Landscaping Services receives national sustainability and innovation award

Published: September 16, 2020

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The Facilities Management Landscape Services Department recently received the 2020 Association of Physical Plant Administrators, or APPA, Sustainability Innovation Award by implementing the installation of more than 130 self-watering planter pots across campus and converting more than 30 concrete pots to new more efficient self-watering planters.

“I am incredibly proud of this important recognition by APPA of our Landscape Services Department’s sustainability efforts," Dan Whatley, executive director of facilities operations, said. “To be one of five institutions nationwide awarded for a specific sustainability initiative is an honor and a testament to the dedication of our team.”

Facilities Management’s Landscape Services Director Justin Sutton noted that the idea came about after the department noticed it was spending a large amount of time watering planter pots across campus.

“In an effort to be more sustainable, we searched to find ways to decrease the time spent on this task, while continuing to add color and improve the aesthetics of campus in areas where landscaping was lacking or just not implementable due to the amount of hardscape in specific areas.”

The department soon realized that self-watering planters were substantially less labor intensive, which would allow it to dramatically expand use of the planters.

According to Sutton, the benefits soon stretched well beyond what was just visibly appealing.

“We benefited substantially from labor and fuel savings, as well as water conservation and reduced fuel emissions. We believe the benefits directly impacted and improved the Auburn experience by adding splashes of color in more locations across campus while also supporting our go green initiative,” Sutton said. “The additional plant material also supports Auburn’s Bee Campus USA measures by adding more food sources for pollinators.”

Anthony Guerrero, vice president of Member and Community Engagement for APPA, noted that “the Sustainability Innovation Award is designed to recognize and promote unique and innovative sustainable practices in the educational facilities and campus environments, ultimately embedding them within the educational institution as exemplified by Auburn’s landscaping efforts.”

Auburn is committed to integrating sustainability into all aspects of the university including operations, instruction, research and outreach activities. Auburn considers sustainability a core value and strives for excellence in sustainability through continuous assessment and improvement.


Submitted by: Martha Gentry