i congratulate the city of south pasadena for becoming the first city in the nation to maintain their parks one hundred percent gas and emissions free. south pasadena is paving the way for other cities to follow when it comes to protecting the environment.
— Chris Holden, California Assemblymember, 41st Assembly District

South Pasadena takes the lead in sustainable grounds maintenance strategies on all municipal properties.

The City of South Pasadena is the first AGZA Green Zone® City in the United States. The American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA) officially certified the City’s municipal-wide transition to green groundskeeping operations at a public ceremony on September 9, 2016, in the City’s beautiful Arroyo Park. AGZA Green Zone City certification ensures that grounds maintenance on all municipal properties — mowing, hedging, edging, trimming, sawing, and blowing — are serviced exclusively with low-noise zero-emission battery-electric machinery and manual hand tools.

The results are astounding. The city’s 13 properties and medians span 41 acres, with 20 acres of mowing, 15 acres of blowing hardscapes, an acre of hedge surface trimming, and over 7 miles of edging. The transition from antiquated gas to cutting-edge electric instantly eliminated all of the hazardous emissions created by internal combustion engines: Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and Particulate Matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5). AGZA has calculated that South Pasadena’s new electric equipment is preventing the creation of 31 tons of airborne pollutants into the local community every year.

In recognition of their groundbreaking sustainability efforts the City has been awarded the 2016 California Park & Recreation Society (CPRS) Creating Community Award of Excellence for Park and Facility Maintenance Management.

In The Beginning

The first time is always the hardest, and being the first municipality to transition its entire grounds maintenance operations from gas to electric required strong leaders, proactive partners, and deep commitment. This achievement caps more than three years of collaboration between AGZA, the City, and the grounds maintenance service provider Landcare (formerly TruGreen Landcare). This endeavor also benefited from key alignment at City Council, and support from the SCAQMD (South Coast Air Quality Management District). Among the most important allies within the City were Mayor Michael Cacciotti, City Manager Sergio Gonzales, Public Works Director Paul Toor, P.E., and Community Services Director Sheila Pautsch. Sheila inherited the project mid-development, became a true believer, and championed the initiative across the finish line for the City.

South Pasadena's AGZA Green Zone initiative got its start in a series of equipment demonstrations by AGZA and their partner The Greenstation, an LA-based electric equipment dealer. AGZA introduced the City, the SCAQMD, and TruGreen’s branch manager Joe Espinoza to the latest cordless electric equipment from Mean Green Machines and Stihl, showcasing the technology, features, and performance, as well as the potential health and environmental benefits. The cutting edge electric tools and the promise of quieter, zero-emission land care were compelling, but of course the City and TruGreen needed proof. So with SCAQMD’s support, AGZA and The Greenstation pulled together a commercial-grade electric fleet for a trial at Garfield Park. 

Over the course of 6 months, AGZA and TruGreen compared their Exmark 60-inch zero-turn gas mower against the Mean Green 60-inch zero-turn lithium-ion battery-powered mower. AGZA closely monitored the crew’s operations — from charging and battery management, to on-the-ground tool efficiencies and run times — and the results were inspiring. Some electric hand tools, like hedgers, show virtually zero change in work production rates from gas. Others, like string trimmers and push mowers revealed a 5% - 15% reduction in performance and require slight adjustments to operational planning. With AGZA’s training, Espinoza’s crew reported that work production rates for the large electric riding mower rose to as high as 98% of their historical gas operations. On the other hand, workers who were not properly trained could have issues with charging procedures, trouble shooting, and operation. AGZA helped navigate these details to allow for a streamlined and effective electric crew.

The First AGZA Green Zone

Satisfied with proof-of-concept, South Pasadena approved the development of the nation’s first municipal AGZA Green Zone at Garfield Park, a pristine 7 acre public property nestled in a quiet upscale neighborhood. Based on the equipment trial, AGZA suggested a few operational changes and submitted recommendations for final equipment purchases that would allow Landcare to perform all routine maintenance with 100% electric equipment. AGZA also consulted with the City to update their RFP for the grounds maintenance contract. For the first time the City would require that all bidding service providers use only zero-emission battery electric equipment and hand tools on all routine maintenance. In specific cases where no commercially-capable electric equipment existed, as with dethatching and aeration, exceptions were allowed for the use of gas equipment two or three times a year.

The new RFP meant that if TruGreen wanted to renew their contract at South Pasadena, they’d need to invest in an electric fleet. Despite having just proven the performance and benefits of electric to themselves in Garfield Park, TruGreen’s corporate leadership was conspicuously resistant to greening their services in South Pasadena. Presumably, with a very large investment in gas fleets across the country, they were reluctant to engage in the coming electric revolution. Whatever the reason, TruGreen chose not to heed AGZA’s full recommended equipment list or formalized AGZA Service Provider Accreditation, and predictably, the under-equipped and partially trained crew found it challenging to keep the equipment running efficiently and to maintain production rates. To ensure the nascent project was still a success, AGZA and The Greenstation shouldered additional crew monitoring, field maintenance, and technical support.

With dogged commitment and managerial support from Mayor Cacciotti and Community Services Director Pautsch, AGZA was able to demonstrate that Garfield Park could be maintained entirely with battery-electric equipment and a crew trained to optimize those tools. The transition from inefficient internal combustion gas engines to super efficient electric motors instantly eliminated all hazardous emissions during operations. The health and environmental hazards that are prevented for the workers and community are hard to overstate: stress and aggravation, hearing loss and tinnitus, asthma, bronchitis, lung disease, hypertension, vibration syndrome, cancer, toxic chemicals leeching in the soil and water, smog, greenhouse gases and climate change.

In February 2016, The City of South Pasadena and AGZA hosted a public celebration and media event to celebrate the certification of the nation’s first zero-emission AGZA Green Zone Park (more > and The City and AGZA each received a Congressional Recognition for their initiative. Representatives from the City, state, and environmental organizations praised the model program and encouraged the efforts be expanded to cover the entire city. City leadership already had their eyes on the prize.

How AGZA Creates Its Green Zones

1.   Inventory Gas Operations

2.   Evaluate Environmental Impacts

3.   Determine Health Risks

4.   Define the Green Zone

5.   Design Equipment Fleet

6.   Establish Facilities

7.   Train and Accredit Crew

8.   Optimize Operations

9.   Certify the Green Zone

10. Celebrate Success!

Scaling Success

Over the following year, AGZA and The Greenstation continued to nurture TruGreen’s experience with the all-electric contract. Challenges were discovered and overcome, lessons were learned, and understanding was refined. AGZA collected feedback from the workers and shared it with the City and with the equipment manufacturers. And despite still being under-equipped per AGZA’s full tool recommendations, the newly rebranded Landcare crew developed the capacity to service the City’s entire municipal properties.

In the end AGZA monitored all crew operations and equipment run-times with electric equipment on each of the City’s 13 properties and 65 planted medians. AGZA merged their data with proprietary satellite mapping and meticulous EPA tables of small engine emissions to document just how much difference AGZA Green Zoning was making for the community.

AGZA calculated that South Pasadena’s city-wide Green Zone is eliminating the emission of 31 tons of airborne pollutants at every park, playground, sports field, and median, as well as at the library, senior center, and city hall. More specifically, this initiative actively prevents the annual creation of 26 tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 7.5 tons of Carbon Monoxide (CO), 911 lbs of hydrocarbons (HC), 137 lbs of particulate matter (PM 2.5 and PM 10), 124 lbs of Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), 194 lbs of toxic waste, and 140 lbs of solid waste — all while being 40% to 70% quieter throughout the City.

South Pasadena’s families, schools, and businesses will enjoy more peaceful public spaces, and city grounds maintenance will no longer contribute to asthma-inducing air pollutants, local smog or climate change. The City’s grounds crews won’t be exposed to hazardous noise levels, toxic fuel, carcinogenic fumes, or hand-numbing vibrations. The local water and soil will no longer absorb fuel and oil spills. And spent air and oil filters, spark plugs, and leaking cans of cleaning solvents will no longer pollute the landfill.

Honoring The Achievement

At a media event last September AGZA officially certified South Pasadena as the first AGZA Green Zone® City in the United States. For the second time the City and AGZA each received a Congressional Recognition, and representatives from the City and state praised the milestone collaboration. (more > and

“In keeping with our pledge to become a more sustainable city, South Pasadena worked with AGZA to transition municipal grounds maintenance from fossil fuel based operations 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.”

~ Michael Cacciotti, Mayor of the City of South Pasadena, and Governing Board Member of the South Coast AQMD

Speakers from the Sierra Club, American Lung Association, Coalition for Clean Air, and Quiet Communities all connected the dots between gas emissions and some of our nation’s most intractable health and environmental problems. The AGZA Green Zone model was held up as a practical and achievable solution with myriad benefits to workers, the community, local air quality, and the climate.

To raise awareness of the greener land care and increase sustainable thinking throughout the community, the City posted informational AGZA Green Zone markers at each property. Further, prominent signs of the City’s leadership status as the nation’s first AGZA Green Zone City are displayed at the major entrances to the City.

A few months later CPRS also honored the City's groundbreaking sustainability achievement with their Award of Excellence for Park and Facility Maintenance Management. 


Despite its achievements, South Pasadena isn’t resting on its laurels. Community Services Director Pautsch continues to lead the City in partnership with AGZA. For the past year they have been applying the Green Zone model to bring quieter, cleaner grounds maintenance to the fairways and greens of the City’s own Arroyo Seco Golf Course.

In collaboration with Donovan Bros., LLC, the course managers and grounds crew, AGZA and the City have tested specialized equipment, monitored crews, and collected feedback. AGZA’s recommended electric tool fleet has been ordered, including a Jacobsen 3-gang electric reel mower and a non-electric Tier 4 compliant tractor to pull the 5-gang fairway reel mower. A formal ribbon-cutting ceremony at the nation’s first AGZA Green Zone Golf Course should take place this Spring.

Meanwhile, AGZA will also be celebrating the certification of the first AGZA Green Zone on the East Coast in Southampton, NY. And AGZA Green Zone initiatives are in various stages of development in several cities along the East and West Coast, as well as in Chicago.

The future of landcare certainly looks quieter, cleaner, and greener.



AGZA Recognized by Congress, CERTIFICATES ALL 'ROUND

Becky Cheng, representing the office of U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu, presented AGZA and The City of South Pasadena with Certificates of Congressional Recognition. AGZA Green Zone signs were installed at the 3 main park entrances. And AGZA acknowledged the critical support and collaboration of Councilmember Cacciotti with a certificate of appreciation. Huzzah!



TruGREEN LandCare's Garfield Park Crew: 
The Future Of Sustainable Grounds Maintenance

Take a look — the future of quieter, cleaner, healthier lawn care is on the ground today. Making real and lasting change takes vision and commitment, but as soon as you begin reaping all the benefits of a truly sustainable long term strategy, you can't imagine going back.

AGZA is grateful to TruGreen LandCare for taking the leap, investing not only in the health and future of their workers and their business, but in a harmonious community and a sustainable planet.




In anticipation of February's landmark AGZA Green Zone dedication, we grabbed our video gear to shoot some promo footage of TruGreen's AGZA Certified operation at Garfield Park. What we didn't expect is that while we were running around manually shooting with our 'better' cameras, our tripod-mounted iPhone was generating some of the most compelling footage in time-lapse.

Back at the AGZA Lab we threw some titles, transitions, and a playful soundtrack over the footage and suddenly found ourselves with a great little promo spot worth sharing with our colleagues, strategic partners, and future allies.

Trivia Time

Q:  If a picture's worth a thousand words, and we captured one picture every half-second for 2 hours ... what's that worth?  A:  Apparently 14.4 million words! For comparison, War and Peace, one of the longest novels ever written, contained only 587,287 words. To be fair to Tolstoy, I don't think it's likely our art will go as viral as his did! But to be fair to us, I guess we won't know for another 150 years. Tolstoy didn't try to take on the entire oil and gas economy, now did he? Stay tuned ... AGZA might just come out ahead : )




Powerful. Quiet. Emission-free. And all-day battery life. We've got only one question: Why isn't this machine servicing every park in the country? We're here to make that happen.