Sustainability Workshop With AGZA, NALP & Others Held In NJ

Landscapers try out an electric Mean Grower mower at a workshop on sustainability and electric equipment.

 

It was a beautiful day to learn about battery power. Yesterday, Turf attended a sustainable land care certification workshop held in Chester, NJ, discussing topics such as soil, organics, native plants, changing client expectations, and the transition to battery powered equipment.

“We’re trying to anticipate what the direction over the next decade will be,” commented attendee Chris Raimondi of Raimondi Horticultural Group.

battery

Richard McCoy discusses his battery set-up.

Deandra Hanke of Borst Landscape & Design said the event was “aligned with what we’re trying to move towards.. we have a growing client base [interested in sustainability]  but the [details] are hard to manage…how to achieve where we want to be.”

The event was held by the American Green Zone Alliance (AGZA), National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), New Jersey Green Industry Council (NJGIC), New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association (NJLCA), and New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association (NJNLA).

Nearly 30 people from NJ landscape companies attended the event, which began with classroom topics on soil success from Brian Oleksak of County College of Morris as well as  a presentation from Richard McCoy of McCoy Horticultural on making the transition from conventional landscaping to sustainable land care. (Click for McCoy’s Turf article on this topic.)

AGZA Workshop

Dan Mabe

Attendees also had the opportunity to become AGZA Certified Sustainable Electric Lawn Care Professionals. In addition to access to 15 interactive webinars teaching the fundamentals of electric-powered land care, Dan Mabe, founder of AGZA, gave a presentation in which he spoke frankly about the complexities of transitioning to battery power. While AGZA has been a long-standing champion of cleaner, quieter battery powered equipment, Mabe recognizes industry realities and calls for prudent adoption. So in addition to battery-powered benefits, just some topics he discussed included:

The unfortunate demonization of the landscape worker. Mabe showed a picture of Frankenstein dressed as a landscaper with a gas blower, while people with pitchforks and torches stand in the foreground. (McCoy had also previously shared incredibly negative social media comments toward the Industry.) Mabe said the movement against noisy equipment often turns into anger toward the landscape worker.

The pitfalls of legislation without Green Industry input. Mabe talked about the lack of financial incentives for transitioning as compared to the electric vehicles and solar industry, the need for allowances for supply chain issues (a topic mentioned by several attendees), potential seasonal allowances (more below), and processes for battery disposal. “We need to take the lead ourselves as an Industry,” said Mabe.

The comparisons between gas and electric. AGZA puts tools and methods through continuous testing and follows the outcomes of companies using battery powered equipment. Here are some takeaways:

  • Many battery operated tools offer rugged, year after year performance.
  • Battery backpacks can be two to seven pounds heavier.
  • Case studies on ROIs of battery powered equipment has shown positive economic outcomes in which the “gravy” point is reached.
  • With electric blowers, you lose 10% to 25% of the workload capacity (35% on wet grass). It would be very difficult to rely solely on electric blowers in some parts of the country in the fall season.
  • Mean Green electric mowers are being used successfully 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 hours a day in an installation.

batteryAfter Mabe’s presentation, attendees had an opportunity to ride a Mean Green mower, and try out battery-powered tools from STIHL and Husqvarna.

Britney O’Donnell from Britney O’Donnell Garden Design said when it came to electric options she thought, “Why not get on board? I’ve bought battery and really like it.” O’Donnell also faces gas powered leaf blower bans in Princeton between May 16 and September 30. As a result, she’s acclimated to putting tools out for employees based on season and municipality where the day’s work is being done. She also relates some of the drawbacks she’s experienced with her gas tools. “I’ve bought my gas powered pruners ten times over with repairs. And it’s 10 minutes at every house just starting the gas blower!”

In his talk, Mabe said, “There is a big market for this now, the shift is happening… there’s big opportunity in all of this.”

Some other companies attending included Lincoln Landscaping, Garden State Groundskeeping, Lawn Doctor, and Native Fields.