DPW Leading the Way

Lexington Department of Public Works: Leading the Way with Electric Landscaping Equipment

October 2021

by Charlie Wyman

Did you know the Lexington Department of Public Works (DPW) is a municipal leader in the transition to electric landscaping equipment?

Over the last several years:

· Evaluation: The Town joined in partnership with two non-profits, Quiet Communities, Inc. and the American Green Zone Alliance, to explore quieter, less polluting alternatives to traditional gas-powered landscaping equipment. Their analysis of DPW’s grounds maintenance operations and equipment catalogued the impacts of gas-powered equipment and the opportunities to transition to quieter, emissions-free alternatives.

· Actions taken: Gas-powered lighter-duty leaf blowers and string trimmers were replaced with their battery-powered counterparts with funds supplied by an NStar grant. DPW workers participated in the evaluation and selection of new equipment, a key to its acceptance, says DPW Director Dave Pinsonneault. Other early purchases included a push mower for use in the downtown area and a small chainsaw for trimming, both battery-powered.

· More recently: Town Meeting approved the purchase of a riding mower and a stand-on mower, both battery-powered, making one of the department’s two “trim” crews entirely electric. That crew is deployed at the town hall complex and throughout the downtown.

· Leading the way: Last fall the Town partnered with Wellesley and the two non-profits to hold informational webinars promoting the shift from gas-powered to zero-emissions equipment, one geared for municipal and commercial land care professionals and the other for homeowners. Watch the recording for homeowners here.

What’s next? The DPW has submitted paperwork to have the town hall complex certified as a Green Zone by the American Green Zone Alliance, meaning that all routine grounds maintenance is performed with electric or manual equipment. This would be the first certified municipal Green Zone in Massachusetts. The department hopes to transition the other trim crew to all-electric in the next two years. While the town’s heavier-duty equipment is still gas-powered, including blowers for spring and fall clean-up, battery technology is improving rapidly, notes Pinsonneault. He has no reservations about the proposed article 10 before Town Meeting this fall that would require all blowers, including the Town’s, to be battery-powered by March 2024. He is confident the Town can meet that deadline.

Electric landscaping equipment aligns well with the Town’s sustainability goals. Transitioning away from gas-powered equipment brings three notable benefits: reduced carbon emissions, reduced noise levels, and elimination of the noxious pollution of these two-stroke engines. Workers and residents alike benefit.

The switch to electric landscaping equipment is gaining momentum around the country. In early October, California enacted a ban on gas-powered mowers, blowers, and chain saws to take effect by 2024, and a growing number of cities in the East have banned gas-powered blowers. The title of a recent article in the Washington Post aptly summarizes this trend: Lawn Care is Going Electric. And the Revolution is Here to Stay. Lexington is helping to lead the way.