Southampton Town is being proactive in protecting the environment, and is paving the way for the private sector and residents alike.
Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera, with the help of American Green Zone Alliance and the nonprofit Quiet Communities, will be hosting a workshop at Town Hall on Friday, March 29, on going electric with grounds maintenance equipment.
This educational component coincides with the town’s recent process of parks department personnel switching over from gas-powered technology. Last year, the town was referred to AGZA — the global leader in quieter zero-emission sustainable grounds maintenance strategies — through Quiet Communities to create a green zone at East Quogue Village Green, eventually expanding to Town Hall.
“They are the leaders,” AGZA CEO and president Dan Mabe said of the town board members who helped create the first green zone designation on the East Coast.
“What we like with Southampton versus other communities who have basically just enacted bans and ordinances outlawing gas equipment — which, we can understand their frustrations — is that they set the example first and are now going above and beyond to conduct this workshop to extend this education through outreach and resources to private companies before there is any talk of bans and restrictions,” he added.
AGZA has green-zoned the entire city of South Pasadena, CA, and works globally year-round conducting tests of products, ensuring they pass stringent testing guidelines, and training communities on why and how to use them.
The switchover impacts not only quality of life, but worker health and the environment, according to Mabe. He said on average the noise profile is 50 percent less with electric than using gas-powered equipment across the board. The CEO said when converting from a two-stroke (oil-and-gas-fueled) hedge trimmer to a commercial electric trimmer, the noise profile lessens by 70 percent.
Studies have also shown the toxins workers are exposed to, through tests where hygienic sensors were hooked up to staff members while using their equipment.
“Community health is affected as well, because if you can smell it, you’re exposed to it,” Mabe said. “On a more macro-level, there’s an environmental impact to the planet. When you have to use the chemicals and cleaners to maintain a small internal combustion engine from cradle to grave, there’s a solid-waste component to that, where there’s going to be belts, spark plugs, filters, plastic, and metal cans that really aren’t recyclable that end up in our land-waste system.”
“And then of course there’s seepage of chemicals,” he added. “The chemicals that go with using internal combustion-style equipment speak for themselves.”
All of this is eliminated when making these conversions, something Preston Scalera has been passionate about through her continuing vision toward the town’s sustainability plan adopted in 2013. She and the town are proving it isn’t being done in a vacuum. Southampton has also recently switched over to LED street lights, and banned plastic straws and polystyrene. Mabe said the town is looking to expand the green zones incrementally and prudently.
Preston Scalera added a resolution to the Southampton Town Board’s March 26 agenda, requiring this electric powered equipment at all town-owned facilities, “excluding matters of public safety.” While this transition has already occurred at most facilities, she wanted give it another push.
“This is crystalizing and reaffirming our position to lead by example,” the councilwoman said. “I want to continue to highlight what we’re doing here in the town — creating more environmentally sensitive practices. We want to continue moving the ball forward.”
“I think this action is great,” Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni said. “I love my battery-powered stuff.”
More than 45 people have already signed up for the workshop, which will be held from 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM with Mabe and Jamie Banks of Quiet Communities, Preston Scalera said. Friday’s participants will start off in the town hall meeting room for a “classroom-style” lesson that covers environmental and human-health impacts, will introduce how battery-operated technology differs from internal combustion types, will go into some operating safety, and storage and charging procedures. Then the workshop will move outside, where several manufacturers who are bringing tools will allow attendees to test them out.
The councilwoman is hoping other municipalities will join as well. She said the more in attendance, the better public-private buying power she’s hoping the town will have, adding vendors have mentioned their willingness to allow an aggregate price, a 10-percent discount, as long as a certain threshold purchase price is reached.
“That can really make a difference for somebody new or for those whose business models just don’t allow them to lay out that much money,” she said. “We’re also going to make concerted public service announcements to make sure people are working with contractors that are registered with the town so that we know they’re complying with the laws as another way to help the businesses that are playing by the rules and doing the right thing.”