A more sustainable site

Features - Sustainability

Collier Arbor Care is testing a sustainable landscape system and revitalizing a Portland-area industrial park in the process.

August 13, 2010
Julie Collins

Terrill Collier. Photo: Collier Arbor CareSustainability and Integrated Pest Management have been a focus of Terrill Collier’s work for more than 20 years. But now the board-certified master arborist and president of Collier Arbor Care is taking that interest to the next level, as his Oregon-based firm transforms the four-acre site around its headquarters into a model sustainable landscape as part of the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) rating system pilot program.

SITES originated from a partnership between the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden. The goal of the pilot program – which includes 175 projects from 34 states, and three countries – is to develop a uniform, voluntary rating system for sustainable landscapes.

“I applied because we have a sustainability initiative at our company, so this was a way to showcase our sustainable practices and to show people what we can do at an industrial park,” Collier says.

Tree Transformation 
For the SITES program, the company will transform the industrial park Collier owns, which is mostly bare ground and blackberries, by redesigning and augmenting a conservation corridor along a creek beside the site and installing bioswales to collect runoff water from the parking lot and roofs on the property. “We are removing invasive plants and planting native trees on the easement and around the industrial park to restore the native ecosystem and demonstrate the use of native plants,” Collier says. When the project is finished, the site will boast 40 species of trees.

At the site, the company also is using Integrated Pest Management and organic products for the management of insects and diseases and is relying on compost tea and organic fertilizers for soil health. In addition, the Collier Arbor Care is retrofitting its existing irrigation system. The new drip system will reduce water usage by about 70 percent.

Such moves are a natural extension of what the company already does for customers. Collier says the company recycles all pruning debris and green waste, offers Integrated Pest Management, and has switched from using synthetic fertilizers to all organic options and compost tea for customers.

“We basically converted all of our clients to organic fertilizers, and nobody has requested we go back. We educate them about why it’s good for the environment, and they all think it’s a great idea,” Collier says.

“I think there’s a perception that to maintain a property sustainably is more expensive or that it may not look as good. But that isn’t always the case. And I think when clients realize it’s going to cost them about the same amount of money to maintain their landscape, they will opt for the sustainable option.

“We’re trying to show leadership to the industry in showing how an arborist can do sustainable practices, maybe even more than what we do already as part of our day-to-day job,” Collier says. To that end, during his term as chairman of the Tree Care Industry Association from 2009-2010, Collier established the association’s sustainability task force.

Going for the LEED
The company’s work doesn’t end with the SITES pilot project either.

Collier’s ultimate goal is to obtain LEED certification for the industrial park, which is why he is installing solar panels at the company’s facility. “We have a 15-kilowatt system that will supply electricity for our building,” Collier says.

There’s also a fuel tank on-site for fueling the company’s biodiesel vehicle fleet, including the “arbor cars” salespeople drive, which get 40 miles per gallon, and trucks for work crews. In the office and warehouse, low-energy lights save 50 percent of the company’s energy costs. And all office waste is recycled – a move that earned Collier Arbor Care recognition from the Clackamas County Business Recycling Awards Group.

Now that the SITES plan is being implemented, it is a key component of the company’s sustainability initiative. The pilot program ends in June 2012, at which time SITES will use feedback from the participants to revise the final rating system.

“I think we’re on the leading edge of it. This sustainability movement is not a flash in the pan. This is something that’s here to stay,” Collier says. “It’s going to become more important over the next four or five years, and I predict that sustainable practices will become an important way for people to select a company.”

The author is a freelance writer based in Abington, Pa.