There are few things that set me cringing more quickly that the sight and sound of some poor guy with a smoking gas motor on his back blowing leaves around on the sidewalk. In fact, I’d put the gas powered leaf blower up there with car alarms as one of humanity’s worst inventions. Lawn mowers, chainsaws, and other landscaping contraptions are not a whole lot better, either for the sanity of one’s neighbors, nor for people’s health – one leaf blower can emit as much pollution as 80 cars. (See EPA PDF here)
The good news is that not only are many electric, and (gasp) hand-powered lawn care alternatives available, but they are growing in popularity. So much so, that entrepreneurs like Clean Air Lawn Care are moving in to make successful businesses out of specializing in a cleaner, more sane approach to classic suburban lawn maintenance ritual.
The company has committed to avoiding noisy, filthy gas-powered equipment in favor of electric models – which are charged by solar panels on their trucks (soon to be hybrids), as well as by wind power. When alternative energy is not available, Carbonfund offsets bring the company’s net emissions to zero. Additionally, the company makes an effort to educate customers about general concepts of sustainability, waste disposal, fertilizer use etc..
I wondered if the company was doomed to fit only a niche of hard-core green customers, but according to Chicagoland franchise operator Steve Neuman, customers are motivated for a variety of reasons: Quiet operations, the emergence of legal restrictions on leaf blowers, and family health all fall into the equations. According to Steve:
People are excited about the fact that by choosing us they can make a real difference in the health of their families and their communities as well as the environment. I think people are looking for a way to make choices that are better for the environment, and we give them an easy alternative. They can still have quality lawn care, but in a cleaner, quieter more sustainable manner and at a competitive price. They feel good about choosing us and making a real difference.