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On Tues Oct 27, 2015, the Brookline Board of Selectmen took a vote of no action on Warranty Article 10, which would place a year-round ban all gas-powered blowers. The article was amended to exempt Town crews, the country club and golf course, but still was not recommended by the board. (Update: on 11/18/15, the Town Meeting voted to refer the question to a moderator’s committee. More details and background here.)

As a company concerned with the environment and with the health of both workers and community members, we agree that blowers are overused by both groundskeepers and homeowners. However, we are also concerned about the unintended consequences of a 100% ban on blowers, which we believe would disproportionately impact small businesses, workers, senior citizens, and people with disabilities. Here are our responses to some major points of the blower ban proponents:

1. Contractors don’t care.” There will always be contractors who break the rules. It’s up to Brookline to figure out how to enforce them. But a complete ban would primarily hurt those small, locally-owned businesses who do follow the rules. We even go our of our way voluntarily to try to do the right thing:
– We signed on to Quiet Communities and asked to be listed by Newton Safe & Sound as contractors who will perform hand-raking
– We spent the extra money to invest in blowers that meet the 67 decibel regulations, including electric ones.
– We pay living wages and benefits to our workers to create a stable, well-trained workforce. Our workers are not disposable; they want the company to be perceived as a good neighbor and community member.
2. “Banning blowers protects workers.”
If the blower ban is passed, we will be out-competed by irresponsible companies who hire day laborers as a cheap, short term source of manual labor to do hand-raking. These workers will not get basic protections of employment law like minimum wages, overtime, or workers compensation in case of injury. This blower ban will primarily hurt the very workers who are making Brookline a nice place to live. Landscaping workers may work 60 hours a week for 6 weeks removing leaves. They will face an increase in repetitive strain injuries from use of rakes or handheld electric blowers. If they’re not covered as employees under workers comp, they will likely be sent packing if they’re injured.
3. “Just rake your own leaves, already! Or pay someone else to do it.” The exemption for Town crews will save Brookline taxpayers some money, but the ban will raise costs for those homeowners who can least afford it: senior citizens & those with disabilities might not be able to do their own hand-raking, and will be hard hit by increases in costs to have someone else do their leaf removal. Alternately, they may not clean up leaves. That’s great for the soil, but neighbors might not like the messy look, and leaves in storm drains will increase street flooding problems.
4. “But blowers are so noisy…” At 80-100 decibels, walk-behind lawn mowers are actually louder than the 67 decibel blowers required under Brookline’s existing regulations. And that’s not to mention chainsaws, wood chippers, or excavators. Blowers have been targeted because often several are running at a time. Rather than an outright ban, Brookline might consider regulations similar to Cambridge and Arlington, which limit the number of blowers that can be used at any one time, based on the size of the property.
5. “What about the effect of blowers on allergies, asthma, and blood pressure?” We aren’t epidemiologists, but Alan Balsam, Brookline’s health director, has said that the Advisory Council on Public Health “found no compelling health threat” from the use of blowers in accordance with Brookline’s current regulations. Even the American Lung Association has recently acknowledged that the primary concern for pollution from 2-stroke engines comes from machines manufactured before 2012 EPA guidelines went into effect.

To learn more about what local landscapers are doing to be responsible blower users, go to BrooklineLeaves.org

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Happy International Women’s Day!  To celebrate, wanted to share a few ways that we as a woman-owned company promote the well-being  of women every day: our community-members, our employees, and our clients.

Leading by Example

A Yard & A Half is a leader in revenue and job-creation among women-owned businesses. We are among only 3% of majority woman-owned businesses with revenues topping $1 million, compared to 6% of majority man-owned firms nationally. Likewise, only 36% are job-creating entities, compared with 44% of men-owned firms.

Many women entrepreneurs strike out on their own because they are struggling to achieve a better work-life balance, and because they feel they are still not being compensated up to their potential. Through our internships, we help women realize their dreams in the landscaping industry.

Family-Friendly Workplace

Landscaping is still a male-dominated field, and our company is no exception.  So, supporting all of our employees in maintaining a good work-life balance is essential to helping their female partners to achieve their goals.  Flexible hours and telecommuting allow employees to share childcare and transportation to or from school.  We provide parental leave for new parents.  And it’s not uncommon to find a couple of kids drawing on the boss’s whiteboard or playing in the sand downstairs!

In addition, we have been recognized by the Massachusetts Breast-Feeding Coalition and Inc. Magazine for providing breast-pumping facilities and allowing moms to bring nursing babies to work.

Living Landscapes

We create life-giving landscapes that are healthier for women and families:

  • organic maintenance & planting practices;
  • designs that incorporate the needs of children, people with disabilities, and elders; and
  • spaces for yoga, meditation, and spiritual reflection.

Take time to celebrate and nurture the women in your life today!

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Now Hiring!

winning workplaces banner

We’re expanding our team!  Selected as one of Inc. Magazine’s “Winning Workplaces” for our open-book management and innovative employee development, A Yard & A Half Landscaping is a landscape design-build company committed to sustainable and organic practices.

We are seeking qualified applicants for an additional Project Manager and several positions on our maintenance crews. Besides the qualifications described below, we are looking for individuals who are enthusiastic to share new ideas, enjoy a challenge, and take pride in their work.
Compensation for all positions includes:
Safe work environment with excellent growth potential. Competitive wages, performance-based incentives, and profit-sharing. Paid holidays and vacation, medical and dental benefits, and Simple-IRA retirement plan. Tuition reimbursement for approved courses.

Project Manager

Responsibilities include:

  • Meeting with customers on site, estimating project costs, and preparing customer contracts
  • Scheduling subcontractors as needed for accepted contracts
  • Scheduling delivery of job materials and equipment through operations manager
  • Reviewing plans with crew leaders to ensure that customer specifications are met
  • Managing and training crew leaders in proper operating procedures, timely project completion, and quality standards
  • Preparing weekly work schedules
  • Estimating and preparing job change orders
  • Following up with customers to determine customer satisfaction at project completion
  • Approving final customer billing
  • Evaluating estimates to actual job costs
  • Developing new sales
  • Participating in management team to make company decisions

Minimum Qualifications:
Two years’ experience with cost estimating and landscape construction, or equivalent educational experience.
Valid U.S. driver’s license and good driving record.
Proficiency in Spanish and strong computer skills preferred.

Maintenance Crew Members

Responsibilities include:

  • Organic maintenance of residential landscapes, including mowing, weeding, hand-pruning, cleaning hardscapes, etc.
  • Safe operation of power equipment, trucks, and trailers.
  • Ensuring customer satisfaction with job performed.
  • Assisting crew leader in timely completion of work assigned.
  • Positive attitude toward work, customers, and crew leader.
  • Keeping truck equipment and garage supplies organized.
  • Contributing ideas and opinions to assist with crew and company decision-making.
  • Performing work in accordance with high quality and company standards.

Minimum Qualifications:
Valid U.S. driver’s license and good driving record.
Ability to work in all weather and lift 50 lbs.
Spanish-English bilingual and prior landscaping/gardening experience preferred.

Send resumes and cover letters to:
A Yard & A Half Landscaping
26 Thayer Rd., Waltham, MA 02453
fax: 781-788-8854
email:  info (at) ayardandahalf.com

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Angie's List Super Service Award Badge

We’re pleased to announce that A Yard & A Half Landscaping has again won the Angie’s List “Super Service Award”.  This award recognizes companies who maintain a consistently superior service rating on Angie’s List, a member-based, consumer rating website.  According to Angie’s List, winners of this award represent the top 5% of companies in the Boston market.

We value this award because we value our customers.  Angie’s List ratings come directly from customer experience — companies don’t pay to be listed, nor can they remove negative reviews — and we work hard to ensure that our customers have a great experience with us, whether we’re installing a complete landscape design or providing weekly maintenance.

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Eileen Michaels, A Yard & A Half’s founder and General Manager, spoke with Lawn & Landscape Magazine for their September issue on business management.  Read about A Yard & A Half’s employee-centered, open book management style in “Release the Reins.”

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Today, Inc. Magazine and Winning Workplaces announced A Yard & A Half Landscaping as one of their “Top Small Company Workplaces” — the best small- and medium-sized places to work in the nation.  “This year’s winners show that the quality of the workplace can be a competitive advantage. I’m amazed at how well they have come through the recession. Clearly, their commitment to their values and people practices are an important part of this success,” said Gaye van den Hombergh, President of Winning Workplaces.

We have the distinction of being the smallest of the companies chosen, beating out companies with higher revenues and larger workforces.  We received recognition for our open-book management, family-friendly policies, and peer-led bilingual training program.  We’ll be sharing more about the work environment at A Yard & A Half throughout the summer.

Of 500 entrants for the Winning Workplaces award, the 20 winners also included outdoor gear company Patagonia and the NFL’s New York Jets.  Check out coverage of A Yard & A Half and other companies recognized for “smart management and enlightened leadership” in the June issue of Inc.

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A Yard & A Half Landscaping has been named as a finalist for the Top Small Company Workplaces Award by WinningWorkplaces, a national non-profit that supports small & midsized businesses in creating engaging, productive workplaces.  The award, presented in cooperation with Inc. Magazine, recognizes “small organizations that engage their employees, create great work environments and, in turn, deliver improved results.”

A Yard & A Half was selected as one of 39 finalists from a pool of 500 applicants.  The application process included documentation of employee pay and benefits, development, retention, and workplace culture.  Winning Workplaces also conducted confidential interviews with several employees.  Award winners will be announced later this month and published in the June issue of Inc.

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