by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
Noise and air pollution are two key environmental pitfalls of gas-powered lawn maintenance equipment. And they were the main reasons why the City of Sanibel has initiated its ban on gas-powered leaf blowers.
Sanibel City Council unanimously voted on June 1 to move forward with a new ordinance that would ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers effective Jan. 1, 2023. The city is among approximately 200 municipalities across the country enacting a ban or restrictions on gas-powered lawn maintenance equipment.
“Bans are sweeping the country,” said Dan Mabe, founder of The American Green Zone Alliance, who spoke Thursday, June 3 at a sustainable landscape workshop co-hosted by Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation and Committee of the Islands.
AGZA works to improve the quality of life for communities, working conditions for equipment operators and best practices for the landscape maintenance industry. The organization works with golf courses, municipalities and 30+ acre state parks in transitioning to zero-emission, battery electric equipment and people-powered tools.
Mabe explained there are barriers to leaving behind gas-powered equipment. “There is a reliance on fossil fuels, lack of awareness of today’s technology and the up-front cost of converting to low-impact operations with two to fours years for return on investment,” he said.
Justin Tethu, owner of TLS Landscape, attended the workshop on Thursday and said the up-front investment is his main concern in converting to battery electric equipment. “I can buy a gas-powered leaf blower for around $400 compared to a battery electric leaf blower at triple that cost,” he said.
Adrian Gonzalez with Island Condo Maintenance on Periwinkle Way said one of their commercial Stihl battery electric backpack leaf blowers can cost around $1,500. He said commercial sales went up when there was initial talk of Sanibel banning gas-powered leaf blowers. Now, he is seeing more residential sales of weed trimmers and leaf blowers.
Marbo suggested landscape companies purchase a suite of tools instead of replacing their entire fleet of equipment at once to reduce the up-front cost. He also suggested up-charging clients when battery electric tools are used for the job.
Tony Sarlo, president of Sarlo Power Mowers, was among the companies providing demonstrations of zero-emission landscape equipment at the workshop. He had on-hand two Mean Green mowers and said in addition to lower noise and air pollution, this type of mower requires little to no maintenance compared to gas-powered mowers.
Transitioning away from gas-powered lawn equipment to battery electric equipment and people-powered tools, such as rakes, will result in substantial reductions in harmful emissions, noise pollution, fuel spillage, chemical and solid waste, and improve worker and public health.
Sanibel is taking the first step in that transition with leaf blowers. There is currently restrictions on hours of operation and there will be a first reading on the ban ordinance in July with a second reading, when public comments will be heard, in August.