WHAT'S ON MY TRAILER: A Growing Arsenal of 'Green' Lawn Equipment

Timothy R. Finn is the owner/operator of Going Green Lawn & Home in South Williamsport, PA. He just started his company in 2010, but had racked up more than 20 years of experience in the pest control business prior to that.

"I'd worked up to branch manager for another company, but finally decided that I wanted to start a business for myself," Finn tells. "I had a covenant that prevented me from starting a pest control business for two years, so I got started with lawn maintenance. In 2012 we added pest control, and are quickly growing that line of business."

But the lawn business has also been performing well, and currently accounts for 60% of Going Green's total revenue. Even as the more newly launched pest business picks up steam, Finn expects lawn maintenance to maintain its share of the pie. "My goal is to turn the lawn business over to my son in the next two years so I can focus on pest control," Finn points out. "And we don't have intentions of just staying a dad-and-lad company. We intend on growing and hiring more people, and offering more add-on services."

Environmentally friendlier lawn maintenance

On the lawn side, the Finns have primarily been doing mowing and mulching for a primarily residential customer base. "We'd like to get more into commercial, but right now about 90% of our customers are homeowners," Finn says.

Every single one of those homeowners has taken to Finn's "going green" approach. Going Green uses only propane riding and intermediate walk mowers, along with battery-powered push mowers, string trimmers and handheld blowers. For the most part, Finn says his equipment arsenal has allowed him to efficiently provide a quality service, while also giving him a unique place in the market: no gas-powered equipment.

Finn uses Encore X-treme 48-inch zero-turn mowers and 36-inch walk mowers with the propane conversion kit from EnviroGard. He bought these mowers from a propane conversion company called Onyx Solutions. Finn says the mowers do a superb job in all conditions.

The same can't be said for his battery-powered EarthWise push mowers. While the mowers generally do a really nice job, Finn says the do have their limitations. "In the early spring when we're getting a lot of rain, for example, I sometimes have to double cut," Finn relates. "In extreme cases I will just go ahead and use a gas-powered push mower (Toro). While my customers do appreciate reduced emissions, the main thing they want is their lawn cut nicely and quickly."

On the handheld side, Finn is using Black & Decker and Worx. These battery-powered tools work pretty well themselves, but also present their own set of challenges. "These things aren't made to handle eight or 10 properties a day," Finn says. "But battery technology seems to be getting much better. For now I just need to make sure I have multiple batteries with me. I also ask customers if it's OK to plug in a backup battery while I'm mowing their lawn. So that helps too. And then I'm just making sure that everything is recharging at night. It's kind of funny, I'll get up at 3 a.m. to get a drink of water, and I also go check to make sure my batteries are charging."

On the topic of new technology, Finn is looking into the possibility of switching to Stihl battery-powered handheld equipment. "I've heard that they have a nice battery system now," he says, while adding that electric-powered Mean Green Mowers are also on his radar.

Also on Tim Finn's radar is the continued growth of his young company. He says the market for "green lawn care and home services" is still relatively small. But 100% of his customers are on at least a partially green service, meaning that only a limited amount of gas-powered equipment is ever used. About 10% of his customers are on 100% green programs, which carries a roughly 10% price premium.

"My older customers aren't as receptive to it," Finn shares. "They just want their lawns taken care of. But for the younger generation under 35 or so, offering a completely green lawn service is really making a difference."

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