Fitting the Sustainability Framework on Gro-Bark® Business
Gro-Bark® produces mulch and soil products almost entirely from feed-stocks that would otherwise be considered waste. Bark mulch, aged bark and composted bark are produced using by-products from sawmills and forestry operations. Compost is produced from municipal collections of leaf and yard waste. Any site specific landscape project needs to be assessed using new models that rate the sustainability of that particular project in terms of social, economic and environmental impacts (Smith et al). The supply of organic materials such as mulch and soil primarily affect the environmental aspect of the project but there are social and economic benefits using Gro-Bark® products as well.
Landscape architects have recognized the importance of soil design for storm water management as well as plant health. Gro-Bark® products can help achieve both goals and our experienced staff can help LA's develop specifications to ensure soil performance. The primary environmental benefit of using organic amendments in soils is that Ontario top soil is widely known to be lower in organic matter and higher in pH than ideal for water management and plant vitality. The water holding and aeration characteristics of planting soils can be dramatically improved by compost and bark - this allows irrigation systems and water consumption to be optimized. The use of aged or composted pine bark is a way to lower pH without the addition of inorganic chemicals.
The removal of top soil from a project location has been identified as a practice that directly conflicts with sustainable practices. Gro-Bark® has helped to facilitate improving existing soils on location by setting up equipment on-site at landscape projects to produce soil blends using as much on-site material as possible.
Economic and Social Impacts
The economic benefits of landscaping projects come primarily from increased property values for neighbourhoods. The use of properly designed soils will ensure that plants thrive for the long term in that local environment. Mulch application reduces weed growth and eliminates the need for herbicides and pesticides for weed control. The social benefits of such projects are beautification. Mulch is an important aspect of improving site aesthetics by providing colour, texture and weed control. The use of engineered playground mulch reduces playground fall impacts and ensures accessibility for all children.
The Environmental Costs of Landscape Materials
Gro-Bark® soils, bark mulches and soil amendments range from high to very high on a scale of sustainability. The "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" mantra is itself a range in sustainability with recycling being the most energy intensive of the three practices.
On the "Reduce" side, Gro-Bark® mulches and soil amendments improve on-site conditions meaning a project manager can do much to reduce the volume shipped to a site. Many of our soil amendment products are themselves salvaged, meaning they are "Reuse" materials. "Recycling" drives the production of our composts from municipal leaf and yard waste. "Reuse" and "Recycling" are both involved in the production of our various bark and wood mulch products.
Gro-Bark® warrants that none of its woody substrates are harvested for mulch product - all materials are by-products. Several of our mulches are available with assurances that they come from sawmill wood that carries the world's leading Forest Stewardship Council "FSC®" accreditation. The scale of sustainability for our product list is largely based on the amount of fuel used to produce and then truck the materials to landscape sites.