Sustainable Maintenance

Editor’s Note: This column, “LBWA” (Leadership By Wandering Around), is based on the premise that, in order to find out what’s going on in the field, a parks and rec leader has to leave his or her desk and “wander around” the area of operations, talk to people, ask questions, and kick around ideas with the individuals in the thick of delivering services to the public. So the author will bring up issues and ask the leaders among the readership to share their knowledge and experiences. 

Think sustainability when considering your parks and recreation maintenance.

As the world’s population grows, more emphasis is being placed on “sustainability” in every aspect of life, from the types of fuel we use to the food we eat; parks and recreation professionals are in a particularly unique position to promote sustainability, especially in maintenance.

What exactly does “sustainability” mean? Like so many words, it can mean different things to different people in different circumstances.

Globally, sustainability refers to the long-term ability to maintain an ecosystem or human society, according to Vanderbilt University Professor John C. Ayers, writing for the website “Best Thinking.”

In the article, the professor of earth and environmental sciences notes the importance of not only stopping unsustainable practices, but also creating new, sustainable ways of doing things.

Most parks and rec maintenance managers probably aren’t thinking globally each day as they go about the business of caring for sports fields, keeping facilities running, and dealing with trimmed budgets and diminished staffs.

However, they still face constant challenges to do more with less, to conserve limited assets, and to demonstrate conservation of public resources. So for them, long-term concern for the good of the earth can be synonymous with short-term diligence in their daily duties.

In fact, engaging in sustainable maintenance practices helps do the job more effectively.

Add It Into The Master Plan

Many parks and recreation departments in recent years have begun making sustainability a building block in the overall master plan. For example, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board identified sustainability as one of its core values for 2013.

“Throughout the organization, we strive to incorporate sustainable practices into the work we perform every day, in our parks and recreation centers and in our offices,” they declared on their website in a document titled “Sustainability 2013.”

“We know that our patrons value sustainability, and so do we,” affirms the board.

The board has actually been working toward this goal since 2007, when the members made it a priority in their 2007-2020 Comprehensive Plan. Along the way, they have formed work teams to make buildings more energy-efficient, developed urban forestation, re-organized waste-management strategies, and created events to promote “green” operations.

Looking at maintenance in terms of sustainability can cut your department’s costs.

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