The Cost Of Cutting Grass

By Victoria I. Galan

South Florida’s landscape experiences little change throughout the four seasons. In fact, the region boasts a rainy period that lasts several months, and a 12-month growing season! While this makes for a lush, green, year-round lawn, it also comes with a set of challenges that are both time-consuming and costly.

For Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department’s Special Assessment District Sports Turf Management and Landscape Services Division, saving time and money on maintaining green spaces and grass-cutting schedules became essential to their operations.

“Five days a week, an 86-person crew is responsible for maintaining the green space of 122 communities, more than 20 acres of athletic fields, and providing landscape and maintenance services to seven county departments, including the Port of Miami and all … county police stations. Becoming more efficient not only with our time, but with our resources became our number-one priority,” Chief of Special Assessment District Sports Turf Management Division Gil Delgado explains.

Realizing that converting from gas mowers to propane mowers was the best solution, Delgado conducted a study of the two. He soon discovered that propane was the future. “After I saw what propane mowers can do and how they can positively change business operations, I made it my focus to bring them online. Right now, 95 percent of the department’s fleet is on the alternative fuel,” he notes.

Why Propane?
Propane tanks are larger than gas tanks. This difference in capacity helps minimize refueling time, increase productivity, and extend mowing time, which allows crews to mow more area in less time. Propane tanks are also easy to switch out and store, making refueling and clean-up easier and faster.

“Changing to propane has enabled us to reduce labor time, save money on fuel, and become a more-efficient, effective service provider,” Delgado says. “The actual cost of a gallon of gas is $2.67, so a 15-gallon tank costs $40.05. Propane is $1.63 per gallon and costs $15 to fill. I am cutting my costs by over half.”

Delgado adds, “Besides the enormous fuel savings, maintaining a gas-operated mower required us to service it after just 200 hours of use in the field. A propane mower can go more than three times that, and no stale fuel to clog carburetor fuel lines makes caring for the machine so much easier.”

While the cost and time savings are obvious benefits, for Miami-Dade Parks, propane mowers represent the department’s commitment to be stewards of the environment, and leaders in green initiatives.

“Using propane mowers has allowed our department to set a new standard of environmental stewardship for our community,” Parks Director Maria I. Nardi says. “The financial benefits we’ve enjoyed because of lower fuel costs and an increase in crew productivity while operating with propane is just icing on the cake; but by removing gas mowers and the emissions they release, which isn’t healthy for the operator or the environment, Miami-Dade Parks is doing its part to create a healthier, happier, more prosperous Miami-Dade.”

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Propane is clean-burning and EPA-approved as an alternative engine fuel. Unlike gas, if propane leaks, it does not puddle, but instead vaporizes into the air. As a result, propane will not contaminate aquifers or soil. It is a nontoxic, nonpoisonous fuel that is reliable, portable, and clean-burning.

As a result of its energy-saving efforts, the department received the first-ever Green Leadership City Award, given by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), a Washington D.C.-based, national nonprofit organization.

“The Green Leadership City Award aims to highlight public agencies that demonstrate a commitment to environmentally-friendly and sustainable practices. Miami-Dade Parks is a model agency for others to follow,” says Tucker Perkins, president and CEO of PERC.

“I can’t think of a better way to care for the green while saving green than propane; it’s a win for everyone!” Delgado boasts.

Victoria I. Galan is the Communications/Marketing Manager for the Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department. Reach her at Victoria.Galan@miamidade.gov.