Originally published as Facilities Management news on Dec. 17, 2015
By Stephanie Dolmat-Connell, Sustainability Manager
The University of Utah’s Landscape Maintenance team is helping to improve air quality, one leaf blower at a time. All landscape crew leaders receive the Department of Air Quality alerts daily to determine when mandatory and voluntary action days occur due to poor air quality; on those days, the entire landscape crew chooses not to use two-stroke engines .
Two-stroke engines such as leaf blowers and hedge trimmers can contribute significantly to air pollution. One experiment by Edmunds.com found that one half-hour of leaf blowing packs the same emissions punch as driving a giant pickup truck from Texas to Alaska. That is a high amount of emissions in a short time.
The landscape crew’s actions to curb the use of two-stroke equipment on poor air quality action days helps alleviate the pollution. Landscape supervisor Lisa McCarrel explains, “We started with not using two-stroke engines on mandatory action days, and then decided that we should extend this program to all voluntary action days as well. We want to do our part. We all breathe the same air and feel its effects.”
The University’s landscape department is also replacing their two-stroke engine equipment with battery-powered equipment and four-stroke engines that produce less emissions that two-stroke equipment. By replacing their equipment, Landscaping is further reducing their air pollution impacts. Over 80% of the equipment used during fall and early winter is battery powered, and McCarrel expects that over the next two years, that figure will increase to almost 100% of that equipment.
Campus Support Services director Sam Robertson, who manages the landscape department, thinks that these air quality actions fit in perfectly with landscape’s direction. He said, “Our grounds crew have incredible care and passion for what they do. Our actions to help air pollution demonstrate how vested our team is in the environment.”
Besides replacing equipment, McCarrel also explained how the dedicated crew is going back to the basics and working with rakes and brooms during air pollution events. “We are all gardeners and love the earth,” expressed McCarrel, “we want to get back to the natural approach and minimize our impact. It’s our small way of giving back.”
Landscaping could use your help. Since we are all humans that can make a mistake, if you see a two-stroke engine being used on a mandatory or voluntary action day, please contact Facilities Dispatch at 801-581-7221. We would love to hear from you and to help our team do their best.
If you are using a two-stroke engine equipment at home, please consider switching to hand-guided tools, battery-powered equipment and four-stroke engine equipment. Also keep an eye on the daily alerts about our air quality and sign up here for the alerts.