ABOVE: Yerba Buena High School Engineering Students help celebrate the conclusion of the AGZA Green Zone certification, achieved with electric equipment from STIHL and Mean Green.
ABOVE: Yerba Buena High School Principal Huynh (R) shares Warrior pride with his students in the AGZA certification.
ABOVE: Principal Huynh (C) is flanked by (L to R) Luke Massman-Johnson, AGZA Communications Director; Chris Funk, East Side Union High School District Superintendent; Kevin Jillson, Pacific STIHL Sales Rep; Matt Sidlauskas, ESUHSD Assistant Director of Facilities, Maintenance, and Operations; Roger Silveira, ESUHSD Facilities Director; Norman Parcutilo (back) YBHS Head Gardener.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL CEREMONY SPEECH
Good morning! Thank you all for being here. I’m Luke Massman-Johnson, Co-founder of the American Green Zone Alliance. My partner Dan is truly disappointed he couldn’t be here today. He sends his deep appreciation and congratulations.
Many of you joined our AGZA presentation last fall, so you already understand the goals of this project: eliminate the noise and pollution of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment on campus by transition to low-noise zero-emission battery electric tools.
Today I’m extremely proud to officially certify this beautiful Warriors campus as the First AGZA Green Zone® High School in the entire country!
This project didn’t start with AGZA — it started with the exceptional vision and sustainability leadership of Yerba Buena High School Principal Tom Huynh and Roger Silveira, Director of Facilities for East Side Union High School District. Together with your Head Gardener Norman and the rest of their support teams, you have made this campus a living teachable moment for everyone who spends time here. Your LEED-certified student union, your solar parking structure, your student garden — and now your AGZA verified sustainable grounds maintenance.
The results have been phenomenal. Every year, your AGZA Green Zone now prevents the creation of:
• Over 4 tons of airborne pollution on campus
• Including over 3 tons of CO2 — the primary greenhouse gas
• Almost 1 ton of CO
• … and hundreds of pounds of HC, PM, and NOx — which together form smog
• Noise pollution has been slashed 40 – 70%
• And you’ve eliminated solid and toxic waste streams of gas, oil, and related parts.
You’ve also reduced hourly operational costs, which means in a couple years, the saving on gas and maintenance will more than pay for these new high-tech tools, and campus groundskeeping will actually save money for your school every year after.
But so what? What difference does one green campus really make?
Electric grounds maintenance here at Yerba Buena may not sound revolutionary. But that’s the funny thing about the first moves of deep social change — they’re only recognized in hindsight, once everyone else sees the light and runs to catch up to it.
So I would argue that it’s not just the greener campus that makes the really big difference, it’s that Yerba Buena went first, and your move will inspire change well beyond this one school.
It’s hard to overstate how important it is that someone goes first. In fact, helping organizations take that first step confidently and successfully is AGZA highest purpose.
Why would greener lawn care on campus matter to you? Because this and countless other small sustainability evolutions around the world will affect your lives in this century far more than it will anyone of my generation. And many of those revolutions will need to be driven by you.
Quick history lesson to put all this in context; in 1800 humans started burning coal. In 1900 we started burning oil. For two hundred years fossil fuels have transformed literally every aspect of society, raising the standard of living for billions of people for the past ten generations. And it has been awesome.
But we also know that air pollution from burning has become one of the gravest health risks around the world, and climate change now threatens not only our future, but the future of all life on Earth.
So we need to change. We need to change just about everything, and we need to do it really fast.
The great news is that we already have most of the ideas and technology to solve these problems. The powerful lithium batteries in your Mean Green mower and your STIHL string trimmers and hedgers and blowers are as advanced as those in a Tesla, and they can completely replace the old gas tools.
It turns out the really stubborn problem is actually just changing our minds as a society.
Humans are comfortable with what we’re used to. We’ve been burning fossil fuels to power everything in our lives for two centuries. Asking people to change their established habits is proving to be humanity’s biggest challenge — even if that change is for the better, and even when we know that continuing on as normal would be catastrophic.
Global society-wide change is going to take leadership and vision and collaboration and commitment like we haven’t seen since WWII.
The other great news is you — the next generation.
You have grown up with fossil-fuel parents like me, but you have already adopted the habits of a highly digital and electrified lifestyle. You’re not freaked out by wifi or email or solar panels or windmills like my generation was. You’ve ridden electric scooters and skateboards. You’ve probably never had a camera or listened to music that wasn’t digital. And you charge your laptops and phones every day, so you’re not intimidated by the premise of plugging in a car. In fact your first car may well be electric, and therefore you may never own a gas car in your lives!
During your high school years, you have been inventing your future lifestyle and habits. How do you and your family live and eat and shop and travel? Every choice has an impact, and the habits and expectations you form now will compound exponentially throughout your long lives.
So the more exposure you have to cleaner and greener options — like battery electric lawn care — the more likely you are to carry those home with you, and to lead a life with lower impacts and a smaller carbon footprint.
In a time of air pollution and climate change, why would we continue to use highly polluting gas hedge trimmers now that clean electric equipment is readily available? Why would we mow our grass and edge our walks and dust off our tennis courts with gas tools?
Did you know that gas hand tools like a hedge trimmer create more smog-forming pollution in a single hour than a car driving 1,200 miles from Seattle to Los Angeles? There are literally a million land care workers across the country who burn gas all day every day, using some of the most polluting machines still allowed in modern society.
But we can’t blame the workers. These are good people in hard-working crews who make our yards and parks and sports fields clean and beautiful. They’re just used to gas, and we’re used to gas, and change has gotta start somewhere.
That’s why it’s so important that Yerba Buena and East Side Union stepped up to make this transition happen. The vast majority of air pollution and greenhouse gasses have been eliminated from this campus! It’s a first and it’s important.
In closing, AGZA is keenly aware that partnerships make things possible.
Yerba Buena has invested in two of the best-performing electric tool manufacturers — Mean Green Mowers and STIHL. Without pro-grade electric tools like these, we wouldn’t be able to rid ourselves of gas. We are happy to have a STIHL rep, Kevin Jillson, here today to answer any of your questions about their tools.
Gardenland right here in Campbell, CA, is one of the nation’s largest distributors of quality battery electric tools. East Side turned to Gardenland to get these tools here on campus, and they will probably be close allies in expanding electric operations at other campuses.
Last, California Air Resources Board and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District have been supportive of zero emission technology and of AGZA’s Green Zone programs for a long time. We are proud of our strategic relationship, and look forward to supporting many other schools and cities eliminate their air pollution and greenhouse gasses from land care.
Most importantly, AGZA is optimistic that we will get to continue our collaboration with East Side Union and expand AGZA Green Zones across all thirteen East Side campuses. We expect the City of San Jose and every neighboring city in this air basin will take a serious look at the benefits of Yerba Buena’s AGZA Green Zone.
So here’s to the Yerba Buena Warriors! Huge congratulations! You are hereby officially certified as The First High School AGZA Green Zone in the Nation!
CHARGING & STORAGE
Roger and Tom have done an extraordinary job establishing sustainable infrastructure and programs for Yerba Buena. Their ambition to transition their gas grounds operations to electric didn’t stop at the purchase of the battery electric fleet. They are just completing the construction of a brand new charging and storage facility for all the electric equipment — including the 60-inch Mean Green riding mower.
One of the last verifications AGZA needed to complete for full certification was to assess the new charging and storage facility, and collect candid feedback from the grounds crew on the operation of the electric equipment over the previous six months.
Wall hooks kept all the hand tools organized and off the floor, and the workbench featured a dedicated electric line and circuit breaker for the STIHL battery chargers. The remaining floor space is sufficient to park both the STIHL push mower and the Mean Green ZTR. Since the electric fleet requires no liquid gas, carburetor cleaner, engine degreaser or other toxic chemicals, the storage room had no hazardous containers, no oil spills on the floor, and no noxious odors.
ABOVE: Pacific STIHL Sales Rep Kevin Jillson (gray shirt) helps Yerba Buena optimize the performance of their STIHL AP equipment.
As with any systemic change, the question isn’t whether issues will came up, but when and where. What’s most critical when coming across a speedbump is that it is addressed quickly and thoroughly so it doesn’t significantly compromise work production rates or the overall momentum of the gas-to-electric transition.
This is where the consulting component of AGZA Certification is of highest value. We individually shepherd commercial crews across the transition bridge and establish safe, stable, and successful electric operations on the other side.
Our final visit to YBHS is a perfect case study for the importance of AGZA’s engagement all the way across the finish line. We sought candid feedback from the grounds crew which revealed a couple compromises in tool performance, as well as in crew troubleshooting and maintenance. This is very familiar territory for AGZA — expert support is necessary even when the intention and attitude are positive and the equipment is capable.
AGZA pursued the root causes of the issues and engaging the grounds crew, the school admin, the school district facilities management, and the visiting STIHL rep to pinpoint solutions. AGZA recommended adjustments to routine tool checks and maintenance, improved communication protocol between the grounds crew and the facilities management, and tool checks with the local STIHL and Mean Green dealers while the tools are still well under their warranty period.
AGZA will continue to follow up until these last touches are resolved. Lessons learned at Yerba Buena are already being documented to create an even more streamlined transition for the next electric transition within the East Side Union High School, already under way.
AGZA APPROVED EQUIPMENT
Yerba Buena High School chose STIHL and Mean Green to build a battery-electric fleet capable of replacing all their routine gas land care operations on campus. STIHL’s AP line of hand tools and push mowers and Mean Green’s industry-leading large format mowers are both AGZA Approved lines.
Below is a reference to the full commercial-grade lineups from the two manufacturers.