Office of Sustainability

Sustainable grounds management

On Brandeis' 235-acre campus, approximately 53 acres (23%)  is managed turf, and approximately 8.5 acres (3.6%) is irrigated. In addition to our integrated pest management plan, Brandeis implements a tree replacement program, which ensures that any tree that is removed due to disease or construction is replaced or relocated elsewhere on campus. In 2021, Brandeis incorporated a high-efficiency mulch blower, which has since cut mulch usage in half. Electric equipment has been purchased and used where possible, including a chainsaw, hedge trimmer, leaf blower and trimmer. Brandeis also composts its own lawn waste, such as leaves and brush, in a pile near the Lemberg Children's Center.

New organic land management practices

In 2022, as part of our Year of Climate Action, Brandeis piloted several organic land management practices made possible by the Brandeis Sustainability Fund. The pilot included: photo of ziv quad with lawn sign about organic land management trial

  • Replacing the herbicide Roundup, which contains glyphosate, with an organic and non-glyphosate product on an as-needed basis.
  • Replacing a pesticide used to treat grubs, insects that feed on the roots of grass, with an organic product on an as-needed basis.
  • Using organic fertilizer instead of synthetic fertilizer on the 7 acres of lower campus (area south of Loop Road).
  • Purchasing its first electric leaf blower and electric trimmer in an effort to eliminate some use of gas-powered equipment. The team already uses an electric chainsaw and electric hedge trimmers.
  • Incorporating additional measures to improve the soil naturally, such as applying compost to nourish the vegetation, and purchasing and applying more drought-tolerant grass seed.

The pilot was successful and is being expanded into parts of upper campus in 2023, with plans to continue to the rest of campus in the coming seasons.

Upgraded irrigation project: spring/summer 2023

In an effort to reduce campus water usage, Brandeis is upgrading its irrigation systems starting this spring. The project will replace many decades-old, manual irrigation controls with state-of-the-art controllers, valves and piping that will allow for auto-shutoff, water metering capability, and water use monitoring. The system will also automatically adjust to existing weather forecasts and precipitation to reduce the occurrence of watering after and during precipitation events. The project will not add new areas of irrigation to campus, but rather upgrade the existing areas to reduce water usage. Water use reduction is estimated at approximately 1.5 million gallons annually.  

Frequently asked questions

Does Brandeis use the compost that is made from our campus food waste? 

While Black Earth Compost handles the composting of Brandeis' food waste, in accordance with the Massachusetts waste disposal bans, we also make our own compost on campus from the leaves and brush collected during regular operations. We may occasionally purchase compost for use on campus from Black Earth Compost, but we more often use either a local garden center or our own compost.

Can we compost our own food waste on campus?

Due to the composting requirements for both food waste and compostable disposable items such as plates, cups, bowls and utensils, including temperature, pressure, humidity and air flow, Brandeis is not able to compost our own food waste on site. We rely on our professional composting partner Black Earth Compost to expertly handle our compost stream.

Why do we still use gas-powered lawn equipment? 

The availability of commercial-sized electric lawn equipment is still limited. While our current electric lawn equipment, including a chainsaw, hedge trimmer, leaf blower and trimmer, is perfect for some applications, it is sometimes necessary to use gas-powered equipment for speed and volume. Given Brandeis' small grounds team of only 8 people, sometimes the commercial-sized, gas-powered equipment is critical to make sure the work gets done. We look forward to the continued development of commercial-sized electric lawn equipment and to continuing to incorporate electric equipment into our fleet.

Why do we need to get rid of leaves on campus?

While we never completely remove all the leaves on campus in the fall, we try to prevent the buildup of leaves that can overwhelm the ability of the vegetation beneath to thrive. A pileup of leaves in the fall can block light and smother the plants beneath. Insects can overwinter in the piles of leaves, including both beneficial and non-beneficial species, however, the grounds team has noticed there tend to be more non-beneficial species on campus. There is also an expectation among various campus stakeholders to keep high-visibility areas of campus clean and manicured.

When we remove leaves, we compost them in our campus compost area near Lemberg Children’s Center and then apply the compost to soil at appropriate times of the year.