Have We Seen The End Of The Gas Powered Leaf Blower?

Klausing Group on Dec 7, 2018 9:00:00 AM

Should gas powered leaf blowers be banned? In a recent argument posted by 'The Atlantic,' journalist James Fallows says, “Yes, they should.”  He points out the dangerous level of noise emitted by hand-held, gas-powered blowers, and argues that there is a degree of social inequity involved as well.

While we do not agree with everything he says, we do appreciate Fallows’ argument as an opportunity to publicly discuss an issue which impacts not only our industry but also business and society. We hope the following response will shed light on the issue from an inside-the-industry perspective.    

The Raison d’Etre Of Noisy Leaf Blowers

Until very recently, the challenge for our industry, and the reason noisy leaf blowers are still the standard, has been two-fold:

  1.   The market will not support the cost incurred to complete the same amount of work done using hand tools. In other words, almost no one is willing to pay that much more for the sake of quiet.

  2.   There has been no viable alternative available, until now.

As little as five years ago, despite significant advancements in battery powered construction tools such as drills and saws, we were not seeing the technology advance in applications viable for use in commercial landscaping.

But now, things are different. In October of 2018 we attended the NALP Landscapes and GIE Expo, and our attention was caught by the advancements in battery technology. We now see viable options to equip our employees with equipment that can produce comparable production without any of the gas engine noise.

This is a significant milestone for our industry. Essentially, it’s like transitioning from the horse and harness to the tractor and 3-point hitch. We honestly believe it's that significant, and we are taking immediate action to incorporate this new technology.

Why Klausing Group Is Making the Switch To Battery Powered Hand Held Equipment

landscape employee using leaf blowerAs a company, Klausing Group shares Mr. Fallows' concerns regarding gas powered leaf blowers and other gas-powered hand-held equipment. We don't know of anyone who looks forward to using painfully loud equipment. Exposing workers and bystanders to the levels of noise pollution created by these machines is not only a safety concern but, admittedly, a nuisance.

After returning from the conference, we decided to make the company-wide switch to new, quiet, battery-powered hand-held landscaping equipment wherever possible. Here are the top reasons why we feel this decision will benefit our company, our employees, our customers, and our community:

  1.  Noise reduction. Current battery-powered landscape equipment on the market for commercial applications today boasts maximum air velocity of 168 mph, while only producing 56 dBA—just under the noise level of normal conversation. Equipping our crews with this type of blower will have an immediate impact on employee safety, satisfaction and productivity. We can safely assume it will also improve customer and public experience, especially during snow removal services in the wee hours of the morning.

  2.  Favorable life cycle cost. The costs of replacing a standard hand-held equipment set for a crew is comparable to the replacement cost of gas-powered equipment. With this transition we will see an initial startup increase because we will purchase additional batteries and electrical converters to allow us to charge batteries overnight and in transit in our crew vehicles. This initial cost increase is quite palatable when we consider that we will never purchase fuel for these units. In time, we will retrofit and/or replace our crew trailers to include rooftop solar panels. We have the opportunity to have an entire fleet of handheld equipment that requires no fuel costs and has no reliance on the grid for charging. That's exciting.

  3. Environmental responsibility. This one is simple to understand. We can significantly reduce our emissions and carbon footprint by not burning any fuel in our hand-held equipment.

  4. Brand differentiation. It’s an economic reality that some people will only be motivated by price. However, we believe most customers will choose the more responsible vendor at the same or even a slightly higher price. We have the opportunity to provide customers the choice to have their cake and eat it too, by providing a responsibly managed service without charging a premium for the right thing. From a marketing perspective, this will differentiate us from our competitors.

  5. Market and industry leadership. Klausing Group takes pride in being at the cutting edge of our industry. We want to help drive the landscape industry—especially in our market—towards improvement in all areas. This is the undercurrent of most internal conversations we have regarding how we run our business and how we practice landscaping. We have had success in this effort, specifically with workplace safety and industry credentials. We have surpassed our market peers in these areas and the market has responded positively. We have also seen our competitors follow suit, in effect improving the overall impact of landscaping in our market. We intend to initiate the same improvement by embracing innovation in battery powered equipment, amongst other innovations.

This is a short list of benefits; we will doubtless add to it as we implement the changeover and begin to realize all of the advantages and opportunities we will enjoy and seize with this endeavor.

Should Gas Powered Leaf Blowers Be Banned?

Now, this is where we deviate from Mr. Fallows’ argument. He used a scary word, "ban". The use of this word carries many implications, including government intervention in the form of regulation, statute, code, etc.

We at Klausing Group do believe that as an industry we should do better. However, we take issue with the notion that the only, or most effective, or most efficient mechanism for industry change is government.

We believe it is the responsibility of business to implement improved practices as those improvement opportunities become naturally available in the market. Many well-meaning people outside the industry aren’t aware of how even the best intended regulation can throw a monkey wrench into the works of a business. Arbitrary timelines and a lack of understanding of how the industry really works can result in laws that actually complicate, challenge, and confound a process that is already well on its way without interference.

A Simpler Solution

Some may argue that government mandate will expedite the process. Our question would be, to what end, and are you sure?

At Klausing Group, our mission is to improve quality of life for our clients, our associates, and the environment. When it comes to equipping our employees (as well as all other issues), we seek to fulfill our mission in a way that is practical, affordable, and sustainable. We believe that in doing so, we will provide an optimal solution that will satisfy all stakeholders without requiring non-stakeholders to take on the burden and cost of legislation, codification and enforcement.  

Let those of us who are responsible and insightful lead our industry. This will allow the market to enforce newer, better standards. Nothing can compete with the enforcement of competitive advantage—and it doesn’t cost the taxpayer a penny.

Is our plan perfect? Certainly not. But we contend that industry driven solutions will be more informed and pragmatic while fostering innovation and discovery. What do you think?

To talk to us about low-impact commercial landscape maintenance services, call us at 859-254-0762 or contact us here today.

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