Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Going Organic in Wellesley, MA

John Hancock Charles River Walk
by Trevor Smith

The rising sun peeks over the Charles River, golden rays explode through the towering oaken canopy.  The heavy sweet scent of Clethra perfumes the air with undertones of fresh water and earth. A heron is fishing for breakfast just off shore, a deer walks up the bank from the water as turkey’s root around in the leaf litter.  The high pitched squeak of a startled chipmunk pierces the air alerting the wood of my presence.  A mother duck ushers her ducklings into the water, the white tail of the deer is all I see crashing into the brush while the turkeys just keep foraging. All of this and I haven’t walked more than 60 feet down the newly constructed permeable Wellesley Office Park Walking Path.
The half mile path was recently constructed in back of the Wellesley Office Park on William Street with two boardwalk bridges and multiple vista points overlooking the water.  The land is owned by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR); however the walkway was funded by John Hancock Real Estate USA.  The walkway was installed using Porous Pave™ a durable pervious paving material and was designed to have little to no effect on the delicate hydrology of the area.  Porous Pave is made from recycled truck tires that are ground up and combined with a fine aggregate and a urethane binder.  The mix is then spread like concrete and hardens into an extremely durable, highly permeable surface strong enough for low speed auto traffic and comfortable to walk on.  The Wellesley Office Park Walking Path diverted 6000 tires from the landfill and can absorb 5,800 gallons of water per hour per square foot.  In addition to the recycled content and high permeability, the surface is freeze and frost-heave resistant and provides significant traction. Normally such a permeable surface is used to reduce flooding and the impact of storm water. It is great for driveways and walkways because if resists freezing and cracking in winter and allows maximum return of water back into the ground.  In this case however, the pervious surface is designed to provide a safe comfortable walking path through the woods without disrupting the normal water flow to the river and its inhabitants.

The Wellesley Office Park Walk is the largest Porous Pave installation in the northeast.  John Hancock, in funding the project, has demonstrated the sustainable mission many companies are implementing.  Since many companies are adopting creative strategies to improve the work environment for their employees, this scenic escape could also be viewed as an added employee benefit. 

We have all heard about tech companies installing game rooms, “bring your pet to work” days, etc. and this scenic escape falls right in line with these.  It may even be better, because it gets you outside of the working world and immerses you in the natural world.
The practice of Shinrin-Yoku, Japanese for Forest Bathing, is becoming the latest fitness trend in the United States.  Forest Bathing is simply connecting with a natural space, often wandering through forest paths.  Extensive studies have been done on Shinrin-Yoku and have shown marked reduction in cortisol, the stress hormone, as well as reduced blood pressure and an improved immune response and cerebral blood flow.   

As the science between health and nature continues to grow and more companies begin to look for workplace amenities that match their sustainable mission and as cities and towns continue to convert old railways to bike and walking paths it is increasingly important to do so responsibly.  Fortunately, there are low impact solutions to address these challenges that maximize people’s accessibility and connection with nature without disrupting or significantly altering the delicate balance of the natural world.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Q&A with Frank Crandall, Owner of Horticultural Solutions and NOFA Teacher

Question: Please describe your business - who does it serve?

Horticultural Solutions, LLC: I am the owner of an organic landscape design, maintenance, and construction firm in Charlestown, RI. I have been primarily organic since 2005 experiencing an increase in organic services each year. Additionally, I speak at NOFA Courses, give organic workshops and consult with other landscape firms looking to improve their business organization, profitability and organic services offered.

Frank Crandall
Question: What is the state of the organic gardening industry? Where do you see the greatest growth and what’s driving it?

The demand for organic services has increased steadily over the past 5 years…mainly from customer concerns about chemicals used on their lawns, in their gardens and throughout their properties. The concern for the environment, child and pet safety and wanting to do the right thing influences customer’s desires to have environmentally friendly landscape services. Our clientele, mostly homeowners living on coastal properties, are concerned about chemical use that will affect their families, pets and local sensitive areas like ponds, the ocean and streams.

Question: What are some of the most common challenges professionals face in caring for the land organically and what approach do you take to solving them?

Organic veggie gardens increasing in popularity

Commonly, new clients think organics will not work and they are expensive…two myths that need to be explained before new customers will consider organic services. We have many examples to show clients that organic lawn care, landscape health care and organic vegetable gardening not only work but produce extremely healthy, productive and pesticide free landscapes. Although the initial cost of transitioning to organic care will involve an investment…the long-term expense will actually be similar to traditional landscape care or even lower.

Question: What advice do you have for conventional land care professionals who are considering transitioning to organic?

Education is the Key for Homeowners and New Organic Professionals: Unfortunately, there are landscapers, lawn care, and maintenance companies that believe that they can convert to “organics” without a comprehensive educational program (like the NOFA Accreditation Course) which is not the case. Transitioning to an organic based land care program requires the science, experience, knowledge and expertise of the instructors that teach (share) the information, methods and research that is needed to fully understand the organic way. They also demonstrate how to implement the methods, seek additional help and educate your new customer base to understand why, how and when the organic transition will be effective. Becoming an AOLCP (Accredited Organic Land Care Professional) is the best way to gain the knowledge, resources, confidence and expertise to understand organics…and make them work for you and your customers!

Question: How do you consider your business to be part of the solution to environmental degradation and overuse of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides? How do you educate your clientele?
Raised beds, welcome additions to the landscape
Organic Landscaping is Part of the Solution: I have always had an inclination toward less pesticide and chemical use, but it wasn’t until I took the NOFA Accreditation Course in 2005 that I began to feel confident about making the transition to organics, personally and business-wise. I feel I am making a difference in the RI coastal communities I serve…one organic landscape at a time. Sharing information, realistic expectations and a sound plan to convert to organically maintained properties is the key. One area that has become a vital service I offer is organic vegetable garden design and maintenance. Our gardens have become much sought after, beautiful and the most productive gardens around…all with no pesticides and 100% organic.

Organics…the Investment That Helps You, Your Business and the Environment!
There are few educational opportunities that will provide the benefits that the NOFA Accreditation Course will…for your future life, business opportunities and the environment. The NOFA Course was the best educational course I ever have taken…and it continues to supply innumerable benefits 11 years later!

Please feel free to contact me to discuss the course, my organic business or anything related to transitioning from traditional to organic landscaping!
Frank Crandall   401-742-7619 cell