By Rachel Bosworth
Growing concerns of climate change and the health of the environment have pushed various industries to take a closer look at how their practices may be adding to the pollutants that lead to negative effects in people, communities, and on a wider scale, the planet. Gas powered lawn equipment is known for creating noxious fumes and noise, and yet has been an essential tool to the landscaping business. As the need to embrace a conservation ethic becomes more pertinent, businesses like Jackson Dodds and Company are evolving their practices to lower their impact on the environment.
American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA) has identified the six worst impacts of gas-powered lawn equipment; emissions, gas and oil consumption, solid waste, toxic waste, noise pollution, and health. Citing these dangers, AGZA aims to educate companies and the public, promote cordless eclectic and manual equipment, and help implement strategies to create zero-emission Green Zones. New to the member-based organization, Jackson Dodds and Company recently received their AGZA certification and accreditation in zero-emission landscape maintenance strategies.
“Our business is still growing, and a few years ago, we needed to make a decision on new equipment for the mowing and maintenance division,” says company president Jackson Dodds. “At the time, I had always heard about electric equipment but hadn’t heard many good things.” Mr. Dodds cites the machines were often reported to be underpowered, didn’t last, or were prone to blowing up, feedback he even got from distributors.
Doreen Johnston, who handles the sales and marketing for the company, attended Cornell Cooperative Extension’s annual seminar on managing landscapes sustainably shortly after joining Jackson Dodds and Company in 2015. Jamie Banks, executive director of the non-profit organization Quiet Communities, was the guest speaker, and while Ms. Johnston recalls the presentation being great, many of the landscapers in attendance were defending the gas-powered machines. “There is a predisposed notion that electric equipment is higher priced,” she explains. “In some respects that is true, but in the long run it pays for itself. The amount of gas and maintenance alone is a much higher cost. Battery-powered is so straightforward and the lifespan of the battery is something like five to ten years, depending on how you maintain it.”
Ms. Johnston began to research the different options, and discovered Mean Green electric mowers, and later, Greenworks as she looked for blowers that were low weight and efficient. After meeting AGZA founder Dan Mabe, Ms. Johnston approached Mr. Dodds about the different initiatives the company should take that would be beneficial both internally and externally. The electric and battery powered equipment was user friendly and easier to operate than traditional gas-powered products. The previously assumed risk that zero-emissions products would lose their ability was righted with these updated products. “I think the education piece is so important,” Ms. Johnston says. “How do we educate landscape companies to move toward this initiative and also get homeowners to drive it?”
Municipalities have gotten onboard as well. East Quogue is one of the first AGZA certified Green Zones in the eastern United States. Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera advocated for the designation at the East Quogue Village Green, which celebrated with a dedication ceremony this past June in partnership with Quiet Communities. As stated in a press release, the establishment of this Green Zone is a starting point to test innovative equipment and techniques that would improve the quality of life for residents.
Both Mr. Dodds and Ms. Johnston say that the full-time resident clients request electric equipment because they are tired of listening to the noise, especially when there can be multiple jobs going on at any given time on one street. Blowers themselves also cause a lot of destruction as particulate matter gets kicked up into the air. While Jackson Dodds and Company requires their workers to attend safety meetings every week, landscaping companies are not required to have their employees follow certain safety guidelines as they are not protected under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA).
SUNY Stony Brook Professor of Preventative Medicine and co-chair of a New York Chapter of the Environmental Health Committee at the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Lucy Weinstein, and co-founder of Citizens Appeal for Leaf Blower Moderation, Bonnie Sager, have shared the use of leaf blowers can increase the risk of respiratory disease, cardiovascular harm, risk of cancer, asthma, and even an increased risk of dementia in both workers and those in the area. Small, young children are also at great risk as they are closer to the ground and breathe at a faster rate, increasing the toxic fumes inhaled.
Mr. Dodds says benefits to using electric-powered equipment also include no spillage of fuel, less or no emissions, and less particulate matter in the air; all things people are concerned about. “People don’t buy into it right away,” explains Mr. Dodds. “They have to see results. I’m guilty of it too, but now I wouldn’t go back. We like to think of ourselves as leaders in the industry and want to continue that.”
For more information on Jackson Dodds & Company, Inc., visit jacksondoddsinc.com.