Why Preventive Grounds Maintenance Is Evolving

Maintaining pest control through the use of pesticides, highly toxic chemicals that control pests and landscapes, is nothing new in facility management. However, numerous lawsuits have been brought against pesticide manufacturers for unintended side effects, not to mention the potential risks to the environment itself. To stay competitive and avoid potential backlash, Facility Managers need to understand the issues present with the use of pesticides for grounds maintenance, what is happening within the industry today and a few tips for improving your grounds maintenance activities and preventive maintenance program.

What’s Wrong With Preventive Grounds Maintenance and the Use of Pesticides?

Preventive grounds maintenance is relatively straightforward. It involves all the activities and factors that improve the physical aesthetic of your facility, and while fertilizers and pesticides have long been a traditional way of enhancing the outdoor appearance of your facility, changing times have forced a change in how Facility Managers approach maintenance. Pesticides have been extensively studied to determine their potential effects on environments and people. In reality, people are not very likely to come into direct contact with pesticides, and even those that do rarely absorb enough of the chemical to pose a significant health threat. In addition, the EPA sets forth standards for determining that there is "reasonable certainty of no harm" following the application of pesticides, but that is not all. Today's consumers are actively involved in understanding what do their favorite businesses do and do not. Part of this issue arises when consumers expect something more environmentally friendly from their businesses.

Integrated Pest Management and Alternatives to Traditional Pest Management Continue to Redefine the Standard

The use of chemicals to manage pests has now made a splash on major campuses and facilities across the country. According to FacilitiesNet, the University of California stopped the use of by glyphosate on 10 of its campuses. These campuses serve a combined 200,000 students. The chemical in question is perhaps the most common in controversy of all pesticides and herbicides. It is the active ingredient in Monsanto roundup, Ranger and 700 other herbicides, and given recent history with Monsanto, implying the company knowingly presented false information regarding the safety of its products, Facilities managers must take action. Depending on the population served, those engaged in activities on grounds, such as athletes in college, may protest the use of these products and more. Ultimately, businesses must be more aware of their fundamental interactions and usage of products that have been associated with controversy, and few organizations carry the same weight of that conversation as Monsanto.

What Can Facility Managers Do to Avoid Using Pesticides for Preventive Grounds Maintenance?

That is a loaded question. The exact path forward will depend on the available resources and climate for the area. According to Harvard Energy and Facilities, the use of integrated pest management for preventive grounds maintenance is a type of sustainable landscape management. This focuses on an organic program that leverages natural ecosystem features to eliminate and minimize the impact on the environment and consumers. For example, the following steps are acceptable means of managing pests:

  • Planting shrubs, trees and grasses that are known to repel certain insects, such as Citronella and Lemongrass. While debate varies over the efficacy of insect repellent among these plants, putting them in your grounds is an easy way to at least reduce the prevalence of pests.
  • Purchase and release natural predators of pests. Specifically, ladybugs eat other insects with soft bodies, such as mites and whiteflies.
  • Eliminating pest attractions, such as sitting, stagnant water, which attracts mosquitoes.
  • Sealing cracks within the foundation of the building, which serve to draw in insects, reports the Huffington Post.
  • Safe "pest repellants" that only irritate insect functions, such as their sense of smell. Garlic possesses these qualities and is a common ingredient in natural insect repellants.

Develop an Eco-Conscious Preventive Grounds Maintenance Program to Win Points With Your Customers and Employees

There will be times when actual pesticides are necessary, such as when pests threaten the integrity and safety of your facility. However, the improper use of pesticides could open your business to additional risks for both political and consumer blowback. Instead of risking it, work with an experienced provider of complete preventive grounds maintenance solutions that can devise a low-risk, successful program for integrated pest management.

Eric Crabb

Eric Crabb