FIRST EMISSIONS FREE PARK LOCATED IN SOUTH PASADENA USES BATTERY-POWERED MOWERS, LEAF BLOWERS

By Steve Scauzillo, San Gabriel Valley Tribune and Pasadena Star-News
POSTED: 02/26/15, 7:08 PM PST

SOUTH PASADENA >> Men wearing orange vests, khaki shirts and snug green caps wielded an arsenal of power tools at Garfield Park on Thursday afternoon. 

The landscapers from Canoga Park-based TruGreen LandCare mowed the grass, blew the leaves and whacked the weeds, but they did so using only battery-electric equipment, marking the first city park in the nation to be 100 percent gas and emissions free.

“I want to let you know you are not any less macho. You are still seen as strong, hard-working men. You are doing the work in a more compassionate way for the environment, the citizens, the neighborhood and for yourselves,” Dan Mabe, founder of American Green Zone Alliance, told the crew.

The establishment of the first “green zone” park in the United States took years to pull off, Mabe said. He spent two years working with the city of South Pasadena and heavy-duty landscaping equipment makers, such as Stihl, which refined prototypes for battery-powered leaf blowers, and Mean Green Mowers, which developed zero-emission, all-electric, cordless ride-on and push mowers.

Now, he is at the point where if the products perform as designed, he can spread the program to other cities, counties and schools. South Pasadena City Councilman Michael Cacciotti, a member of the governing board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said the city will expand the program to all its parks, including the medians on Huntington Drive and Fair Oaks Avenue. The Hacienda La Puente Unified School District is considering converting some 40 campuses to green zones, he said.

“For the last hundred years, lawn maintenance practices were based on fossil fuels. The 21st Century model will now be all-electric, with lithium-ion batteries,” he said.

People enjoying the park or living in homes nearby will not be breathing in carbon monoxide or nitrogen oxide particles which contribute to lung disease and premature death, he said. The last few weeks Southern California has seen record numbers of “no-burn days” prohibiting fireplace use due to unhealthful levels of particulate smog.

Mabe said one year’s worth of zero-emission landscaping at Garfield Park will prevent the release of 80,000 pounds of greenhouse gases in one year.

“Anybody who lives in the San Gabriel Valley and is concerned about air pollution, or those that can see that film of dust on their patio furniture will like this. Anything that removes particulates is a good thing,” said South Pasadena City Councilwoman Diana Mahmud.

TruGreen worker Alfred Payes said through an interpreter the leaf-blower felt lighter and had “a little less power than the gasoline one.”

Mabe acknowledged some trade-offs, both real and sociological, like perhaps workers feeling “less macho.” But improvements, such as the mower lasting eight hours on a charge, up from four last year, helps smooth out bumps in the changeover.

The SCAQMD board adopted a $423,687 demonstration program in November. Private landscapers can borrow battery-powered equipment such as mowers and leaf-blowers for real-time testing, said Sam Atwood, SCAQMD spokesman.

Garfield Park, with its extensive, grass-covered lawn, attracts families looking for a place to lay down a blanket and take in the shade. Married couple J.G. Quintel and Cassia Streb noticed the landscapers’ equipment wasn’t putting out smelly exhaust.

“We just came from Julienne’s (Fine Foods in San Marino) and they had a gas-powered leaf blower. You could smell the fumes,” Quintel said, as baby Effie took in the surroundings.

Added Streb: “It is also better for the workers.”

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