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Sustainability improvements have taken place throughout facilities, but perhaps no other operation is as visible in its efforts as grounds departments. From turf and plant selection to chemical applications and water conservation, the decisions and actions of managers and their staffs are on public display. For this reason, managers must give extra attention to the impact on sustainability of grounds products, and one hot-button issue in this area is alternative fuels, including bio-diesel, propane and electricity.
“Alternative fuels have had a long history in the world of utility vehicles,” Meyers says. “Some of the earliest utility vehicles were electric, but the key limiting factor was range and power. Within the last 10 years, significant improvements in motor-controller power and vehicle range have allowed electric utility vehicles to satisfy the daily work load at many facilities, all while creating zero emissions and noise pollution. As the capabilities of electric, gasoline and diesel vehicles have increased, so has the customer interest grown in using them at their facilities.” The challenge for managers is determining whether products powered by alternative fuels are advantageous for their departments and, if so, which option offers the best return on the investment. The calculations can be challenging.
“They definitely want to explore the issue, but there are a lot of different things you look at, especially the cost,” says Vince Jagodzinski with Cub Cadet and a former university grounds manager. “In some departments, you’re looking at 15-25 units. How are you going to change those over? Are you going to do them all at once? Do you have the funding at that moment to do everything? Is alternative fuel available?
“When I was at the university, there were some different alternative fuels, and the cost for changing things over was the driving force to make us look at how we can be more efficient with (the equipment) we had, instead of looking at that initial investment” in alternative fuels.
Effects of Sustainability Felt in Grounds Departments