The city of Ottawa will begin using electric lawn and yard equipment this summer as governments and agencies look to put gas-powered garden tools into the shed for good.

Coun. Rawlson King introduced a motion in November, which will be debated by the standing committee on environmental protection, water and waste management next week, to phase out the use of gas-powered lawn and yard equipment.  The move came after the National Capital Commission announced it will ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers, line trimmers, hedge trimmers and small chainsaws on NCC lands starting on April 1, 2023.

In a report for Tuesday's meeting, the city's public works department says it supports King's motion and is "committed to phasing out gas powered lawn and yard equipment when it requires replacement." 

"Phase-out activities can begin quickly. Starting with Summer 2022 operations, Parks and Forestry and Roads and Parking Services will pilot the use of electric equipment and begin testing for suitability," staff say.

"In addition, Parks and Forestry is currently working with 5 Supply to request that contractors include the use of electric equipment in their Summer 2022 bids."

Parks Services has issued a tender for the supply and delivery of various battery powered landscape equipment, including string trimmers, handheld blowers, pruning chainsaws and hedge trimmers.

King says his office has been approached by residents, organizations and community groups with concerns about the "many negative impacts of gas powered leaf blowers."

"To quickly highlight some of these negative impacts, it is important to know that most gas powered leaf blowers operate on a two-stroke engine, or the marginally better four-stroke engine," King says.

"Other maintenance equipment also makes use of this engine which, while light and portable, is so fuel inefficient it has been found to emit more than 20 times the toxic and carcinogenic exhaust than a vehicle. Now consider how frequently the City uses leaf blowers in public parks, near schools, or to maintain other public spaces."

A ban on gas-powered garden tools would also extend to contractors working with the city of Ottawa.

Staff say a Departmental Green Equipment Plan will be developed to phase out gas-powered equipment, including researching and testing available equipment to determine operational suitability and reviewing existing contracts to see when electric equipment can be used. A report will be presented to council next fall.

The National Capital Commission says it was the first jurisdiction in Canada to implement a ban on the use of gas-powered small tools.

"Since the National Capital Commission is accelerating its efforts to eliminate the use of gas powered lawn equipment from all its maintenance contracts, and the City has many reciprocal maintenance agreements with the NCC throughout Ottawa, it makes sense for us to accelerate City efforts to transition away from outdated, harmful technology as quickly as possible," King says.