Across the Lowcountry, several large-sized recreational facilities are updating their practices and philosophies, electing plants that require less water, maintaining efficient irrigation, adjusting watering schedules, and switching to organic products, among other steps.

The management and landscaping team at Daniel Island soccer facility Blackbaud Stadium have substantially modernized their landscaping and lawn maintenance practices at Blackbaud Stadium. Their home team, The Charleston Battery, announced a “Go Green” initiative this winter, and installed 60 electricity-generating solar panels (mounted on six pols at the north side of the stadium). The goal is to reduce its carbon footprint by implementing a range of energy-saving initiatives.

In addition to the new surge in solar energy, they’ve confronted other environmental issues with approaches to nutrient management, pesticide management, and water conservation. According to Andrew Bell, director of soccer and stadium operations, Blackbaud made several changes in how they use power equipment, how they work with chemical and organic based fertilizers and pesticides, and how they water their lawns and turf.

Emissions from lawn mowers, chain saws, leaf vacuums, and outdoor power equipment are a significant source of pollution. The small engines emit high levels of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides — pollutants that contribute to the formation of ozone. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the power equipment industry are working to investigate and bring to market cleaner technology for small engines.

Electrically-powered lawn and garden tools produce little pollution; there’s no exhaust emissions or through fuel evaporation. However, generating the power to run electric equipment does produce pollution.

“We are still using our leaf blower and a diesel lawn mower, but we’re actually looking to switch this to an electric mower this summer,” Bell says. “We changed from a gas paint machine to an electric last year.”

Water pollution, air pollution, health concerns for staff and fans, soil erosion, the consumption of natural resources — these are the main environmental issues to be taken seriously by Bell and his team.

“Wherever possible we are using organic based fertilizers,” he says. “We are also switching to organic based pesticides, which we use only when necessary. It’s been interesting; using the organics seems to have helped the field so in turn we are having to use less.”

Blackbaud has adopted a “biodiversity” approach to managing storm water runoff by way of the pond adjacent to the stadium. “We use microbes to eat the algae and the sludge sediment that can build up in the pond. We have also added fish to the pond to help control the weeds.”

They’ve made additional adjustments in using water more efficiently as well, changing the nozzle size on their sprinkler heads to lower the volume of water.

“We are also very careful with our irrigation,” Bell says. “We have set schedules and try to irrigate in the evenings. We actually turn off the landscape irrigation for the majority of the year. Our plants — some of which are native — are well developed now and require a minimum amount of irrigation. We are also investigating a rain-water harvesting system for the outside landscaping.”

Visit online for more information on Blackbaud Stadium. —TBL

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