Down To Earth by Les Lutz

Published On: April 20th, 20210

Heritage Museums & Gardens is going green! Over the last year we have been studying all aspects of our operations to become more sustainable. One aspect of our operations that has been high on our list to examine is garden maintenance. I’ve always known that gas-powered grounds maintenance equipment is not subject to the same pollution regulations as automobiles, but I didn’t realize just how bad such equipment really is for the environment.

Automower

Automower

According to the state of California’s Air Resources Board, a gas-powered leaf blower, in one hour, produces as much air pollution as driving an average car for over 1,000 miles. A lawn mower operating for an hour pollutes as much as the same car traveling 300 miles. To add to the air pollution issues, these same pieces of equipment are noisy and expensive to maintain. When you’re trying to provide a beautiful garden for the public, the noise of a leaf-blower can destroy the ambiance pretty quickly.

Maintaining the 100-acre garden, about 65 acres of which are open to the public, requires a lot of equipment and people-power to operate it. Over the last year, we have been studying the feasibility of moving to all-battery-powered grounds maintenance equipment. Two facts, the air and noise pollution, in addition to the desire to be a leader in the community in sustainability, led us to the decision to investment in all battery-powered equipment. This spring we have done just that, purchasing battery-powered push mowers, string trimmers and leaf blowers. We have even bought a battery-powered chainsaw, as a trial.

Now, our push mowers and blowers are all battery-powered and significantly quieter, as are our string-trimmers. The one aspect of our operations that was left was large-turf mowing. We decided to do a trial this season and to invest in another new technology, automated lawnmowers. Automower These have been used in Europe since the mid-1990s and are making their way to the US. They are nearly silent, use significantly less energy than gasoline-powered mowers, and the lawn is always perfect. They are mowing the lawn all the time, and not just once (or twice) a week. Automated mowers operate much like home-automated vacuum cleaners. They roam around and mow the grass continuously. They are monitored by an app on the phone and are quite safe for the public and animals. They can be programmed to mow after-hours and not be seen when we are open to the public. And, in case you are wondering, they have multiple levels of security that make theft difficult. We have thought about that, as have the developers. These mowers are commercial, designed to mow up to 1.25 acres per mower. We are also moving toward solar-powered automated mowers that will use no fossil fuels for operation, although that is likely a few years out.

At home I’ve been using a battery-powered mower for several years and feel very confident in their reliability. Now, Heritage Museums & Gardens is moving toward a more sustainable operation. Come and see for yourself.

Les Lutz is the director of horticulture and facilities management at Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich.

Read at The Sandwich Enterprise

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