Sustainable Landscape at Onondaga

It’s more than just letting the grass grow. Onondaga’s 280 acres are undergoing what are noticeable changes to the campus landscape.

For many years, Onondaga, like most colleges, universities, and organizations, maintained a largely grass landscape that is carefully mowed on a weekly basis. In fact, for approximately a six-month period between May and October, the Grounds crew at Onondaga typically mows 55 acres of grass each week.

As part of the College’s ongoing commitment to sustainability, and in keeping with The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment letter signed by Dr. Sydow in 2007, the implementation of the sustainable master landscape plan will reduce the College’s dependence on lawn-mowing and return portions of the campus landscape to a more natural state of grasses, meadows and wildflowers.

While some areas of the campus may look a bit unkempt initially, natural re-growth in these areas will occur over time. The Grounds crew will continue to mow those areas adjacent to roadways and sidewalks as necessary for recreation and other purposes.

Benefits of a Sustainable Landscape

  • Helps maintain balance of atmospheric gases at historic levels, creating breathable air, and sequestering greenhouse gases
  • Helps regulate local temperature, precipitation, and humidity through shading, evapotranspiration, and windbreaks
  • Removes and reduces pollutants in air and water
  • Retains soil within an ecosystem, preventing damage from erosion, siltation and compaction
  • Reduces vulnerability to damage from flooding, storm surge, wildfire, and drought
  • Provides pollinator species for reproduction of crops or other plants
  • Provides refuge and reproduction habitat to plants and animals, thereby contributing o conservation of biological and genetic diversity and evolutionary processes
  • Breaks down waste and cycling nutrients
  • Enhances physical, mental, and social well-being as a result of interaction with nature
  • Produces food, fuel, energy, medicine, or other products for human use
  • Enhances cultural, educational, aesthetic, and spiritual experiences as a result of interaction with nature


Reduce and eliminate unsustainable operational practices

  • Assist in fulfilling Onondaga’s American College & University President’s Climate Commitment through sustainable landscape initiatives
  • Reduce CO2 emissions, chemical applications, and water usage

Increase the ecological significance and knowledge on the campus

  • Create habitat and increase biodiversity
  • Provide educational opportunities within the campus landscape
  • Involve students, staff, faculty, and community members in hands-on sustainable landscape initiatives

Revitalize the campus into a sustainable landscape showcase

  • Beautify and enhance the collegiate feel of the campus
  • Implement a wide range of sustainable physical changes to the campus to enhance user experience
  • Provide safe pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular transportation routes


The plan involves two main areas of focus:

Open Space - Lawn areas on campus will be converted to one of the following plant communities: 

  • Low Grass (with and without trees)
  • Meadow (with and without trees)
  • Ornamental Planting
  • Successional Forest
  • Planted Forest
  • Rain Garden
  • Vernal Pond

To see which community goes where you can review the sustainable landscape map (pdf)

Structures and Infrastructure - The plan includes the following proposed improvements to structures and infrastructure: 

  • Enhancements to plazas or gathering places
  • Creation of a green roof
  • Incorporating living walls across campus
  • Addition of walkways and bikeways  using sustainable practices
  • Improve efficiency of parking areas
  • Utilize more permeable paving