It’s a step forward in protecting and enhancing the lives of residents as the City of South Pasadena has partnered with the American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA) to educate independent gardeners and the public about battery-powered lawn maintenance equipment in wake of an ordinance banning gas-powered leaf blowers that goes into effect late next year.
A workshop to help get the message out about the local governmental action was held Monday at Eddie Park in the city to assist in the conversion. Among those hand were Ted Gerber, acting public works director for the City of South Pasadena, Dan Mabe, founder of AGZA, which provides education and certification in low-impact, clean technologies in landscape maintenance strategies, and Michael Cacciotti, the city’s mayor pro tem, and strong advocate for clean air, who also serves on the board for the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
Gerber says the effort to engage with landscapers, gardeners and the public through a series of events is going well. A recent event in Garfield Park drew a large gathering and featured a 5-mile community bike ride, which included State Senator Anthony Portatino, a proponent of the battery-powered lawn maintenance movement.
“We plan on doing these events throughout 2022,” said Gerber. “We’ve had some really good feedback. We’re going to move them throughout the city, finding different pockets in order to have people come out here to see and try out the equipment.”
Social media, the city website, announcements at City Council meetings, commission meetings, through news outlets and as “we walk along city streets and pass out a flyers, talking to the gardeners about these events, we’re getting the word out,” he explained.
Office and field staff from the City of South Pasadena often stop gardeners using gas-powered equipment and “we’ll share with them what’s going on, have a brief conversation, and provide information about the next event, so they can try it out for themselves,” Gerber added, noting that some professionals in residential neighborhoods are already aware of the ordinance. From there, he said, it’s only a matter of helping select the preferred battery-powered equipment and finding the right price point.
“Sometimes we run into some who have already made the conversion and have already informed other gardeners,” said Gerber. “For the most part, people are interested in making the transition. It’s all about reaching them and getting the information they may need.”
The ban on gas-powered leaf-blowers in South Pasadena begins October 1, 2022. It’s much in line with legislation signed in October by Gov. Gavin Newsom banning the sale of gas-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers as early as 2024, along with any other equipment using small off-road engines, aka SOREs or small engine-based tools – a large source of carbon emissions and air pollution.
Gerber said residents can count on additional workshops informing the public about the ban on gas-powered leaf blowers focusing on how to transition to battery-operated.
He pointed out that the South Coast Air Quality Management District had a program offering deep discounts on battery-powered lawn equipment, but “it was so popular the funds have been expended,” he said. “So AGZA and AQMD are trying to find more funding opportunities through the state [to cut the cost of battery-powered equipment]. That’s what we’re hoping to hear more about in 2022.”
During last week’s SCAQMD monthly board meeting, Cacciotti said the agency approved another targeted federal grant of several million dollars for Riverside County and the Coachella Valley, and it continues to advocate for additional dollars for other counties through the state budget.
As $30 million goes through the process of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) among the air districts, Cacciotti says there will be money in the next several months for independent gardeners to purchase battery-powered equipment at a lower rate.
As he watched local gardeners trying an assortment of lawn equipment on display at Monday’s workshop, Cacciotti said “this is a chance for them to look at the equipment, discuss it with our experts, and try it out.”
Public health was the leading cause for the mayor pro tem to push strongly for the ordinance, which he says has gained momentum with public engagement. “We know now that this source of pollution is higher than cars,” he said. “You may not see the gases but they are nitric oxide, carbon oxide, hydro-carbons and even diesel, and we know it’s a cause for asthma. We’re concerned for the commercial gardener using this gas-powered equipment 6-8 hours per day. We just know it can’t be good for you. The cumulative affect of cars and lawn equipment has a long-term impact on our health. In the long-term it’s going to save the gardener money. It’s like the electric car which might have a higher upfront cost, but in the long-term there’s no more paying for gas, no more oil, and it’s better for the planet and people’s health.”
Cacciotti also pointed out the quieter battery-operated equipment protects a person’s hearing. “We’re working for a gardener’s health,” he insisted. “When they turn 50 or 60 and retire we don’t want them to die of cancer. We want them to enjoy their retirement.”
Cacciotti, who drives a 2001 Prius, says he’s saved $18,000 in fuel and maintenance costs over the lifetime of his car. “Not one penny has been spent in brakes,” he said. “I’ve reduced pollution by about 90 percent. You get hit a little bit up front with cost, but long term everybody benefits. It’s just like buying electric lawn equipment. It’s a little more at first but pays for itself in the long run. And, most importantly, it’s all about protecting someone’s health.”