His initial efforts were successful, as South Pasadena became the first city in the United States to adopt an all electric-zero emission equipment standard for maintaining its local parks.
Taking further steps, the man with a solid environmental resume, took aim at the school board in town, urging for the same action, pushing for battery-powered ride-on mowers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, pruners and trimmers over their gas-guzzling, polluting, noisy counterparts to care for school and district properties.
That was only the beginning, as now Michael Cacciotti, who has held a seat on the South Pasadena City Council for 20 years, would like to see commercial gardeners throughout the community adhere to the same practices as those employed by the city and potentially the school district.
“It’s time, it really is, it’s time for all these entities – and I’m glad the city already is going to take a hard look at the damage being done to our environment,” said Cacciotti, who among his many roles, serves as one of 13 members on the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), representing 34 cities in the eastern region of Los Angeles County. “We have an opportunity to improve air quality, reduce operating costs for gardeners, significantly quiet the noise level in our neighborhoods and, most importantly, protect public health.”
Earlier this week, Cacciotti caught up with his own gardener, Hugo Perea, who was about to begin working around the yard of one of his 10 sites he maintains in the city. This one happened to be a house in the 400 block of Prospect Circle, where the councilmember or current mayor pro tem, introduced Dan Mabe, founder of the American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA), a global leader in zero-emission sustainable grounds maintenance strategies. The organization advocates for the transition from gas to electric operations in entire cities, schools, universities, sports facilities, golf courses, homeowner’s associations, retirement communities, hospitals, and hotels.
“We’re an industry organization whose mission is to prudently, and I want to stress prudently, to help transition the grounds maintenance industry, to lower impact quieter practices, and sustainability operations, if you will,” offered Mabe.
Seeking to convince Perea that battery-powered equipment is every bit as effective as those using gas or diesel, Mabe pulled out close to a dozen of his electric variety tools from his van before laying them on the sidewalk out in front of the Prospect Circle residence, ready for the independent gardener to give them a try. Soon after, the man who has maintained the property for about three years was busy mowing, trimming, and using hedge clippers to his liking.
“We are out here introducing these commercial electric alternatives,” said Mabe, explaining the benefits of each piece of equipment. “It’s really sometimes not enough for them to see a flyer and say, ‘Hey, I need to go electric.’ It really works when you can allow them to use these tools in their normal maintenance settings to understand the work production rate capability of these electric tools compared to the gas. We go over safety tutorials on how to operate efficiently. And then we also kind of do an overview of the cost benefit of transitioning from electric instead of using their gas tools.”
Following the demonstration Perea seemed convinced saying, “It’s good, it’s strong enough,” dismissing some theories that the electric machinery lacks the power of those using gas. “Yeah, it works well.”
Cacciotti, like he sometimes does when seeing gardeners around town working with gas-powered equipment, stressed that Perea should look into the SCAQMD’s Electric Lawn and Garden Equipment Incentive Program that exchanges older, polluting gasoline-or diesel-powered commercial lawn and garden equipment for new zero-emission, battery electric commercial grade tools.
“The program allows participants to select from a wide variety of available makes and models of commercial-grade equipment, including handheld trimmers, chainsaws, pruners, backpack and handheld blowers and ride-on, stand-on, walk-behind and even robotic mowers,” noted Cacciotti, who’s sold on the latest state-of-the art apparatus available today. “It wasn’t always like this, certainly not 10 years ago when much of this equipment started coming out. It has come a long way in its performance level. I think it’s every bit as good or better, and its benefits are undisputed when it comes improving the environment.”
Steve Mar, the homeowner on Prospect Circle, where the demonstration of battery-powered maintenance gardening tools was held, would agree. He wandered out to his front lawn area, curiously asking what was going on before Cacciotti quickly introduced himself, telling him he was a South Pasadena councilmember and SCAQMD board member simply extolling the advantages of the clean air maintenance equipment.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Mar — who serves as an urban planner for LA County — when asked if he’d like to see his gardener go all-electric with his grounds-keeping efforts. “The noise is an immediate impact with gas-powered equipment in the neighborhood, and the air pollution is another benefit [of using battery-powered tools]”
As Perea powered the electric lawnmower around Mar’s lawn, Cacciotti talked about is merits, noting it’s “barely audible compared to a gas-power mower. Plus, there are no emissions of nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds going into the filtration system in your house where you’re breathing it. The other thing is the benefit for the gardener who is not breathing pollution eight hours a day. In the long term, by going electric there’s no possible links with cancer and other respiratory illnesses. So it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Cacciotti’s next effort is to work with the city’s Natural Resources Commission and City Council to get a local ordinance passed, putting a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers and eventually all equipment of its kind throughout the city.
“You mix oil and gas, shake it up, and it’s the worst,” insisted Cacciotti. “It’s a terrible mix of pollutants. So this is a real great chance to attack one of those significant sources of pollution that’s kind of right under our nose and we don’t even realize it.”