Alternative landscaping equipment

Electric landscaping equipment, like this electric chainsaw, is good for clean air.Gas-powered landscaping and snow removal equipment release a significant amount of air emissions. About 30 percent of the fuel those engines use fails to undergo complete combustion, which is then emitted in the form of air pollutants. This is especially harmful to the equipment operators.

We encourage all Minnesota businesses to use alternative landscaping and snow removal equipment for the numerous benefits it provides.

Business agility

The lighter weight of electric-powered equipment offers ease of use. Alternative landscaping equipment performance is equivalent to gas in many applications — often a 20-minute charge will last for hours. This equipment provides freedom from buying gas, belts, spark plugs, and filters and less required maintenance can mean more productivity. The quiet equipment allows for grounds maintenance during operating hours with little disruption to guests/clients/customers, as well as little to no strain on employees hearing.

Awardees of MPCA's grants for alternative landscaping equipment overwhelmingly reported that the quiet, lightweight equipment was easier for staff to use. Eagle Valley Golf Course (Woodbury) specifically mentioned simpler fueling, eliminating the need to mix gas and oil. That alone removes the concern of using the wrong gas mixture—a mistake that can damage equipment and threaten the safety of the operators. They also shared that their initial concerns about battery life went away as they found the batteries had “enough power for any required job.”

Health impacts

Operators exposed to exhaust, dust, and noise from 2-cycle engines can have mild to serious health effects, as was found in a 2006 EPA Small Engine Exposure study. The study also suggested that operators are periodically exposed to carbon dioxide and particulate matter emissions that exceed national standards. Other studies have shown a variety of negative health effects from exposure, including respiratory and lung symptoms, headaches, nausea, and hearing damage.

Exposure to the forms of pollution created by gas-powered landscaping equipment is especially hazardous to children, seniors, people with chronic illness, and unprotected workers. Even short-term exposure can be dangerous according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The American Lung Association, Children’s Environmental Health Center, and the U.S. EPA warn explicitly against gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.

Equipment on the market

There are commercial-grade alternatives to gasoline-powered equipment for many applications.

  • Snow removal equipment
  • Mowers: push, hover, riding, zero-turn, commercial, robotic
  • Trimmers and edgers
  • Leaf blowers
  • Saws: chainsaws and pole saws

Charles Boyer of Northwest Technical College purchased a battery-operated string trimmer and reported that it “has power equal to the gas-operated equipment.”

Disposing of batteries

Rechargeable batteries cannot be discarded as trash. It is important to dispose of batteries properly to avoid creating serious safety hazards.

Rechargeable battery waste is regulated by hazardous materials regulations. All terminals should be protected before shipping. You may contact your hazardous or universal waste hauler to recycle your batteries. Call2Recycle is also an option.

PDF icon Managing universal wastes (w-hw4-62)

Grant successes

More than $173,000 in grants has already helped 66 businesses and organizations switch to electric-powered equipment, such as chainsaws, pole pruners, lawn mowers, string or hedge trimmers, and handheld or backpack blowers. These purchases will reduce annual air emissions by 185 tons of VOCs, 0.6 tons of nitrogen oxide, and 6.5 tons of fine particulates.