Grounds crew wins Green Award

by Tom Mayhall Rastrelli,

  • accepting the award
    Dean Wentworth, center, and Jim Andersen, right, accept the Green Award for Large Sustainable Business of the Year from a representative of Straub Environmental Center.
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  • Campus in spring
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Willamette University grounds team honored with award for Large Sustainable Business of the Year.

When Jim Andersen, Willamette University grounds keeper, took over management of the campus’ grounds 10 years ago, the grounds crew was using 58 pesticides. Today, they use zero.

“The question then was, ‘What do we replace Roundup with? Is there an organic substitute?’” says Andersen. “There’s not.”

He and the crew tried everything from vinegar and orange juice to citric acids.

“What it comes down to is manual labor,” he says. “It works the best and costs less.”

Last month, that hard work received its due. Andersen and Willamette’s grounds crew won the award for Large Sustainable Business of the Year at the 2017 Mid-Willamette Valley Green Awards.

Presented by Straub Environmental Center, the awards celebrate environmentally friendly individuals, businesses and organizations that use sustainable practices to keep the Mid-Willamette Valley healthy and green.

The center recognized Willamette for organic land-care practices, elimination of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and being the first university in Oregon accredited through Oregon Tilth's Organic Land Care Practitioner Program. Willamette’s campus has been “non-chemical dependent” since 2007.

Organic land care demands a different philosophy. Instead of trying to get rid of plants like moss that most people try to eradicate, Andersen says, “Let’s celebrate it. Let’s figure out another way to get around that problem.”

Another key is nurturing an evolving landscape in which plants bloom throughout the year. Andersen and crew have chosen plants that are geared specifically to wildlife and birdlife while still being aesthetically pleasing to people.

The Grounds Team includes Jim Anderson, Mickey Cochrane, Joe Cooper, Alfonso Guzman, Efrian Kebekol, Dan McConnell, Ron Morton, Ed Priepke and Dean Wentworth, as well as a number of student workers.

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