Gary Horton | Landscaping and Providing Stewardship


A few weeks back I wrote a column, “Anti-Environmentalism Is a Mountain of Trash.” The key point is that careful stewardship of our environment concerns us all and isn’t a partisan position, as it is being used today. I wrote:

“Good earth stewardship isn’t partisan. Being anti-pollution isn’t partisan. Conservation of resources isn’t partisan. It’s straightforward, logical prudent living. Yet today, the right-wing fear-sowing crowd has turned into a partisan wedge. They sell fear of environmentally intelligent policies…

“As if cars don’t actually pollute. As if plastics aren’t really filling our oceans and waterways. As if burning stuff, coal, gas, and all the rest, doesn’t impact what we breathe.

“And as if we could just slash and burn and consume and throw away everything mindlessly, without any repercussion, any result, any consequence….”

I’m not quite sure how anybody can look at our modern-day consumption practices in the U.S. and in the developing world – all the coal burning, gas burning, plastic piling up, dumps filling over – without thinking there’s consequence. Yet, there are such folks, and one wrote a letter to the editor with a standard-issue ad hominem attack designed to discredit the otherwise obvious examples in my column.

The accusation was that I run a large landscape company and that the power tools of our trade pollute. Thus, by running a company with such power tools, the call to take up better environmental stewardship is invalidated.

We know blaming the messenger does nothing to change the validity of the message. It remains true that we’re burying ourselves in air, water, and ground pollution. And, it’s a very difficult matter to solve, requiring thought and coordination from all levels of society, from the presidency all the way down to equipment manufactures and the companies that use their products. 

But about that landscape company. That letter writer was partly right. We do use weed eaters and other power landscape tools that pollute.

The writer was also right in that our company is one of the very largest in California and the U.S. and we have hundreds of trucks, thousands of gas-powered gardening and landscape tools – and then there’s all the tractors and trenchers and tree booms and all the rest of the fleet that both builds the environment in which you live and enjoy and maintains it in healthy, beautiful condition. We build and maintain the green and flowery stuff you love.

And, in landscaping, as in most of the construction industry, “We got to battle with the tools we have, not with those we wished we had.”

Personally, I hate those loud weed-eaters and blowers. They are painfully loud, and for their size, they are among the worst polluters, being two-stroke engines burning both gas and oil combined. 

And, as you’ve heard about so many other things, “Change is coming.” And it is: 

Just as Tesla and others have led the automotive industry into its most radical change in 100 years, the same lithium ion batteries are now beginning to change the landscape and construction world. And this is good news for everyone.

Right now, our company has a fully equipped all-electric rig working in Las Vegas. All the mowers, blowers, and other power tools on the truck are electric. No loud sounds, just humming while the cutting goes on. 

And, like Tesla cars, this equipment is currently very expensive. Almost triple the cost of their gas-powered cousins. But like Teslas, the cost of this equipment is moving downward rapidly. And just as soon as economically feasible for our customers and our company alike, we will make the full transition.

Two engineers from Honda Motors, the world’s leading commercial lawnmower manufacturer, met with us to discuss designs for their upcoming fully-electric, fully autonomous lawnmowers. Due out by 2025, these mowers will become an electrified, autonomous sea-change in the landscape world. Zero emissions, complete cost-parity with gas-powered equipment, and… intelligent. 

You read that right: Electric and autonomous by 2025. Your landscape future is about to radically change. 

No more loud weed eaters and blowers. No more grinding lawnmower sounds, mowing back and forth, ruining your peaceful Saturday coffee on the patio. 

This disruptive change will be clean. And to that letter writer with the ad hominem attack, let me assure, I’ll be among the first to fully switch to quiet and clean equipment. In fact, we’ve already started in Las Vegas, and are expanding that electric fleet. The technology is arriving. If you live seven more years, you’ll see city after city, agency after agency, requiring the switch to “clean and quiet.”

In the meantime, know that our company and others use gas-powered equipment to build those lush, beautiful, restful, and importantly, carbon-eliminating environments you enjoy. Our company alone has planted over a million trees, 20 million shrubs, and thousands of miles of heat-absorbing ground covers.

Happily, the landscape industry works in a virtuous-circle. We build and maintain the environments that sustain both the human quality of life as well as our planet’s. You might say, “We give back,” as we earn our way through life. 

In this business model, change is coming. Soon, you’ll have to search for that mower or blower to know it’s there working. Because you surely won’t hear it or smell it. And that’s change that’s good for everyone… from letter writers, to consumers, to the companies providing our green-industry services. 

Yes, commercial companies and your own gardening will change to help clean up our air and earth. This is just one non-partisan way we can all be good stewards of our environment.

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006.

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