Photo credit: Jamie Banks
by Jamie Banks, MSc, PhD, President, Quiet Communities Inc.
The pressure to limit the use of gas-powered leaf blowers is growing. Recently, Montgomery County, Maryland passed legislation to phase out the sale of use of gas-powered blowers. An updated report on national emissions from gas lawn and garden equipment was released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Environment America and Frontier Group. Over the last couple of weeks, The Washington Post, Grist, and The Hustle all published articles discussing the problems associated with leaf blowers, and what’s needed to solve those problems. The landscaping industry is already transitioning with education, resources, training and a multitude of initiatives across the country — demonstrating that more sustainable landscape maintenance is practical and cost-effective when properly resourced.
There are good reasons to move away from gas-powered leaf blowers and other fossil fuel-powered equipment. They generate loud noise and emit ozone-forming exhaust and fine particulates, proven to be harmful to our health.
For residents who maintain their own properties, a transition to battery-powered electric and manual equipment is relatively easy. Equipment needs are minimal, and use is relatively infrequent. Homeowners benefit from reduced noise, elimination of fumes and savings that accrue from reduced maintenance and avoided fuel costs.
For commercial businesses and institutions, this transition is far more challenging. Equipment must have the run times, charge capacity and structural integrity needed for commercial work. The costs of the equipment and battery bank required to reach the same productivity level as gas equipment are substantially higher. While work production levels for gas and electric may be similar for some electric equipment, blowers may require 25-40% more time to complete the same tasks when under wet or heavy seasonal conditions. Many businesses with sunk investments in gas equipment are reluctant to switch. A 2021 report from the California Air Resources Board estimated that only 6% of lawn care equipment owned by professional landscapers was electric, versus 55% for residential users.
So how can we help this industry make a broad and enduring transition away from gas-powered equipment? Here are some recommendations:
- Educate and train landscape professionals in the safe and productive use of battery-powered electric equipment.
- An online certificate course developed by the American Green Zone Alliance and Quiet Communities teaches all the basics. The course is discounted for members of the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
- Advocate for resources and financial incentives to accelerate adoption of battery-powered electric equipment, similar to those afforded to the electric vehicle and solar industries.
- Educate customers on what the transition means for businesses and how they can help, e.g., value the benefits of cleaner, quieter services; understand why premiums may be higher; relax aesthetic expectations.
- Be creative. Customers can purchase equipment and batteries for landscapers to use on their properties. They can also reduce turf areas and engage their neighbors in doing the same.
A quieter, cleaner world will be a better and healthier world for all.