It was back in elementary school some 50 years ago when Michael Cacciotti first took an interest in the environment.
“I’ve been fascinated since I was a kid,” he said, recalling his early childhood. “I would use the same paper bag everyday to pack my lunch until it wore out. That’s when I learned the importance of not wasting anything. I don’t know why, it just started one day.”
Not only is waste reduction among his top priorities today, but Cacciotti is a strong advocate of clean air, electric vehicles, and preserving open space, along with his latest crusade which has gained solid support from the South Pasadena City Council. For more than a year, Cacciotti, the council’s mayor pro tem, has pushed for a ban on the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in the city. A second reading cemented it last Wednesday, making it official for the ordinance to go into effect on October 1, 2022.
Now the task is to get the word out about the ban. Cacciotti joined city staff, including City Manager Arminé Chaparyan, community members, a city commissioner, a media representative and others at a meeting Thursday to launch a comprehensive outreach program designed to educate residents and independent gardeners about the impact of the ordinance. The first effort comes up on Wednesday, September 15, when the City of South Pasadena will host an electric leaf blower demonstration at Garfield Park. Interested parties are encouraged to stop by anytime from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to test the electric counterpart to gas-power and learn about the non-air-polluting machines.
“We want to get people out there to experience firsthand the value this new equipment will make on their health and well-being and see just how beneficial it can be,” explained Cacciotti, adding that a major event to roll out the outreach program is also in the works for a Saturday in November “with gardeners, families further promoting the clean equipment, recognizing that is comparable if not better than gas-powered devices, with much better health effects. We don’t realize what comes out of these internal combustion engines, gas-powered blowers, and that they are major contributors of air pollution – nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, particulate matter – all producers of smog. Getting people out and seeing the effectiveness of battery-operated leaf blowers is key.”
Among those at the outreach meeting inside the South Pasadena City Council chambers was Dan Mabe, founder of the American Green Zone Alliance, who demonstrated the power behind a battery-operated leaf blower. “The technology behind these newer machines is just amazing,” said Cacciotti, noting they are every bit a good as gas-powered models while offering far better health benefits. “They’re so much better than those just a few years ago.”
The South Coast Air Quality Management District, which Cacciotti serves as a board member, offers incentive programs and significant discounts on electric devices, including leaf blowers and mowers.“We want to move our robust outreach effort to promote these programs,” he explained, “because the AQMD is taking 75% off this equipment. No longer will our local gardeners and residents be using gas, filters, and sparkplugs. A hard-working gardener could save up to $1,000 a year by switching over from gas to electric with just one piece of equipment.”
South Pasadena officials plan to educate all stakeholders about the new ordinance, not only at the electric leaf blower demonstration on September 15 in Garfield Park and a fall Saturday family event, but they look to get the word out through the creation of a webpage dedicated to the ban, by distributing information about it in the city e-newsletter, through the distribution of flyers, at the weekly farmers market, city departments – the local library, police and fire department, City Hall – newspaper ads and other means.
“We want everybody to know about this ban,” stressed Cacciotti. “This ordinance took a long time to get through the NREC (Natural Resource and Environmental Commission) and now the City Council, and I’m so pleased. The multiple beneficial impacts of banning gas-powered leaf blowers is long overdue and I’ve heard mostly strong support from our residents. The time is now and I’m happy for it because pollution knows no boundaries.”