electric mowers and are also deploying robotic large deck mowers this year.
“We cut a lot of grass at our company so we think that’s important to us to stay as cutting edge as we can,” he says.
Strauser was also an early adopter of electric trimmers and blowers but says things stalled there for them for a time. Some of the other services they offer include organic lawn care, native plants in landscape designs, landscaping with less mulch, meadow plantings, and water-conserving irrigation systems.
One major area Strauser says they are starting to put their focus on is decreasing the volume of ice melt they use, and using the best plow cutting edge equipment to scrape surfaces as clean as possible.
“Using different products or less of the traditional is key to the first steps in making a difference,” Strauser says. “Of course, keeping connected to our clients’ expectations to not decrease service but really we will be able to increase our client satisfaction as we change how and what we apply in products along with what we use to scrape the snow and ice away.”
While Strauser has been committed to seeking a better way, one of the challenges he has faced is clients are not fully demanding these greener solutions yet. He says ‘yet’ is the keyword. Strauser says he has been having conversations with his HOA clients for years on the value of opting for more sustainable landscape practices.
“I feel the faster our industry changes, the faster we will bring true value to the market,” Strauser says. “We will be less of a commodity and a true solution to helping bring more value than curb appeal as that’s what we have been selling and depending on it for way too long.”
Strauser says his big wish is for consumers to eventually turn to landscapers for professional advice, just like they listen to their doctor. Rather than telling the doctor what treatments to give them.
“Stop having contractors take an RFP that is so outdated and have them bid off it,” he says.
For other landscape company owners who want to become more sustainable, but think their market won’t support it, Strauser encourages them to get involved in what they believe in and learn from other market leaders.
“Don’t wait for the big guys to do it,” Strauser says. “Be unique and different so you aren’t the one who is left behind because change took too long in your company or market.”
This article was published in the January/February issue of the magazine. To read more stories from The Edge magazine, click here to subscribe to the digital edition.