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Oct 17, 2017 1:53 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Hall Could Be Next 'Green Zone' On East Coast

Southampton Town employee, Brian Bowden, uses the electric-powered leaf blower to clear leaves from Southampton Town Hall's main entrance. VALERIE GORDON
Oct 17, 2017 1:53 PM

Four months after the East Quogue Village Green was designated as the first Certified Green Zone outside of California, Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera couldn’t help thinking: “What’s next?”

The answer: Southampton Town Hall.

“We have to lead by example if we expect landscapers to switch to electric,” said Ms. Scalera, the main catalyst behind the recent certification by the American Green Zone Alliance after a ban on gas-powered equipment for routine maintenance at the town-maintained East Quogue Village Green.

“We want them to do it voluntarily, because they see it’s practical and it works,” she added, referring to commercial landscapers who operate within the municipality.

Ms. Scalera and the town’s Parks Department have been working in cooperation with Quiet Communities, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that is focused on protecting the environment by reducing the nation’s reliance on noisy and polluting industrial-grade outdoor maintenance equipment, and the American Green Zone Alliance, a California-based organization that provides certification and accreditation in zero-emission landscape maintenance strategies.

The town’s goal, she explained, is to address the release of harmful emissions and noise from gas-powered landscaping equipment by essentially transforming all town-maintained parks and grounds into Green Zones—hoping to set an example for the rest of the community.

“I would like this to become the way we do our maintenance,” Ms. Scalera said, referring to the electric equipment that is now only used to maintain the East Quogue Village Green. “That, ultimately, is the goal.”

The American Green Zone Alliance, or AGZA, defines a Green Zone as an area, such as a park, hospital, or school campus, where routine maintenance is completed using quiet and emissions-free electric equipment or manual techniques.

Dan Mabe, CEO and president of the American Green Zone Alliance, which has certified nearly 20 Green Zones to date, said it took approximately one year to certify the hamlet green in East Quogue. The park was formally declared a Green Zone in June.

He added that the Village Green is expected to serve as Southampton Town’s “role model” in terms of noise and emission pollution reduction when maintaining its parks and grounds.

“You take little steps and you go in the right direction,” Ms. Scalera added.

Ms. Scalera anticipates that it should not take as long to certify Town Hall as the second Green Zone, explaining that the Parks Department already has the necessary equipment to maintain both. She said she intends to meet with Town Parks Director Kristen Doulos in the next week or two to outline a plan and, if all goes as scheduled, Town Hall could be certified by spring 2018.

“It’s a fairly new concept here,” said Mr. Mabe, noting that the Green Zone initiative started on the West Coast. “But we see it spreading very quickly.”

He added that Heckscher Park in Huntington, a Suffolk County facility, just recently finished phase one of the accreditation process and could be fully certified as Long Island’s second official Green Zone by next spring.

The AGZA Green Zone initiative was started in 2011, Mr. Mabe explained, as part of a nationwide effort to cut down on noise and emission pollution by encouraging municipalities, communities and school campuses to establish plans to wean them off their reliance on gas-powered machinery.

“These Green Zones are for people who really want to draw a line in the sand and set an example for the community,” he said.

The estimated that the 20 million small-engine devices sold every year in the country—including lawn mowers, snowblowers, hedge trimmers and similar tools—account for roughly 10 percent of the nation’s hydrocarbon emissions, and are the largest single contributer, not counting automobiles, according to mindful.org, a New York-based nonprofit that keeps tabs on such emissions.

Mr. Mabe noted that gas-powered lawn equipment also produce solid waste—old motor oil, empty oil containers, air filters, spark plugs and gaskets—that cannot be easily discarded or recycled.

“If you look at a small gas engine, it needs tune-ups, it needs oil, gas …” Mr. Mabe said. “When you think about solid waste just to maintain that small gas engine, those are considerations people don’t think about.”

He pointed out, however, that concerns about excessive noise were the main catalyst behind his organization’s efforts. “That was the primary reason,” Mr. Mabe said.

Bonnie Sager, co-founder of Huntington CALM, an advocacy group dedicated to reducing the impact of gas-powered maintenance equipment and advocating for sustainable landscaping, notes that noise pollution can result in hearing loss and even cause cardiovascular issues for those exposed to it long term.

Noise pollution is a significant issue for many town residents. Complaints generated by commercial landscaping equipment prompted the Town Board in March to restrict the hours that landscapers can operate within the municipality. Now, they can only work from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on weekends; prior to the change, landscapers were permitted to operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. both during the week and on weekends. Now, those hours only apply to weekdays.

Ms. Sager estimates that electric equipment offers a “50 to 60 percent reduction in noise” when compared to their gas counterparts.

Although all “routine maintenance” completed at certified Green Zones must be done with electric equipment or through manual labor, Mr. Mabe said there are exceptions. He explained that in the Northeast, where the turning of the leaves each fall is “substantial and fast,” AGZA allows four “enhancement clean-ups” each year during which gas-powered equipment is permitted in Green Zones.

“We have to be realistic,” Mr. Mabe said, adding that while electric equipment manufacturers have made significant strides in recent years, the technology is “not quite there yet.”

Southampton Town currently boasts several types of electric-powered machines: three hand-held string trimmers, a hedge trimmer, a zero-turn 60-inch riding mower, a push mower, three leaf blowers, a pole saw, and two 7-foot by 16-foot trailers wired with outlets and plugs for charging. The devices represent a $57,032 investment, according to town officials.

Parks Department crews now use that equipment to maintain the East Quogue Village Green, which measures just over a quarter acre in size. For comparison purposes, the Town Hall property measures 2.4 acres, so the town might need to purchase more electric equipment once the area is officially designated as a second Green Zone, officials said.

There’s also the cost factor as electric equipment still tends to run more than their gas-powered counterparts in most instances. For example, an 82-volt Axial leaf blower costs $139 while a 82-volt 21-inch push mower costs $379; both are manufactured by Greenworks Commercial, a North Carolina company that produces and distributes electric-powered maintenance equipment. A comparable Black & Decker leaf blower only costs $75 while a 21-inch Craftsman push mower runs in the neighborhood of $200.

While electric equipment costs more than their gas-powered counterparts, Ms. Scalera notes that the prices are “comparable” and that the benefits of the former make the investment a smart one.

“The quality of life for our residents is not something you can put a price tag on,” Ms. Scalera said. “It’s a better way to go for everyone. There really is no downside to it.”

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If Town Hall will be a green zone then maybe the Town should also lead by example and replace their antiquated sanitary system with an advanced treatment unit.
By bwm (1), Southampton on Oct 17, 17 3:50 PM
Don't the dirty politicians negate any green efforts on the grounds?
By G (324), Southampton on Oct 17, 17 5:25 PM
Municipalities can be GREEN. Try running a profitable business. Using taxpayers money easy to stay GREEN, try it being a landscaper without going into the RED.
By knitter (1604), Southampton on Oct 17, 17 10:41 PM
Exactly! "Lead by example if we want the landscapers to switch to electric"...whos going to buy all the new electric equipment for these local landscaping companies ?
By toes in the water (738), southampton on Oct 18, 17 7:13 AM
Landscapers are doing very, very well so can we stop with the boohooing? Further, what good are your "profits" going to do you if you or your kids can't breathe or drink the water?
By June Bug (2345), SOUTHAMPTON on Oct 29, 17 1:06 PM
Spoken like an anti capitalism elitist snob there JuneZ,
By bigfresh (4064), north sea on Oct 29, 17 1:15 PM
1 member liked this comment
No, just good realistic common sense based on scriptural understanding.
By June Bug (2345), SOUTHAMPTON on Oct 29, 17 2:02 PM
"enhanced" clean ups using gas powered equipment is like a limousine liberal buying carbon offset credits to fly their private jet
By bigfresh (4064), north sea on Oct 18, 17 7:26 AM
Where do all the toxic, polluting lithium batteries go as they are terrible for the environment and cannot be recycled? Charged by gas and coal fired electric generators? This is like Prius owners thinking they are saving the environment. Pathetic!
By G (324), Southampton on Oct 18, 17 8:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
Congratulations, Southampton, for raising the bar even further on sustainable land care on Long Island. You are surely inspiring your neighboring communities and residents.

For those curious or hesitant about the effectiveness and cost of transitioning from gas to electric, AGZA has a bunch of great news:

AGZA has spent the last decade developing expertise in transitioning gas crews to electric. Having started as a gas crew ourselves, we are very familiar with — and ...more
By AGZA (2), Studio City on Oct 19, 17 1:11 PM
I should have added that the understandable concerns about lithium battery safety are also a non-issue.

These are NOT the same lithium chemistry as cheap knockoff hoverboards or previous generation cell phones and laptops. There are dozens of variations of lithium chemistry these days, each carefully balanced to optimize thermal stability run-time, recharge rates, life cycles, voltage, amperage, etc.

AGZA knows of exactly zero stories of quality lawn equipment batteries bursting ...more
By AGZA (2), Studio City on Oct 19, 17 1:30 PM
These politicians are Shameless they will sell you any crap and blow all the people's money on their stupid ideas. Go back to your corrupt Nassau County Christine
By chief1 (2609), southampton on Oct 20, 17 3:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
AGZA. Did you factor in your cost analysis that we pay some of the highest electric rates here?
By bigfresh (4064), north sea on Oct 24, 17 12:16 PM
Doesn't anyone realize the liberals lost their bid to socialize this country. Why are we still listening to a minority on how to run our lives? Things were never this ridiculous until all the progressive outsiders moved here and have been successful in taking over. Time to retake our town. If you don't like how we live, don't live here!
By Walt (281), Southampton on Oct 29, 17 12:51 PM
1 member liked this comment