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Association Bisnow
August 7, 2008

Association Study
Shows It's Greener
than Some Might Think

Big shout-out to great new sponsor Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. Don’t miss the information session for the Certificate in Executive Leadership program. Aug. 12th, 6:30pm, G’town Arlington Campus. See ad to right. More info.


Bill Harley, CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, represents 85 manufacturers of forestry, landscaping, and lawn-care equipment (think John Deere, Toro, Briggs & Stratton). With all the attention focused on the environment these days, he found himself needing to respond to allegations being tossed around about negative effects of lawn mowing. We visited him in his Alexandria office to find out how he turned the perception around.


OPEI commissioned a study of existing research to determine the effect of lawn care on carbon emissions. Contrary to one's hunch it might find gas-powered mowers a bad thing, Dr. Ranajit Sahu, who has taught on air pollution at UCLA and other schools, found that when lawns and shrubs are kept trimmed (and, hence, in a growing state), they pull carbon dioxide from the air much more effectively. So in June, OPEI was able to release its study showing that responsible lawn care actually has a net carbon benefit.


Bill tells us OPEI is using the finding, which hasn't been challenged, to get the word out to consumers that they can hold the guilt when taking care of their lawns. Congress is another audience, but OPEI, which has a staff of eight and a budget of $5 million, often works in coalitions when talking to the Hill. It's currently part of the 15-association AllSAFE alliance, which is pushing for a federal ethanol standard, and hoping that the now-standard 10% mix doesn't reach any higher for now (small engines seize up at higher percentages of ethanol). In the meantime, Bill says, his members are working just like automakers on hybrids, next-generation batteries, and equipment that uses alternative bio-fuels.


Bill, a career association exec previously with the Air Conditioning Contractors of America and the National Utility Contractors Association, is showing us shots from OPEI's annual Louisville trade show. Of the 13,000 shows held annually in the U.S., OPEI has the 16th-largest amount of exhibition space: half a million square feet, much of it outdoors to test those lawn toys. Maybe that's why it draws 25,000 each year—or maybe it's the Wisconsin brats served up at the Kohler tent.

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