Quietly Revving Engines

Independent/Desirée Keegan
Representativs of Mahoney Farm & Nursery check out Stihl electric chain saws and leaf blowers during a workshop at Southampton Town Hall. Independent/Desirée Keegan

The sounds of buzzing, humming, and sputtering could only faintly be heard as local lawn maintenance companies tested new tools.

That’s because American Green Zone Alliance came to town, literally. The global leader in quieter zero-emission sustainable grounds maintenance strategies is helping kick gas off local grass, and let town employees and 30-plus members from local businesses test out electric-powered equipment outside Southampton Town Hall on March 29.

The “Go Electric” workshop introduced how battery-operated technology differs from internal combustion types, featured classroom training on environmental and human-health impacts, and went into operating safety and storage and charging procedures.

The workshop was put on by AGZA and Quiet Communities, a nonprofit working toward transitioning landscape maintenance to low noise, zero-emission practices with positive solutions to protect the health of workers, children, the public, and the environment, through the efforts of Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera. Local companies like Jackson Dodds & Company, Whitmores, and Mahoney Farm & Nursery tested out electric-powered equipment from Mean Green, Stihl, and Oregon on Friday.

During the March 26 Southampton Town Board meeting prior to the workshop, the board unanimously approved Preston Scalera’s resolution to require the use of electric-powered handheld landscape maintenance equipment at municipal sites maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department. All board members signed on as co-sponsors.

Parks Director Kristen Duolos was also all for the idea. Under Preston Scalera’s leadership, tools like blowers, hedge trimmers, chain saws, and weed whackers were switched from gas to electric at the East Quogue Village Green and Town Hall over the past year.

“The green equipment totally eliminates any toxic or carcinogenic emissions. Our staff was a little skeptical at first what the performance of the equipment would be, and we’ve been very pleased with it,” Duolos said. “They really like it because of the reduced noise and emissions, the maintenance is more efficient, plus, you don’t have to change out the oil, the gasoline. And we’re coming up with criteria to move us into the future.”

After assessing 56 properties, AGZA estimates the town alone could reduce exhaust by 148,000 pounds of toxic carcinogens if it were to switch over its entire fleet to green equipment, and save roughly $41,000 a year by eliminating the need for gasoline. The company also estimates 1.5 million decibel hours of noise from all the town equipment used alone. Using green equipment reduces that by 45 to 70 percent.

Private companies could witness similar return on investment, basically “tripling the bottom line,” as Quiet Communities founder and Executive Director Jamie Banks put it, reducing noise, limiting harm to workers and others, and harm to the environment. Because of the greatly reduced noise levels, businesses in California, which work with AGZA, have been able to extend their hours to work later in the day, without bothering patrons of businesses or neighbors whose lawns and yards the companies maintain.

Preston Scalera wanted the town to get on board with the idea first before opening the idea to the public. “We had some growing pains,” she said. “We wanted to experience the equipment first so we can work out the kinks, find out what works and what doesn’t, which machines work better than others.”

Councilman John Bouvier, who is co-executive officer with the councilwoman of the Sustainable Southampton Green Advisory Committee, applauded Preston Scalera’s leadership.

“We want to set an example,” Bouvier said. “As the technology becomes more mature, we’re going to continue to make this transition, and we hope others do too.”

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