It’s Not Easy Being Green – The Story of Nature Guard

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By A Landscape Professional

IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN: The story of Nature Guard

Written By: Bob Hoxie

Just Plain Old Green:

Being in the tree and landscape business my entire life, I’ve had a unique connection to the word green. I have watched the word evolve. The definition and symbolic significance has changed many times in the past fifty years. In the late 1960’s as a teenager working for a Landscaper friend of my father’s and then as a student at Bristol County Agricultural School, green was simply a color. During these early days the only alternative definition for green referred to money, as in green backs.
During the 1970’s the commercial tree and landscape industry was emerging as rural America became suburban. The color green began to represent the business. Trucks, tee-shirts, and other symbols of the trade were all green, companies even used the word green in the name but the word still represented the color of grass and leaves.

Green Environment:

Later in the 1970’s, the word green remained just a color however, some people began to be concerned that we were destroying our green forest land and converting all of our family farms into suburban housing developments and shopping malls. These people became known as environmentalists and represented the environmental movement. Few if any in the tree and landscape industry sided with the environmental movement because it could cause a slow down of new projects, and/or significant changes in the way we did business. As a result, the family farm is all but gone from Massachusetts and most of New England and, all of our food most be trucked in from thousands of miles away. It is clear that the word environment as in “environmental protection” didn’t work very well to cause change.

Naturally Green:

During the 1990’s the tree, landscape, and lawn business became self-aware. I remember being told by an “industry expert” at a winter trade show in the late 90’s that the “green industry” generated over $4 billion in sales that year. I was impressed by the number, but more impressed with the label. The Green Industry; I liked it and used it.

In 1991 we were in the midst of the last great housing bust and the economy was sour and so were the finances at Hoxie Landscape Services. Building and construction had ground to a halt and so had our landscape installation business. As a result of the poor economy an in-depth analysis of our mission as a business was in order to determine the best way to proceed, and perhaps thrive in a down economy. As part of our landscape maintenance package we were providing tree and shrub spraying services but never lawn care. It was determined that an organic lawn care would make up for the lack of installation work.

I disliked the way lawn fertilization services were performed by the large lawn companies. They filled big tanks with fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides all mixed together and applied this miracle liquid on every lawn, whether it needed it or not. We decided to start our own lawn service, and, after several months of research, we discovered that natural and organic were the words of the moment which embodied everything good and projected an environmentally friendly approach to growing things. The word natural was our favorite so we combined natural lawn care with our tree and shrub treatment business. Nature Guard tree and lawn care was born. We were proud; we were motivated; we were sure this was the best way to care for landscapes here on Cape Cod and everywhere else. We were certain that thousands of home owners would jump at the chance to care for their lawn and landscape organically, even if it cost more than the chemical approach because after all, it was safe, natural and organic. It seems we were a bit naive.

Despite a hard fought ten year effort to educate and promote organic fertilizer and a more natural approach to tree and lawn care, we couldn’t make Nature Guard Tree and Lawn Care a viable stand alone business. As a result we took the Nature Guard signs off the trucks and absorbed it back into Hoxie Landscape. It turns out, homeowners liked their beautiful deep green, weed and bug free lawns produced inexpensively by tank mixing chemicals that potentially harm the environment and interfere with the natural processes of the soil. Again a word – Natural – did not inspire every homeowner on Cape Cod to spend a little extra money to care for their landscapes without all the chemicals.

Go Green:

Fast forward to 2008 – we have an old word with a new meaning, “Green” is back. Not just as a color, but as a symbol of change. Wow, I have never felt better about being in the Green Industry. According to Wikipedia (Google “green” and see what comes first), green has become the symbolic color of environmentalism, chosen for its association with nature. Notice history repeating itself. Green is being used in many catch phrases as well – “Go Green”, “Green Initiative”, “Green Living Guide.” Marketing firms are advising their clients to “Go Green” and demonstrate their “Green Initiative,” saying, “anyone who doesn’t will surely be green with envy.” Entire magazines are dedicated to the Green Movement and are full of how to advise for the uninformed. I’m sure there was a book titled “The Seven Habits of the Most Green People”, a best seller no doubt.

For me the green movement of 2008 was looking very familiar. Another word had been chosen as the vehicle to deliver the message that people in America, and this time the whole world is involved, must change the way we are living for the betterment of all. I couldn’t help but be a little bit proud of my old friend Green. I can say I knew Green when it was only a color. Now Green embodied the whole Natural Environmental Movement to save the planet. I hoped that perhaps just maybe “Green” would succeed where “Environmental” and “Natural” failed.

Organics 2012:

Now it is 2012 and the Green Industry as a whole has failed to truly alter its practices. Three percent of lawn care in the United States is perform organically. Support for the Green Movement has fizzled and few local and state governments have been able to restrict the use of synthetic lawn chemicals despite concrete evidence proving that these chemicals are causing unprecedented damage to the fragile ecosystems of rivers, bays and estuaries everywhere. Algae Plumes, Dead Zones and Red Tides caused by Phosphorous and Nitrogen runoff and leaching is a common occurrence along the eastern seaboard. Clearly the “Green Movement” had not achieving the desired results.

What can Hoxie Landscape do? This – Nature Guard is back as Nature Guard Organic Lawn and Plant Care a division of Hoxie Landscape Services. Nature Guard will feature a new state of the art – six step – organic lawn care system guaranteed to provide you with great looking grass – safely, and sensibly without spending more than the cost of a conventional – synthetic fertilizer program. We are expanding and growing our lawn and plant care business like never before because we believe that this new system is the most cost effective, high performing organic lawn care program available and most all we believe that organic lawn and plant care is the only method available to care for your landscape while causing no damage to the environment.
What can home owners do? Stop using harmful lawn chemicals and switch to organic lawn and plant care! Green grass with no harmful side effect – now you can’t get any greener than that! The attitude and approach living green tries to embody is not easily adopted without proper motivation. The “Green Movement” is the latest attempt to alter every day practices, which may cause harm to our immediate and global environment.

I believe that we all must do everything possible to reduce greenhouse gasses, stop poisoning the land and water, and each of us must find ways to use less fossil fuel. We don’t like change, especially if it means eliminating convenience from our lives. I am trying to do what I can to lessen my company and family’s adverse impact on the environment. I encourage all to do the same.

It’s not easy being green but if you need motivation consider how wondrous the benefits could be for the generations to follow us.

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