TAKING ACTION:  STRATEGIES FOR REDUCING GHG EMISSIONS  FROM LAWN CARE EQUIPMENT IN VERMONT

December 2019

INTRODUCTION:

Vermonters are rightfully demanding action from elected officials to address climate change through legislation and policies to reduce the use of fossil fuels and related greenhouse gas emissions. And while these actions at the state and federal level are crucial, there are also significant opportunities for action that can be taken in our own homes, our businesses and in our local communities.  These opportunities include investing in renewable energy and energy conservation projects, increasing the accessibility and use of public transportation, e-bicycle commuting, and the use of EV and plug-in electric automobiles and buses.

LAWN CARE PRACTICES – AN OPPORTUNITY TO REDUCE GHG EMISSIONS “HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT”

Although there are tens of thousands of lawn mowers and related lawn care tools operating in Vermont that are consuming hundreds of thousands of gallons of gas and diesel annually, the need to transition to electric lawn care practices is only beginning to be addressed.  There’s a variety of reasons for this, but one is that few people are aware of how much fuel this equipment actually consumes.  For example, a typical gas or diesel lawn mower operated for 600 hours per year consumes between 600 and 900 gallons of fuel per year, which generates between 10,000 to 18,000 lbs (6 to 9 tons) of CO2.  For comparison, an automobile averaging 25 mpg and driven 10,000 miles annually, will consume 400 gallons of gasoline.

Fortunately, there’s also been some progress made regarding the transition to electric lawn care equipment in Vermont, including incentives for both commercial and residential electric mowers recently created by Vermont’s electric utilities including Green Mt Power, Burlington Electric Department (BED), Vermont Electric Department, and Washington Electric Department.  Many homeowners have already made the switch and discovered the advantages of electric push mowers and related lawn care tools.  There are also now four lawn care contractors using electric equipment, and electric mowers have been purchased by BED, the VT Dept of Forestry, Parks and Recreation, and one homeowners association.

STEPS TO INCREASE THE USE OF ELECTRIC LAWN CARE EQUIPMENT AT THE LOCAL LEVEL:

Collect Pertinent Data and Information:

  1. Does your school, city or town, place of worship, golf course, etc. do their own mowing, or hire contractors?
  2. What makes/models of gas-powered lawn mowers and tools are used (e.g. string trimmers, debris blowers, etc.)?
  3. How many hours are those mowers and tools being operated annually?
  4. How much fuel do these mowers and tools consume hourly and yearly?
  5. How much is spent on fuel?
  6. How much CO2 is associated with burning this volume of fuel?
  7. How much is spent on service and repair of these mowers and tools annually?
  8. What electric alternatives are available for these mowers and tools?
  9. How much would these electric mowers and tools cost to purchase (including utility incentives)?
  10. How much electricity would those electric mowers and tools consume if operated for the same number of hours?
  11. How much would that electricity cost?
  12. How much CO2 is associated with that amount of electricity?
  13. How much money could be saved from the lower cost of electricity versus gas, and lower service and repair costs with electric mowers and tools?

Develop and Implement a Strategy to Begin the Transition to Electric Lawn Care Practices

  1. Enlist the support/guidance of local and national advocacy organizations such as Quiet Communities, American Green Zone Alliance, VT Clean Cities Coalition, VECAN, Energy Action Network (EAN), Sierra Club, local energy committees, city councilors/selectmen, organizational board members and administrators, fellow students, residents, organizational members, etc.
  2. Organize equipment demonstrations (aka “demos”) with the participation of a wide a range of community members to help build momentum for change.
  3. Identify the administrative/budgetary process through which lawn care equipment is purchased or contracts let.
  4. Identify the potential resistance and barriers to the purchase or use of electric lawn care equipment (e.g. higher purchase price, competitive bidding requirements, resistance from maintenance/grounds keeping staff, etc.).
  5. Develop and circulate a proposal to purchase or use of electric lawn care equipment that both includes strategies to overcome the expected resistance and also highlights the benefits (e.g. reduced GHG emissions, lower operating costs, quieter, zero tailpipe emissions, etc.).