At RCOP Maple Park we believe that the impact we make on the world around us should affect our decisions in everything we do. That is why we have always been, and will continue to be, on the leading edge of environmentally conscious production methods.
We believe the footprint we leave says much about us.
In order for all of our systems to work in harmony, we need great people around us. We have made a conscious decision to invest in the long term, and to make every effort to retain knowledge and skill. We aim to be constantly searching for new opportunities that bring added skill to our team, and look at communication and new systems to minimize unproductive tasks.
For example, by upgrading our existing fleet of racks and adding an electric cart puller, we’ve gone from needing two people to pull one rack to having just one person operate the cart puller with ten racks attached. The results keep our team more focused at work, and bring them home to their families sooner and more refreshed.
We teach all of our employees the systems and procedures that make our greenhouse run efficiently, while incorporating new practices to maximize production. The core of how our greenhouses run hasn’t changed, and at the end of the day we all water the way Ron originally did.
RCOP Maple Park’s staff firmly believes that our customers’ success is our success. We grow a healthy and vigorous plant—but that’s just the beginning of the equation. We strive to educate others in the art of, “right plant, right place.”
We also assist our customers through soil preparation techniques, plant variety selections, and post-transplant problem solving. This guidance reduces the need for corrective treatments during the season, which in turn helps save valuable time and added expenses.
Our management team works to oversee that production methods and crop planning are maximized to reduce total energy costs. The amount of time that goes into planning our production schedule can sometimes supersede the actual crop time. Every plant we grow is evaluated for the amount of energy and time we put into it, and paired with similar plants with the same requirements.
We constantly test and upgrade our heating and cooling systems to ensure they are working efficiently. We’ve upgraded to a hot water boiler heating system with a 99.8% efficiency rating. As a result, our natural gas usage dropped 26% overall. We’ve also reduced our electrical usage by 40% by making changes to our production facility and sales office. This includes retrofitting the facility with high efficiency light fixtures and updated environmental controls. We’ve even updated our computers, monitors and other electronic appliances to energy efficient products.
We are regularly analyzing and adjusting our shipping methods to maximize shipping efficiency and reduce fuel usage. Going to larger, more fuel-efficient vehicles and adopting strategic dispatch planning, we minimize the extent the vehicle is on the road.
All of our diesel engines, at our facility and on the road, use clean burning, ultra-low sulfur fuel containing 3% biodiesel by volume. We also ensure that our unleaded fuel contains 15% ethanol by volume for gas engines. We’ve upgraded our shipping systems to fit more plants on the trucks, and plan our delivery routes ahead of time to maximize truck space. This alone has allowed us to decrease our fuel usage by 33% over the years.
Total Quality Management practices are at the foundation of our pest control program. We use environmental control methods to reduce, and in some cases eliminate, the need for pest control applications. We reduce our pesticide usage by thoroughly scouting crops and applying timely applications only when needed.
It’s important that we apply more effective and environmentally safe products. This includes Biologically Active Controls (BACs) such as insect predators, parasitoids, entomopathogenic fungi and nematodes. These BACs provide control by actively seeking and destroying insect and mite pests. They work in tandem with our botanical and bio-rational applications to provide you with people and pet friendly plants. Our commitment to Total Quality Management is creating a safer work environment, while continuing to significantly reduce our reliance on chemical controls.
We believe the quality of the material we provide is directly related to the quality of the inputs. The pots we use are designed with the health of the plant in mind. When we need to use a plastic container, we choose recycled plastics or clean and reuse returned containers from our customers.
We routinely evaluate our choice of containers. To this end we have trialed several “new” container options over the years. We have been able to identify several options for our customers without sacrificing the quality of our plants. Some of these options include moss-lined baskets, fiber containers, corn pots, Ellepots, and soil wraps.
We also use our custom soilless mixes in all containers. All of this aids in reducing the amount of a footprint we leave. In an average year we receive back about 20,000 containers and trays, and enjoy making that number grow each year.
The custom mixed soilless medium we use is specifically designed not only for its excellent performance capabilities, but it also reduces the drain on the Canadian Sphagnum peat bogs. We have reduced our reliance on this resource by 60% versus a traditional peat based soil mix. In addition, the mix provides a place for beneficial microorganism to colonize. This reduces the need for chemical fungicides and plant growth regulator applications. The biology of the soil also plays a significant role in the ability of the plant to absorb nutrients, which helps to reduce excessive fertilizer applications. All of this leads to a healthier plant in the landscape.
All of our practices focus on minimizing water runoff, as well as caring for proper root development. This helps promote a healthy plant that has a better chance to resist pests and diseases. By having these systems and practices, we have cut our fertilizer use by 40%. We are also using variable speed well pumps, to minimize the amount of electrical power that is needed.
We have removed over 10 tons of old, unused debris such as metals, tires, computers, printers, vehicles and wood from our facility. The spaces left behind from all of this debris have been converted into new growing areas.
RCOP Maple Park has initiated a daily recycling program for our office and greenhouse debris. By doing so, we reduced the amount of our “landfill” rubbish by 15%.
We support sustainable groups like MELA (Midwest Ecological Landscape Alliance), whose education brings us new insights to sustainable products, practices and plantings. MELA allows us to meet other like-minded professionals from inside the many areas of the green industry.
We are also active members of ILCA (Illinois Landscape Contractors Association). We use these affiliations to interact with not only our customers, but learn consumer demands from other sources in the industry.
It’s because of groups like these we began producing a line of Native plants in 2012. Natives help support other species of life, renew soil fertility, increase drainage and also provide stunning displays in combination with annuals and perennials.
Doing all of the above makes us realize that we are just stewards of this life, we really can’t own nature. We can only guide it and preserve it.