UCSC’s Journey to Electrify Landscape Equipment

May 10, 2023

By Yara Sheikhvand, Carbon Fund Coordinator 

What are SOREs? SOREs are small off-road engines that are used in most lawn and garden equipment. To be more specific, they are usually 2-stroke or 4-stroke engines that burn both gas and oil, emit burned and unburned fuel, are loud, and create smog-forming and greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the California Air Resources Board, smog-forming pollution emitted from one hour of operating a gas-powered lawn mower is the equivalent to driving 300 miles in a 2017 Toyota Camry. Additionally, one hour of using a

"Mean Green Rival" electric lawn mower purchased in 2021

gas-powered leaf blower emits the same amount of smog-forming pollution as driving 1,100 miles in a Camry.

Gas-powered SOREs are not only contributing to our climate crisis and negatively impacting our planets’ health, they are also harming the health of humans. In October of 2021, Governor Newsom signed a bill that would require the sale of SOREs lawn equipment to be zero emission in the state of California by 2024. 

The Carbon Fund and the Sustainability Office has been aware and concerned about the detrimental effects arising from SORES and has been making financial investments to reduce UCSCs use of gas-powered equipment since 2014. The Carbon Fund granted the first project pertaining to SORES in 2014 which replaced seven 2-stroke leaf blowers with battery powered blowers, eliminating nearly half a ton of carbon monoxide emissions annually. Since 2014, the Carbon Fund has granted over $75,000 towards nine projects that replaced gas-powered equipment with electric equipment at UCSC. These nine projects have helped replace gas powered equipment with electric equipment at the UCSC Natural Reserves, Arboretum, Farm, TAPS, Grounds, and Family Student Housing. Overall, these efforts have replaced: 18 leaf blowers, 1 weed wackers, 5 lawn mowers, 7 chainsaws, 23 trimmers, and dozens of batteries.


Why is electric technology more sustainable than gas? There are several reasons as to why electric tools are more socially and ecologically better: workers are not exposed to loud sounds and ground source pollution, elimination of stored and spilled gasoline, zero-emissions (UCSC’s electricity is carbon free), batteries are rechargeable, and battery-powered tools are more efficient so they require less energy to do the same amount of work as gas-powered equipment. Since 2014, the lawn and garden equipment manufacturing industry has come a long way in terms of being sustainable and energy efficient.

Here are some resources that can help your lifestyle become more sustainable:

In 2021, the Grounds department, Sustainability Office, and Carbon Fund partnered financially to purchase this electric “Mean Green Rival” electric lawn mower.