Kris Kiser, TurfMutt help OPEI serve as industry advocate, watchdog in face of global threats
By Kris Kiser
As the leading international trade association representing more than 100 power equipment, engine and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) remains the advocacy voice and watchdog for the outdoor power equipment (OPE) industry. And we are facing a time of change and innovation.
It’s now been a few months since Donald J. Trump took office, and as the new administration settles into its role, we are monitoring how its policies will affect the OPE industry. Regulatory changes at a state and national level are on the horizon, and we are diligently working on these issues for our members. Our long-standing relationships, industry partners, and others are helping us monitor what is going on and will help us face whatever comes our way. For now, the jury is still out on whether President Trump will be good or bad for our industry.
California intends to implement more stringent standards
While regulatory reform and uncertainty loom federally, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) continues work on a series of new, more stringent, small off-road engine emission regulations.
In November 2016, CARB approved amendments to the current evaporative emissions regulations that update the certification test fuel and aim to address non-compliance issues by 2020. The industry remains concerned that the combination of test fuel and compliance strategy changes greatly limit the application and value of the widely popular design-based certification strategy. Compliance is ultimately determined by the complex, costly and often variable Sealed Housing for Evaporative Determination (SHED) testing for all equipment powered by greater-than-80-cc engines. As a result, manufacturers must weigh the costs of engine and equipment redesign — and potential SHED testing — against the costs of continuing to operate in the state for most equipment types currently offered.
In parallel, CARB continues development of its 2020 rulemaking package, with goals of 80-percent reduction in NOx and 40-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, such as evaporative HC, by 2030. Such reductions would likely require significant changes in technologies, including shifts from 2-cycle to 4-cycle and from carburetors to closed-loop fuel injection with catalysts across small-engine applications. Significant cost and safety considerations must be addressed before such stringent standards could be incorporated.
As always, OPEI will continue its efforts to collaborate with state and federal regulators to ensure a reasonable and effective regulatory environment for our members.
New ANSI standards updated, new robotics mower standard on the horizon
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recently published new voluntary safety standards for consumer and commercial lawn mowers. These releases are the result of a customary 5-year review, and they represent OPEI’s role as the ANSI Standards Developing Organization for the outdoor power equipment, small-engine and utility vehicle sectors.
On April 6, 2017, ANSI published ANSI/OPEI B71.1-2017, the “American National Standard for Consumer Turf Care Equipment — Pedestrian-controlled Mowers and Ride-on Mowers — Safety Specifications.” The 14th edition standard (first published in 1960) revises the 2012 edition of the standard.
On April 24, 2017, ANSI also published ANSI/OPEI B71.4-2017, the “American National Standard for Commercial Turf Care Equipment — Safety Specifications.” The 6th edition standard (first published in 1980) revises the 2012 edition of the standard.
OPEI utilizes ANSI’s “canvass method” to solicit public stakeholder review and comment on its standards proposals. When standards are submitted to ANSI for approval, we are required to provide evidence that the standards were developed under an open process that gave directly and materially affected interests an opportunity to express their views. We also have to demonstrate that these views have been carefully considered in how we structure the standard. Industry consensus building and feedback are a critical part of this process. A big thank you to everyone who participated.
Visit www.opei.org/standards/standards-listing/ to learn more about how you can participate in the canvass review process.
Breakthroughs in outdoor power equipment technology continue to showcase the innovative nature of this industry. We are now working toward bringing the first-ever North American robotic lawn mower standard to the marketplace. It’s challenging and complex technology, and we have an ever-expanding group of manufacturers in this arena, ranging from industry stalwarts to up-and-coming startups. OPEI’s battery and electrics committee is leading the charge as our industry continues to innovate.
Look Before You Pump
As the marketplace diversifies and blended fuels are more readily available, it’s imperative that our industry continues to educate consumers and contractors about safe fueling.
Our polls indicate that mis-fueling is on the rise, with 5 percent of respondents this year telling Harris Poll that they have incorrectly used an E15-or-higher blended ethanol fuel in an engine not designed for it this year. This is up from 3 percent in 2015.
This year’s poll also shows roughly two-thirds of Americans believe higher ethanol blends of gas are safe to use in any engine (31 percent). More than three in five Americans assume that any gas sold at fueling stations is safe for all of their cars, as well as other, non-road engine products, like boats and mowers (63 percent in 2017, up from 60 percent in 2016 and 57 percent in 2015).
Hundreds of millions of pieces of legacy outdoor power equipment products are currently in use that are designed and warranted to run on E10-or-less fuel. With higher ethanol blends available for sale — such as E15, E30 and E85 — it’s up to all of us to educate consumers about selecting the right fuel for the right product. Consumers can no longer assume that what goes in their truck or car is right for their lawn mower, snow blower, chain saw, generator or other piece of outdoor power equipment.
While some small-engine repair shops wish our message was “no ethanol,” our messaging has to be consistent with the industry standard. And the industry standard is that outdoor power equipment is designed and warranted to run on E10 or less, and it’s illegal for gasoline-powered small-engine equipment to use fuel blends higher than E10, so that’s our message.
The Look Before You Pump campaign (www.LookBeforeYouPump.com) shares safe fueling information with consumers. Dealers and manufacturers can get free educational materials, social media posts, infographics and more from our ethanol education portal at www.TinyURL.com/EthanolEducation.
This year, the campaign received a facelift with a new look and updated materials, and we urge all industry members to consider downloading the materials and distributing them through social media channels. You can also re-tweet information from OPEI’s Twitter account (@OPEInstitute) and use hashtag #LookB4UPump so we can see and amplify your efforts.
We recently surveyed ethanol education portal users about the campaign and how they are using the materials. Seventy-five percent were using the campaign materials to educate new customers buying new equipment. About half (48 percent) of the respondents were also using the campaign materials to educate their employees. More than 60 percent were using the materials to educate consumers bringing in equipment for repair. More than 38 percent were using the materials to educate themselves. Twenty-seven percent had used the materials on their company’s blog, website or social media. I hope you will join them in using the materials and sharing the Look Before You Pump message.
Defending the living landscape
The California drought may be over, but we are carefully monitoring how other parts of the country handle drought. We don’t want a California repeat with government rebates paying a bounty for lawns. In California, millions of taxpayer dollars were sunk into lawn-removal programs that didn’t save water and were even labeled a “gimmick” by the comptroller in Los Angeles.
Fly-by-night turf-removal companies took advantage of some homeowners, promising them a drought-tolerant yard if they would sign over their turf rebate checks. Sadly, what many of those homeowners got was a yard with no lawn and only a few small plants that shriveled up and died. I met families with yards carpeted with rocks and mulch, leaving no place for children or pets to play. As the rains have returned, these drought-tolerant landscapes have been unable to capture storm water runoff or clean the water before it flows into aquifers, and the families have often been left with mud pits instead of yards.
The lengthy drought transformed how Californians think about landscaping and water usage, and its impact will be felt for many years. The state government in California continues to study and consider landscaping restrictions that will impact the industry in numerous ways. Water availability and usage will remain an issue, and as interest in sustainable lawn practices continues to proliferate around the country, this will be an ongoing area of concern for our industry.
During the heyday of the Golden State’s turf rebate programs and drought-shaming tirades, OPEI launched the “Living Landscapes” campaign to point out the value of living, managed landscapes and the many benefits they provide to families and animals. The campaign has a website (www.LivingLandscapesMatter.com) with content you are welcome to re-purpose and share under hashtag #LivingLandscapes. We also published a number of letters to the editor and news stories, sharing information on the value of the living landscape.
Turfgrass will come under fire again. It is guaranteed. The way to inoculate our industry from harm is to help people understand the value of a managed, living landscape that is integral to their lifestyles and health.
Thus, the TurfMutt environmental education and stewardship program (www.TurfMutt.com) is more important than ever because it helps children and families see the value of the living landscape and take ownership of caring for it.
The program was created by OPEI’s Research and Education Foundation and is a partnership with Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company. Through classroom materials focused on backyard science and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) principles, TurfMutt teaches students in grades K-5 how to “save the planet, one yard at a time.”
Through our partnership with the CBS Lucky Dog TV show, we also have been able to showcase for viewers the importance of having a living landscape and reinforce our core messages. In several episodes, prospective rescue-dog-adopting families in California get a TurfMutt-approved yard with a mixture of grass, shrubs, trees and flowering plants (installed by Gothic Landscape, Inc.). Their joyful faces are inspiring, and the TurfMutt program drives home the value of the managed, living landscape.
We are very proud to announce that TurfMutt was recently named by the U.S. Green Building Council, as a USGBC Education Partner. TurfMutt curriculum will be shared through the USGBC Learning Lab, a portal for educators to access sustainability curriculum.
TurfMutt was also recently featured in PARADE magazine, offering Earth Day tips (https://parade.com/563049/alison-abbey/turfmutts-earth-day-tips-for-saving-the-world-one-yard-at-a-time/). We will continue to see TurfMutt’s role as an ambassador for the living landscape expand in the future.
The industry’s blockbuster trade show, the Green Industry & Equipment Expo (GIE+EXPO), continues to expand. For the past four years, the show has grown exponentially, breaking attendance and exhibitor records. This event is critically important to our industry, offering education and training, as well as unprecedented marketing and networking opportunities.
Exhibit space sales are already running ahead of this time last year, and we anticipate topping 2017’s record-breaking numbers. Attendees can expect to see more new products than ever as the number of new exhibitors is increasing.
In 2016, 813 companies exhibited at GIE+EXPO and the co-located Hardscape North America, and 180 were new exhibitors. In addition, the Outdoor Demonstration Area, which offers the opportunity to test new products from both shows, is expected to meet or exceed last year’s record-breaking 20 acres.
This year’s show is a must-attend event for industry members who are looking to elevate their businesses to the next level. Book your hotel rooms early and register now, because this year’s GIE+EXPO promises to be even bigger and better than last year. Register at www.gie-expo.com.
Kris Kiser is the president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). OPEI is an international trade association representing more than 100 power equipment, engine and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers. OPEI is the advocacy voice of the industry, and a recognized Standards Development Organization for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and active internationally through the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in the development of safety and performance standards. OPEI is managing partner of the Green Industry & Equipment Expo (GIE+EXPO), the industry’s annual international trade show, and the creative force behind the environmental education program, TurfMutt.com. OPEI-Canada represents members on a host of issues, including recycling, emissions and other regulatory developments across the Canadian provinces. For more information, visit opei.org.