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'No-mow' zones help College trim costs and carbon emissions [video]

July 23, 2009

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.—Middlebury College's green landscape has taken on a new look this summer. Grounds crews have reduced the amount of lawn they mow by 20 acres, allowing pockets of the landscape to return to flower-filled meadows. The new program is expected to help the College cut its landscaping expenses and reduce its carbon dioxide emissions.

Prior to this summer, Middlebury crews mowed about 75 acres of lawn on the main campus in Vermont. This required seven people mowing seven hours a day for three days to complete one mowing cycle. This year, the landscaping staff has designated several areas that received little or no use by students as no-mow zones. One of the no-mow areas is a swath of land on the northern section of campus encompassing a hillside between Ross Commons and Coffrin Hall. Another zone runs along the north side of Porter Field Road.

The no-mow project is helping the College meet two important goals. First, it reduces expenses during a serious economic downturn. According to campus horticulturist Tim Parsons, the reduction in mowing will save an estimated 1,000 hours of labor and about 670 gallons of fuel annually.

The second, and perhaps equally important, goal is in helping the College reduce its carbon footprint as it works toward carbon neutrality by 2016. The reduction in mowing will eliminate about six tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

The return of so much lawn to meadow has also opened up opportunities for academic study. Senior Emily May is studying plant and pollinator species diversity in the different no-mow zones to see how they differ from the mowed areas. And students in Professor Helen Young's plant biology class this fall will study the plants in the different no-mow zones.

Parsons says reactions so far have been positive, and that people seem to enjoy the look and feel of a meadow as they walk through campus. And if the positive feedback continues, Parsons believes there is potential to expand the no-mow zones to other parts of campus in the future.

For more details on how the no-mow project evolved and how it may grow in the future, click here.