Converting lawns or underutilized lands into pollinator habitats can lead to a number of fiscal and environmental benefits, including reduced fuel and labor costs and improved air quality.
Pollinator habitats are managed to benefit local insects and wildlife. Management strategies may differ across properties, agencies, and regions depending on the specific landowner goals and logistics of the site, but typically involve limiting mowing, minimizing use of herbicides and pesticides, and planting native species.
In general, pollinator habitats can be created through one of or a combination of three general strategies: 1) Limited-mow zones; 2) Managed meadows and grasslands; and 3) Pollinator gardens. Each of these strategies are described in the Pollinator Landscapes at State Facilities Guiding Framework under Resources Section below.
DOER regularly meets with state agencies and partners to support these efforts at state facilities. The Leading by Example Program and partner entities identify and share best practices, offer technical support, and track the development of pollinator habitats on state lands.
Benefits of creating and managing pollinator habitats include:
- Reducing fuel use and associated emissions from mowing
- Increasing resilience to flooding
- Increasing food and habitat for native wildlife
- Improving staff efficiencies from reduced landscaping needs, such as mowing and watering
- Reducing need for fertilizers and pesticides
- Providing aesthetic value for residents and visitors
State Entities with Established Pollinator Habitats
The following state entities have implemented one or several pollinator habitat strategies. For more information about these sites, please visit DOER's interactive Leading by Example map and select "Sustainable Landscapes."
|Public Colleges/Universities||State Agencies|
|Bristol Community College||Department of Conservation and Recreation|
|Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts||Department of Correction|
|Massasoit Community College||Department of Mental Health - Taunton State Hospital|
|North Shore Community College||Department of State Police|
|UMass Amherst||Department of Transportation|
|UMass Lowell||Division of Fisheries and Wildlife|
Battery-Powered Landscape Equipment
Battery-powered landscape equipment, including mowers (zero turn, stand-on, and push), leaf blowers, and hedge trimmers are available on statewide contract FAC116: Lawns and Grounds Equipment, Parts and Services as an environmentally preferable purchasing option. See the FAC116 Contract User Guide on the COMMBUYS link above for more information.
Benefits of commercial battery-powered equipment can include:
- Eliminating on-site greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants from combustion of gasoline
- Curtailing need to store and transport gasoline and most chemicals required for maintenance
- Lowering ongoing costs typically associated with traditional equipment, including maintenance and gasoline purchases
- Reducing noise levels for workers, residents, staff, faculty, neighbors, and wildlife
You can hear Chris Hoffman, Park Supervisor at Walden Pond State Reservation, speak to the many benefits of battery-powered landscaping equipment on this video developed as part of Climate Week 2021.
Piloting Equipment: Ride and Drives and the DCAMM Tool Barn
On September 13th, 2021, LBE, OSD, and DCR hosted an information session on battery-powered landscaping equipment, followed by a 'ride and drive' featuring vendors from statewide contract FAC116. A slide deck and pictures from this event can be downloaded here:
LBE may host additional 'ride and drives' throughout the year. Please contact Ryan.Kingston@mass.gov if you may be interested in hosting or attending an event.
Interested in trying out battery-powered landscaping equipment at your facility? Executive Branch agencies can borrow battery-powered equipment from the DCAMM Tool Barn. See information on how to request this equipment on the Tool Barn Program website.
Resources and Tools to Get Started
Several resources have been developed by the Leading by Example Program and the Operational Services Division to assist state agencies and public institutions of higher education seeking to adopt sustainable landscaping practices.
- Pollinator Landscapes at State Facilities Guiding Framework- Includes an overview of the importance of pollinator habitats, benefits of converting traditional lawns to habitat, and strategies state agencies have undertaken to create these habitats on their lands.
- Lawn to Pollinator Habitat Savings Calculator - Designed to provide high-level estimates of potential cost savings, labor savings, and greenhouse gas emission reductions associated with converting lawns into pollinator-focused habitats.
- Pollinator Seed Checklist for State Entities 3.16.22 - This two-page guide contains basic information that facilities may want to factor into their decision-making process before procuring seeds for pollinator meadows and grasslands, as well as criteria that can be sent to seed vendors or included in a scope of work to ensure selected species are appropriate for their site, while avoiding non-native species.
- Interagency Pollinator Meadow and Garden BMP 3.16.22 - This two-page BMP is modeled after best practices developed and recommended by the DCR Pollinator Team, including guidance around site preparation, watering and weeding, and mowing. Guidance is intended to be broadly applicable to most state facilities, but may be adjusted to fit site-specific needs.
- Growing Wild for Pollinators Signs - Signage can help educate the public and show intentionality of limited-mow zones and wildflower meadows. The Growing Wild for Pollinators walk by sign includes descriptive text, and the Growing Wild for Pollinators drive by sign simply states "Growing Wild for Pollinators" in large text. Contact Ryan.Kingston@mass.gov if you are interested in obtaining one of these signs for your site.
- Gardening with Climate-Smart Native Plants in the Northeast - This two-page guide from UMass Amherst provides basic information on the importance of using native plants as well as a list of native grasses, herbs, shrubs, and trees that may be suitable for the Northeast as the climate changes.
- MassDOT Landscape Design and Roadside Maintenance - MassDOT has developed a series of guidelines to support the planting and maintenance of pollinator habitats along roadsides and in urban areas. Resources include native seed mix lists, guidance for establishment and management of habitats, invasive plant management guidance, and more.
- Guidance for Federal Agencies on Sustainable Practices for Designed Landscapes - This document provides guidance to improve the sustainability of Federal landscape practices. While this guidance was written for Federal agencies, the practices herein can apply to state agencies when constructing new, or rehabilitating existing, owned or leased facilities or when landscaping improvements are otherwise planned.
- Supporting the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators - This document is an addendum to the Sustainable Practices for Designed Landscapes guidance and includes information on landscape design and maintenance as part of the National Pollinator Health Strategy. While this guidance was written for Federal agencies, best practices are still applicable to state agency projects.
- Pollinator Habitat Info and Resources - This document includes links to resources that can support development and management of pollinator habitats on state lands, including guidance on plant selection, certifications for pollinator-friendly solar arrays, resources for apiaries, and citizen science tools.
Battery-Powered Landscape Equipment
- Presentation recording: Decarbonization Outside Our Walls: Battery-Powered Landscaping Equipment for Public Entities - On September 13th, 2022, LBE, OSD, and DCR hosted an informational session and 'ride and drive' on battery-powered landscaping equipment. This recording features a presentation from Quiet Communities on the benefits of landscaping equipment electrification, an overview from OSD on statewide contracts and helpful resources, and testimonials from users for battery-powered landscaping equipment at DCR Walden Pond, the Town of Lexington, and the Town of Wellesley. Slides can be found here: BPLE Ride and Drive - Slides and Photos September 2022
- Commercial Battery-Powered Electric Lawn and Garden Equipment Calculator - Compares the fiscal and environmental costs and benefits between commercial battery-powered landscape equipment and traditional gasoline-powered landscape equipment.
- Battery-powered landscaping equipment for state facilities - This two page infographic outlines the benefits of BPLE, lists the equipment available on state on contract and state facilities using the equipment, and steps facilities can take to procure this equipment.
- OSD's Environmentally Preferable Products Program: Commercial BPLE - OSD's EPP program page contains information on statewide contracts and additional tools and resources to support state facility adoption of battery-powered landscaping equipment.