Electric Leaf Blower Demonstration in South Pasadena | AGZA Green Zone

PHOTO: Bill Glazier | The South Pasadenan News | With a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers in the city, a large group of independent gardeners joined community members in looking at new advances in electric models during a free demonstration last Wednesday at Garfield Park.

In a way, Dan Mabe was back home again, standing on what he calls “hallowed grounds,” the place where it all began back in 2015.

South Pasadena became the first municipality in the country certified by the American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA), the city at the forefront of using battery-powered equipment to provide a healthier, quieter and more sustainable lifestyle the rule, rather than the exception, for its residents.

Mabe, AGZA’s founder, was on the sacred soil in Garfield Park, taking a moment to reflect on the day his organization gave a seal of approval to the city that replaced gas power equipment with electric for lawn and garden maintenance in South Pasadena parks and city-owned properties.

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Now through efforts spearheaded by Councilmember Michael Cacciotti, last October South Pasadena became one of a growing number of cities that have enacted a ban on gas-powered leaf-blowers. A continuing effort to educate homeowners and independent gardeners is currently underway, with strict enforcement for battery-use only set to begin after a thorough educational period to inform the public about the ordinance is complete.

In its continuing effort to allow gardeners and community members to make the necessary adjustments in going the all-electric, a battery-powered leaf blower demonstration, hosted by the city and AGZA, was held in Garfield Park, Mabe’s comfort zone.

He was among those, joining public works’ officials, talking proudly about South Pasadena’s lofty achievement of opening the door to becoming AGZA accredited, taking major efforts to eliminate air pollution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the use of battery-powered devices.

In a dedicated effort to go-green, pushing clean energy practices at every opportunity, the City of South Pasadena maintains all of its parks with electric equipment, from leaf blowers, mowers, hedgers to lawn trimmers.

“There’s tremendous amount of health risks associated with gas-leaf blowers,” explained Cacciotti, on the council since 2001, including five terms as mayor. “Gardeners will actually save money not having to buy gas, oil, spark plugs, filters. And the noise level of these gas-powered machines a lot of them are still using is crazy loud. Going electric will make it so much quieter. There are many, many benefits to battery-powered equipment.”

The city’s public works director, Ted Gerber, likes the idea that South Pasadena has labeled itself as one of the leaders in green innovation, and is on a clear path for protecting its residents from harmful pollutants.

“Gas-powered lawn equipment is actually one of the highest producing greenhouse gas emitters you can find, so by making this small step we can actually make a big step toward our climate action plans,” said Gerber, stressing measures taken by Cacciotti and others will help to improve the health of those in the community.

The certification process requires that AGZA- green zone cities comply with its rigorous standards for lawn care use, equipment and operation, as well as safety.

A large contingent of gardeners who work throughout the city maintaining yards for residents were busy looking and testing an assortment of leaf blowers on display at Garfield Park’s entrance area on Mission Street.

The friendly, good-natured Mabe talked about sponsored discounts, some up to 70% off on the electric tools offered through rebates by California CORE (Clean Off-Road Equipment) and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

“AGZA’s role is in engagement,” he said. “We are explaining the technology, allowing people to try it, breaking down the economics and showing individuals how it’s going to be better for their pocketbook. Of course, we talk to them about the fact that this machinery is so much quieter and the health risk issues associated with using gas-powered blowers.”

A multi-pronged approach, involving written correspondence to homes, along a digital and social media campaign were all highly effective in getting the word out to draw a large crowd to the electric leaf blower demonstration.

“It also took boots on the ground, handing gardeners information about what was taking place, talking to them about the new ordinance and urging them to try the new technology,” noted Mabe. “It’s really rewarding to see so many come together and learn about this program.”

And returning to South Pasadena, at the heart of AGZA’s roots, had special significance for Mabe, recognizing the city for truly blazing a trail.

With its official proclamation of becoming the first AGZA city nationally, South Pasadena is setting an example for cities across the country to adopt green practices at the municipal level.

The only program of its kind in the world, AGZA certifies cities, parks, golf courses and other green areas as zero emissions zones, with a goal of it going down to the zero mark someday.

PHOTO: Bill Glazier | The South Pasadenan News | With a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers in the city, a large group of independent gardeners joined community members in looking at new advances in electric models during a free demonstration last Wednesday at Garfield Park.

And it all started in familiar territory seven years ago at a park centrally located in South Pasadena, “which is internationally known,” said Mabe. “People have contacted us from Europe, Asia, Central America, asking about what we did here because they just don’t believe an entire city can go entirely electric for ground’s maintenance operations. This city has done it responsibly, studied the data, and looked at the economic outcomes.”

Cacciotti, an environmentalist in the truest sense currently serving as the vice chair for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, would agree. He recognizes the No. 1 concern about gas-powered leaf blowers boils to a person’s health.

“All the internal combustion engines these gardeners are carrying around release criteria pollutants, toxins, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons,” he said. “If you inhale those day in and day out for 10, 20, 30 years we know it causes asthma, respiratory problems, has cardiovascular impacts, is linked to cancer and many types of diseases. We can all do our part to help our planet. Going electric is the wave of the future.”

And he believes South Pasadena is among the cities standing the tallest to make it happen.