ojai will soon become the nation's second AGZA green zone® city
On Thursday, August 2nd the tranquil City of Ojai, CA hosted a ceremony to celebrate the purchase of a new commercial fleet of electric grounds maintenance equipment. The groundbreaking sustainability investment was made possible by a grant from the Clean Air Advisory Fund through the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District (VCAPCD).
Like over a hundred other cities across the country, Ojai has been suffering from a contentious gas leaf-blower debate since they enacted a residential gas leaf-blower ban in 1999. There has been no effective enforcement mechanism nor did there seem to be any reasonable alternative to gas equipment. (Brooms and rakes are ideal for some residential properties, but they are not a practical solution for commercial and municipal crews, or the elderly, or those with larger properties.)
But in just the past five years — thanks to cell phones, laptops, and electric cars — incredible advances in lithium-battery chemistry and technology have dramatically increased the power, performance, and run-times of cordless electric lawn and garden tools. In fact the top-of-the-line equipment are now achieving gas-like performance even in all-day commercial settings — except they are quieter, cleaner, simpler, and much more cost-effective over time.
From now on, all routine maintenance of municipal properties throughout the City will be performed exclusively with the AGZA-recommended low-noise zero-emission equipment. The transition will slash noise levels by 40% - 70% and completely eliminate smog-forming pollution, carcinogenic particulate matter, and greenhouse gasses during operations.
CO2 Carbon Dioxide
CO Carbon Monixide
PM Particulate Matter
NOx Oxides of Nitrogen
As part of the first major AGZA Green Zone initiative in Ventura County, the event drew inspirational speeches, praise and acknowledgements from political leaders, key allies, stakeholders and sustainability organizations in the region, and state agencies from as far as Sacramento.
- Johnny Johnston: Mayor of the City of Ojai
- Monique Limón: Democratic Assemblymember 37th District (Santa Barbara)
- Mike Villegas: Air Pollution Control Officer, Ventura County APCD and President, California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA)
- Christopher Dilbeck, PhD: Air Pollution Specialist, California Air Resources Board (CARB)
- Brian Miller: Chief of Staff to District 3 Ventura County Board of Supervisors Kelly Long
- Brian Brennan: Administrative Assistant to District 1 Board of Supervisors Member Steve Bennett
- Mike Stubblefield: Chair VCAPCD Hearing Board and Clean Air Advisory Fund; active member and Past-President of Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter
- Tod Cossairt: Executive Director, Ojai Valley Green Coalition
- Greg Grant: Ojai City Engineer and Director of Public Works
- Randy Haney: Ojai City Council Member, Commissioner for the City of Ojai Parks and Recreation Department, and owner of Haney Landscaping in Ojai
- Dan Mabe: Founder and CEO of American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA)
One of the most important yet often overlooked keys to a successful transition to electric is the attitude and acceptance of the crew. Every property and grounds operation is different and no one knows the unique challenges and efficiencies of their job better than those with boots on the ground and tools in their hands.
AGZA knows from a decade of collaboration with commercial and municipal grounds workers that crews need to be included in the transition conversation, their experience and wisdom respected, their ideas engaged, and any resistance listened to.
Over the past year Ojai's crew has been a case-study in cooperation and receptivity.
They were candid about their initial hesitation and assumptions and honest about their concerns. They engaged with AGZA in multiple equipment demos and hands-on equipment trials from multiple manufacturers. They reported what tools and strategies worked well and what would need operational adjustment.
tools, testing, and training
Ojai's Public Works Crew maintains over 52 acres of Ojai properties in year-round dry conditions, with summer temperatures soaring well over 100˚. Their challenges include regular tree work plus storm cleanup, and an intense and critical 10-week weed-abatement program in the Spring to mitigate fire risk.
AGZA documented Ojai's entire gas fleet, monitored their gas productivity, confirmed the crews operational needs, and weighed their feedback from the electric tool trials. From this AGZA recommended a tool matrix and battery bank sufficient to update their entire routine maintenance operation with battery electric.
Once the new tools were procured and on the ground, the crew received AGZA's
hands-on training, advice on safe and efficient operation, and charging strategies. They also attended AGZA's educational presentation, covering the myriad health and environmental hazards from gas equipment, the many ancillary benefits of electric tools, and the holistic value of adopting a much more sustainable grounds operation.
For the past eight years there has been literally only one name in commercially-capable electric riding mowers with all-day performance: Mean Green Mowers. The Ohio-based manufacturer has been the only one building large-format professional ZTRs, platform mowers, and walk-behinds. And luckily for all of us, despite there being no competition, Mean Green's products have always been incredibly well built, powerful, and cost-effective.
The City of Ojai purchased a 60" Mean Green ZTR (CXR-60) and a 33" Mean Green Walk-Behind (WBX-33HD).
For the handheld tools AGZA had recommended and demonstrated comparable lineups of Greenworks 82V Commercial and Stihl's 36V AP Series. Over a number of years both lines have proven themselves as among the best in E-OPE (electric outdoor power equipment) with professional crews.
Each manufacturer's line offers different advantages in features and performance over the other, and it came down to personal preference for Ojai. Having used Stihl gas chain saws for many years the Public Works Department and crew ended up committing to Stihl for their new battery lineup as well.
THE GREEN ZONE
The equipment roll-out is one of the major phases in the broader AGZA Green Zone® City certification, which will be completed this fall and celebrated in another ceremony. Defining the AGZA Green Zone requires a careful assessment of every property maintained by the City crew. Our proprietary mapping process merges city zoning and plot maps with interactive GIS mapping techniques to reveal the number and size of all properties and features included in the Green Zone.
Ojai Public Works Yard
Ojai Rec Dept
Rotary Community Park
Daly Ranch Park
Ojai Skate Park
Lot 1 Weed Abatement
Lot 2 Weed Abatement
Community Demo Garden
TOTAL ACRES SERVICED
Many leaders, decision-makers, and allies came into alignment to make Ojai's landcare more sustainable, but AGZA would like to extend a special appreciation to Steve Colomé who had the vision, intelligence, strategy, and commitment to get it started and to enroll AGZA in the first place. Thank you Steve!
We're also grateful to Stan Cowen, grant manager for the VCAPCD Clean Air Advisory Fund, as well as his colleagues in the Clean Air Fund Advisory Committee and the Air Pollution Control Board, who saw the value and benefits of helping Ojai invest in a low-noise, zero-emission electric fleet and in AGZA Green Zone® City Certification.
If sustainable grounds maintenance is going to scale throughout the region and beyond, it is essential that this success story be covered professionally and shared widely. AGZA is grateful for the excellent interviews and reporting by Lance Orozco, News Director of NPR affiliate KCLU. You can read and listen to Lance's thorough coverage of the Ojai Electric Equipment Rollout here, or at the link below.
We'd also like to thank Ojai photographers Steve Adams and Mark Tovar for sharing their outstanding photos of the event with AGZA. A number of their images are included in the slideshows above, each credited accordingly.
Stephen Adams Photo
PHONE: (805) 205-4661
AGZA looks forward to monitoring the performance of the new electric equipment over the next couple months, and to compiling a final Health and Environmental Impact Report for the City of Ojai in anticipation of completing the AGZA Green Zone® City Certification this fall.