Electric Leaf Blowers Tested in a Park

Southampton has established the East Coast’s first “green zone” in a town-owned East Quogue park, where it is using electric-powered maintenance equipment only, to reduce noise levels and eliminate carbon emissions and toxic pollutants.

“So far, so good,” Kristen Doulous, the director of the town’s Parks and Recreation Department told the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee on Monday. Nicholas Palumbo, a member of the town’s sustainability committee and the director of Suffolk County Community College’s sustainability program, reported that in the one month since the project began, neighbors have said the noise reduction has improved their lives.

While members of the advisory committee were in strong support of the project, they clearly hoped for more. All agreed the greatest reduction in noise and fumes would lie with the commercial landscaper.

Mr. Palumbo said the sustainability committee was encouraging landscapers to make the switch to electricity, despite doubling the cost. “If homeowners talk to their contractors and say they want quieter equipment, it’s going to force them to invest in quieter ones,” he told the committee.

With the help of Quiet Communities, a nonprofit environmental group based in Massachusetts, the town implemented its plan for quieter, more environmentally friendly electric equipment. The East Quogue Village Green, a four-acre parcel on Montauk Highway, was chosen because it is also part of a residential neighborhood. A trailer was placed there and outfitted with sockets so the mowers could be recharged. Batteries can be swapped out on leaf blowers, though not on the mowers, which, however, can run six to eight hours on a single charge.

Gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment, which the commercial landscape industry large relies on, is a source of high levels of localized emissions such as hazardous air pollutants and carbon dioxide. Battery-powered equipment has become viable on a commercial level, though the price tag can be double.

Alejandro Saralegui, who lives in Bridgehampton and is the director of the Madoo Conservancy in Sagaponack, said that “the health issue is huge” when it comes to gas-powered leaf blowers and mowers. At Madoo, a two-acre property, leaf blowers have not been used in years. “You’re blowing up fertilizers, the ground in your driveway — it’s really quite bad for you,” Mr. Saralegui said.

According to research conducted by Quiet Communities, the adverse health effects of exhaust emissions and other fine particulates include cardiovascular disease, stroke, respiratory disease, cancer, neurological conditions, and effects on prenatal development.

Members of the advisory committee expressed hope that the town could somehow force the use of electric equipment on parkland in Bridgehampton. Pamela Harwood, the chairwoman, asked what was being done to persuade the business community of the benefits. “Most people use landscapers, most people don’t do their own work,” she said, adding she is one of the few who does her own.

Mr. Palumbo said an informational event held at the college last year had attracted a “fair number” of contractors, though the only one they know of to have made the switch is Jackson Dodds & Co., which has converted at least one team to all electric.

Jenice Delano, a committee member, suggested that the town allow landscapers to swap out gas-powered equipment for electric-powered equipment, similar to a gun buy-back program.

  Quieter Communities has proposed a similar idea, an event in which community residents and businesses can turn in their fuel-powered lawn and garden equipment and obtain electric landscape maintenance equipment at a discount. Subsidies are available from manufacturers and government agencies.

The town’s sustainability committee is looking into the grant opportunities, Mr. Palumbo said.

Ms. Harwood, who also is a member of the Horticultural Alliance of the Hamptons, said residents have to become more selective about the companies they hire. Alliance members, she said, often remark that landscapers do a lot of unnecessary work. Mr. Palumbo agreed, saying some landscapers are paid to make sure “giant lawns are free of every last leaf.”

The “green zone” certification was achieved through the American Green Zone Alliance, and a ceremony marking it was held last week.