As a member of a gardening landscape company responsible for maintaining the city’s parks zipped around on an a battery-powered sit down mower, Michael Cacciotti talked about South Pasadena’s commitment to protecting the environment.
The 19-year local city councilmember, serving as mayor pro tem for the fourth time over that span, was a man on a mission five years ago when South Pasadena became the first city in the nation to go all-electric when maintaining its municipal parks.
At the time, Cacciotti, who spearheaded the achievement, knew it was a big step. Enlisting support from the American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA), an organization committed to improving quality of life for communities, working conditions for operators, and best practices for the landscape maintenance industry, Cacciotti has been at the center of the city’s transitioning efforts from fossil fuel based operations for municipal grounds maintenance to advanced cordless battery equipment, manual tools, and ecologically friendly landscape practices. “As a result, the city has been able to eliminate all fossil fuel consumption and toxic emissions, and has reduced noise by half,” said the environmentalist, who also is a board member for the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
As the mower made its way around in the city’s Garfield Park, the good-natured councilmember, joined by South Pasadena city representatives and LandCare officials, a Rosemead firm given the task of maintaining parks throughout town, greeted those walking past the group, some curious, walking dogs on leashes.
“We’re demonstrating the newest version of electric-powered equipment to keep our residents safe,” he told one, pleased by what he’s seen in technological advances made over the years. “It’s great for our community.”
Along with the mower, Dan Mabe, founder and president of AGZA, brought out other low-impact landscape maintenance equipment, including a leaf-blower, trimmer and a hedge clipper, for LandCare workers to try. The company recently earned a two-year extension on its contract to keep city parks in top shape.
“This is the newest generation of advanced commercial electric lawn equipment,” said Cacciotti, proudly saying Garfield Park was the first park first municipal park in the country to be maintained entirely by gas free, electric commercial lawn equipment. Further, in 2016, the entire city became the first municipality in the United States to be AGZA certified, which means all city-owned properties are maintained entirely by advanced non-polluting, commercial electric lawn equipment.
“When we started this program, becoming the first in the city to go electric back in 2015, we started with the best at the time, much like electric cars, and what we have out here is just year’s advanced. There’s much better battery technology, ergonomic design. It’s comfortable for the workers, a little quieter than the early machines, and we’ve made enormous growth in advancements.”
As part of the contract, it calls for LandCare to invest in up-to-date electric commercial tools. “The equipment they are currently using is getting a little bit older, and so it’s important to re-evaluate their needs every few years and make necessary upgrades as the technology improves,” said Cacciotti, who has served four times as mayor in the city. “Unlike gas-powered equipment where parts break down and you’re paying for carburetors, filters etc., with electric-powered equipment there’s little that breaks. Over the life of the equipment it can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in gas and oil, and the decibel levels are significantly less.”
Through the South Coast Air Quality Management Commercial Exchange Program, Mabe said individuals and gardening maintenance companies can trade in their old gas tools and receive new state-of-the-art battery commercial-electric equipment for nearly 70 percent off retail. “It’s just a great program,” he noted.
Cacciotti was joined during the battery-powered demonstration in Garfield Park by Mabe; Garrett Crawford, the city’s public works operations manager; Sheila Pautch, South Pasadena’s community services director, Natali Guadarrama-Plotner, the production manager for LandCare, and members of her work crew.
A sign marking the city’s achievement five years ago greets visitors as they enter Garfield Park on the south end, signifying the City of South Pasadena becoming the first city in the nation to become a AGZA Green Zone City, touting it’s “greener than ever! No more noisy, polluting gas equipment in parks.”
It’s an effort Cacciotti takes immense pride in as communities elsewhere are taking notice. “We’re changing habits and cultures throughout the United States,” he said. “USC is on board, along with other cities and school districts. Commercial gardeners are also buying into it. It’s great to see so many make use of the next generation in commercial electric lawn equipment.”
And the concept proudly started in South Pasadena.
“That’s right,” said a smiling Cacciotti. “We can all take pride in that. It’s a great accomplishment for our city.”