Ahead of the April 27 city council study session on what to do about gas-powered landscaping equipment, the City of Boulder has released a memo detailing options for councilmembers to weigh. City staff seem to recommend a middle-of-the-road approach — a combination of education and incentives while trying to push change at the state level, like potential future bans that wouldn’t put the onus entirely on Boulder to aid companies in the transition.

Not recommended by staff: an overarching leaf blower ban or gas equipment sales ban. But also not recommended is business as usual. Though some change is advised, many of the steps landscaping professionals feared the most — like an immediate and complete ban on gas-powered equipment — are recommended only for future consideration and even then with potential seasonal exceptions.

In the memo, city staff outline the noise, health and climate impacts of using gas-powered equipment, while also acknowledging that in the grand scheme of climate change, lawn care probably isn’t the highest priority. “According to the EPA, gas-powered landscaping equipment is responsible for just 0.3% of total CO2 emission nationally,” the memo reads.

Staff also address the possible equity ramifications of doing away with the gas equipment without care. “While landscaping service is a successful entrepreneurial industry, the margins are thin,” the memo reads. It also acknowledges that many landscaping workers make little more than minimum wage, and many are minorities.

The memo presents a typical assortment of gas-powered machinery for a landscaping company, sans mowers, estimating total costs at about $4,880. The estimated equivalent for electric equipment would be $15,950. Additional batteries and rapid chargers are a good portion of the increased cost. Again, that’s not including mowers.

Several times, the memo states that electric equipment “will continue to evolve.” As electric gains steam, and eventually overtakes its gas-powered counterparts, a transition will become easier and easier.

Read BRL’s overview of the issue and a follow-up brief about an event hosted by Boulder County’s PACE program to let local landscapers try electric equipment.

Tim Drugan is the climate and environment reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering wildfires, water and other related topics. He is also the lead writer of BRL Today, our morning newsletter. Email: tim@boulderreportinglab.org.

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