Let’s play offense for a change

Last month, I mentioned how important it is for PLANET members to be more aggressive about marketing our association. I also implied that one of the challenges we all face in doing this is our need to stay focused on our businesses. You don’t need to be reminded how difficult and time-consuming being an entrepreneur in this industry can be and how little free time and energy we have left over to market our companies and our national association.

So, let me add another straw to the proverbial camel’s back, and this one is as important, if not more important, than the above marketing efforts. I’m talking about marketing our industry. Actually, what I’m suggesting is changing our position on the field from playing defense to playing offense. It seems that for the last 15 years, the green industry has been blamed for just about everything that ails our environment. Experts, and I use the term loosely, say that we’re using too much water, and the water we don’t use we pollute in runoff from the landscapes we install and maintain.

If it’s not misuse of water, it’s misuse of chemicals, noisy equipment, and the HUGE amount of noxious gas these small machines spew into the atmosphere that make the headlines. Being labeled as villains is bad, but accepting this wrongful posturing as part of doing business and waiting patiently for the next volley to be fired is equally disturbing.

You know as well as I do that if we continue to respond to industry threats rather than take the offensive, eventually we will be hamstrung. All we have to do is look north of the border to see what can and will happen. Sure, overuse of chemicals and water, too much noise, and using out-dated equipment could give the impression that an industry has a larger than normal carbon footprint. But that’s not us, and that’s the impression we have to change … and not simply respond to.

Take any of the above issues and one can argue favorably that we’re on the leading edge of finding solutions. Our industry adopted IPM many, many years ago, and spot spraying instead of blanket spraying landscapes has long been the norm for many companies. The cover story in this issue is on technology, and how it helps us to be more efficient and profitable business owners. Technology is also helping us conserve water, limit runoff, reduce equipment noise, and operate cleaner machines.

It’s time to beat our detractors to the punch. We need to proactively speak out for the industry. After all, we are the “original green industry,” and we need to educate the public about the incredible positive impact that trees, shrubs, and grass have on the environment. Plants keep us cool, soak up carbon, capture particles, produce oxygen, collect rainwater, and reduce runoff, and our professional landscape designs create useful outdoor living spaces that reduce stress, improve health, and promote physical activity. Yes, plants provide an incredible return on investment environmentally, socially, and economically. Of course, this gets lost in the discussion, but so does the point that we’re one of a very few industries that, as a result of its activities, leaves behind a positive instead of a negative carbon footprint.

Our industry is thoroughly amazing, and this message needs to get to the general public. The growing popularity of “sustainability” is bringing more attention to what we do. All we have to do is build on that foundation and promote the fact that our industry professionals are guarding and protecting the hen house instead of raiding it. If we don’t become proactive on behalf of our industry now, then what we do for marketing our companies and our association will be less meaningful. We can’t have successful companies and a vibrant association without having an equally strong industry.

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