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Team Innovative focuses on eco-friendly practices

When Team Innovative, Inc. does a landscape maintenance job for a customer with a smaller lawn, chances are the crew pulls up with a trailer that doesn’t just carry equipment — it actually charges batteries used by that equipment. Both the trailer and the truck are the ordinary kind utilized to haul things around, but what makes this setup unusual is an inverter inside the trailer that charges reusable batteries while getting its own “juice” from a battery charged by the truck. The idea is similar to using solar power, only the energy comes from the truck that already has to run its engine to get from point A to B.

Owner Ken Perry invested in this new technology recently as part of his ongoing focus on environmentally friendly practices. Perry has been in business for about 20 years, starting out with just one crew. The company now has about two dozen employees, and services primarily commercial accounts, including larger properties, but also offers residential services.

In recent years, Perry started implementing a growing number of “green” techniques and services.

One of the highlights of his environmentally friendly philosophy is the company’s own headquarters, at the Green Acres business park in Silverdale. Perry acted as his own designer and contractor on the business park project, which features, among other things, a bio-swale that helps return all the stormwater runoff from the site back into the ground (through a natural filtration system). The business park was one of the first commercial projects in Kitsap County to incorporate this low-impact development technique.

Perry wanted like-minded businesses as tenants at Green Acres, so among other renters is Peninsula Services, a nonprofit that provides jobs to disabled individuals through its subsidiary businesses, including Kitsap E-Z Earth and All Shred. At its Green Acres location, Kitsap E-Z Earth produces organic fertilizer from earthworm castings and other products, which are sold at several Kitsap nurseries.

“We looked for a location in Kitsap County that had a green consciousness… We felt our vision matched Ken’s,” said Holly James, Peninsula Services business development consultant.

Perry said when he decided to promote green ideas at his business, he had to start with himself. So he swapped his Hummer for a 20-mpg Toyota Scion. The company’s fleet, too, got a makeover — all the new trucks are more fuel efficient, most of them four-cylinder vs. eight. Perry also uses an all-electric, street-legal inspection “vehicle,” and equips the trucks with GPS units in order to make the routes more efficient and avoid backtracking.

“We made a fuel mandate to try to reduce our fossil fuel by 30 percent. In the past year, we’ve started to see a return on that,” he said.

Team Innovative has been offering organic fertilizers and other products to customers for some time, but now Perry wants to kick that into high gear. He said it only costs about 10 percent more to go organic. To promote this option, he is starting a new program that will allow businesses signing up during a trial period to convert to organic without the extra cost. “I try to convey to people that going green can be cost-efficient. I don’t want to be the only guy doing this,” he said.

Perry plans to continue searching for new ways to become a more eco-friendly landscaper. For now, he is testing out his new “zero impact” trailer to see how efficient the idea is. The inverter only costs $70, he notes, and the battery-operated equipment is relatively inexpensive and can be purchased at home improvement stores. But it has limitations — the lawnmower, for example, is best suited for smaller jobs, and Team Innovative has a large commercial base. Still, if this experiment works, he will consider converting other crews, and he thinks as battery technology evolves, it could be applied to heavier-duty equipment.

“It’s at the forefront of what everyone will be doing some day,” he said.

One of his dreams is to build a second green business park in the future, and find new opportunities to create green landscape projects for others. “Green can mean profitable too,” he said. “You can make money in a green industry, but as a businessman and a developer, I am always looking at the impact on the Earth.”

 
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