by Robert Gardner, Think Green Correspondent
Whether you drive, walk, bike or skateboard about Central Campus, you will notice the ever-present grounds crew working to keep grasses green and trees and shrubs thriving. Behind the scenes, Grounds Supervisor Phil Capinski leads an award-winning team that ensures its work aligns with the President’s Climate Committee Advisory Council, of which Capinski is a member.
“We’re always researching new, better ways to expand our green efforts,” he said.
Those efforts include a composting program, for which the grounds crew won the College’s Mustang Spot Award in Autumn 2011. Wood chips, leaves, grass clippings and other “green waste” is gathered into a large pile and allowed to decompose naturally. The resulting top soil is then used to enrich the turf on the quad, planting beds, and the athletics fields.
“It goes really quick,” Capinski said. A fan of the College’s sports programs, he views home games as an opportunity to “showcase our facilities to other schools.”
Last winter, the crew took a trip to Longwood Gardens to learn more about their green programs. According to Capinski, there’s potential for the College to expand its composting efforts based on what they saw at Longwood.
Maintaining a neat and green campus involves more than just sweat and lawnmowers. Chemicals and pesticides help sustain the plant life; batteries, gasoline, motor oil, and antifreeze keep the equipment running. For the past 10 years, the College has recycled its used oil and antifreeze. Interstate Battery exchanges all used batteries to ensure proper disposal.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, pesticide manufacturers are required to label their products with Signal Words which describe toxicity levels; CAUTION, WARNING, DANGER, and DANGER POISON depict these levels.
“I try to be conscientious about what I buy in terms of chemicals, fertilizers,” Capinski admitted. “I try to use CAUTION-labeled chemicals when I can.”
He uses a newer product, Tenacity (mesotrione), on the sports fields as well as on the fields by the quad and College Hall. Though somewhat pricey, Tenacity is derived from leptosperome, a chemical produced by the lemon bottlebrush shrub. The “bulk” areas on campus are treated with three-way herbicide, which is very inexpensive.
“I’ll be introducing Tenacity to more and more areas to increase the College’s green footprint,” Capinski said.
All full-time groundskeepers at Montgomery County Community College receive Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture certification through Penn State University, thereby becoming Certified Pesticide Applicators — yet another way Capinski and crew stay on-target with President Stout’s commitment to green practices and sustainability.