As trash cans are no longer just trash cans and light bulbs are no longer just light bulbs, we have entered a new reality. Recycling bins have forced us to intently focus when organizing our once-easily-discarded trash. And the question, “How many scientists does it take to screw in a light bulb?” isn’t as easily answered as it once was. That now needs follow-up inquiries like, “Is that a CFL or an LED? Bi-pin or twist & lock?”  Sustainability is the new normal and the choices we make not only say a lot about who we are, but are also directly related to the types of people we can attract. This is especially true in the arena of higher education. Sustainability is smart business and a strong sustainability culture can directly affect revenue and enrollment.


While connecting the dots from lawn care to what makes the University of X more appealing than the University of Y, we have to take a look at the bigger picture.

The jobs of the future are the jobs that lean heavily into sustainability. Renewable energy, green buildings and electric transportation, to name a few. Potential students are gravitating to institutions who embrace this line of thinking. Those places that are willingly taking steps to improve community well-being and quality of life are winning. Students actively seek schools that display a leadership stance on sustainability. This not only attracts future students, but also increases retention. In addition, a firm stance on the importance of sustainability has a direct correlation to success on the recruitment front when it comes to faculty and staff. People are drawn to organizations that are determined to have a positive impact on the world. And universities who lean into this practice will also find that sustainability is a powerful motivator when it comes to donors.


When it comes to how higher institutions of learning might be looking at something as seemingly insignificant has how lawns are being cared for, it’s a decision not to be taken lightly. And it’s more than just optics. Yes, tangible gestures that make a concerted effort to solve real-world sustainability problems can dramatically improve an institution’s reputation. But on an even more granular level, universities who are creating an environment with reduced noise and gas pollution are the ones that are not only talking the talk, but walking the walk. Being mindful of the leaders of tomorrow and taking steps to find ways to improve their productivity, learning, health and comfort are all part of the equation.

Making management-level decisions that lower fuel costs, improve air quality and reduce maintenance far exceed a beautifully manicured campus. They send a signal to prospective students, employers, communities and potential donors that you care. And when you’re in the business of shaping the minds of those that will inherit the earth, this should be seen as more than just an opportunity, but a responsibility.  


Time and time again, we hear professional landscapers ask themselves:  “It can do that?” And yes, “It can do that.” But the best way to experience the quiet revolution is to witness it for yourself.