Clean Scapes President Ivan Giraldo, right, and Rigoberto Esparza examine the flowers at Hill Country Galleria.
Photo courtesy of Clean Scapes

It started as a casual conversation before dinner at last year’s GIE+EXPO in Louisville, Kentucky. Ivan Giraldo of Clean Scapes in Austin, Texas, was talking to Ralph Egues, Jr., executive director of the National Hispanic Landscape Alliance (NHLA) and some others. The topic: finding good employees and labor pains. “We were talking about what a tough time we have filling not only jobs that are $15 an hour, but management positions that pay $60,000 to $80,000 a year, and we said, ‘This is going to be a big problem going forward,’” Egues says.

There are white collar jobs that are sought-after and perceived to be more prestigious than landscaping. And, there are blue collar jobs that require hands-on, skills-based professionals to do the work. But what about landscaping? “These are green collared jobs,” Giraldo says.

“When you’re at a meeting at your kid’s school with other parents, or you’re at church or out in the community, people talk about what they do,” Egues says. “And, the response should be one of pride. That not only do you love what you do, but you’re one of those guys who makes the community literally work better for all of us.”

Green collared workers care for managed landscapes and work to benefit the earth every day. “We make an environmental contribution” Egues points out.

So, the concept was born: Proud to Be Green Collared – Making America More than Beautiful. “We are trying to promote this everywhere – at college job fairs, hiring events,” Giraldo says. “We want people to know this is a true business. We’re certified, professional companies with HR directors, CFOs, marketing, salespeople, administration. For people who say, ‘I don’t want to push a mower all my life,’ we want them to know, that’s not the only thing we do.”

A message that sticks.

NHLA officially launched the Proud to Be Green Collared campaign in late November, 2017. It produced bumper stickers bearing the slogan, which sell for $5. All proceeds go toward scholarships for students pursuing green industry careers.

The bumper stickers are conversation-starters. They beg the question: What do you mean green collared? Then, green industry professionals can use this opening as a conversation starter, Egues says. “When we say we make America more than beautiful, it’s an opportunity to talk about the environmental benefits of the work we do, which is critical.”

Giraldo is committed to sharing with his clients exactly what it takes to run a green industry operation. He wants them to know it’s much more than pulling up to their property with a truck and a mower. “We want clients to understand the expense and work behind getting a crew to their property every Monday,” he says. “It takes planning, training, and there are technical aspects like making sure the equipment is running properly. They don’t realize all that.”

Also, clients generally don’t realize what goes into a well-planned landscape design, Giraldo says. So, he shares that, too. “I’m very vocal, and every time I go to a trade show I talk about this with other landscapers and even with manufacturers.”

With labor a perennial challenge in the green industry, Giraldo says educating people about the jobs required to “make America more than beautiful” are diverse and require skill. There are opportunities to manage teams, be creative and improve the environment. “With the lack of newcomers into the industry at all levels, it’s affecting everyone, and we are all very motivated to talk about (job opportunities),” Giraldo says.

So far, the bumper stickers are getting lots of traction, Egues says. They can be purchased on the NHLA website. “What’s most exciting to me is the response we got at the National Collegiate Landscape Competition and how many students bought the bumper stickers because they wanted to put them on their cars,” he says.

“As an industry, we don’t talk enough about the great things we do for the environment.” Ivan Giraldo, president, Clean Scapes
A truly green business.

“As an industry, we don’t talk enough about the great things we do for the environment,” Giraldo relates. “We are not just mowing grass and blowing clippings off of parking lots. We care about water management and using the proper chemical applications.”

Giraldo shares how his company operates fuel-efficient equipment and talks to clients about how they reduce the carbon footprint.

“There are those who consider themselves environmentalists because they can talk a good game. We are environmentalists because we are working with the earth every day,” Egues says. “The work we do maximizes oxygen production, maximizes carbon sequestration and a host of other human health benefits. We just don’t talk about this enough.”

Egues puts it like this: “When the customers of our NHLA members thank them for maintaining their personal oxygen factory, we will know we have done enough to educate Americans on the importance of managed landscapes, and we are a long way from there.”

For Giraldo and others, the Green Collared campaign is a bold step toward educating people about what the green industry is all about – a move that will hopefully make a positive impact on recruiting employees at all levels. “We want everyone to see that we’re proud to be Green Collared, and to promote it,” he says. “We want to raise the bar.”