California’s Green Lawn Care Law: What You Need to Know

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Homeowners in California are undergoing a significant change in how landscaping is done. As of January 1, 2024, homeowners and lawn care and landscaping professionals no longer can purchase gas-powered lawn and garden equipment from California retailers. 

The new law aims to drastically reduce the harmful air quality endangering the health of residents across the state. As the first state law of its kind, it does present weighty implications for anyone needing to buy a new mower, leaf blower, trimmer, or chainsaw.

Highlights of the new law

  • Bars the sale of new gas-powered lawn care equipment (manufactured after Dec. 31, 2023). Covered equipment includes:
    — Lawn mowers
    — String trimmers
    — Leaf Blowers
    — Chainsaws
  • Includes $30 million in state rebates to homeowners and landscapers.
    Additional incentives are often available at the county level. 
    Also, the federal Inflation Reduction Act in 2022 includes large, commercial grade lawn mowers, which can qualify for a 30% tax credit up to $7,500.
  • Fuels the great debate of “power vs. environment”
    Gas-powered tools are more powerful but contribute to air pollution and can damage the hearing of the operator.
    Battery-powered tools generally aren’t as powerful (especially commercial mowers) and have limited runtimes.
  • Leaves some questions unanswered:
    Cross-border purchase of gas-powered lawn care equipment. Will sales of new lawn care equipment boom in cities in border states for use in the Golden State?
    Will online sales and delivery of new gas-powered lawn care equipment be blocked to California? In theory, yes.
    Will the secondhand market for tools see a big increase? Will prices soar for gently used 2023 or earlier gas-powered lawn care tools for use by lawn care pros and homeowners?
Jeremy Yamaguchi

Why is Lawn Love writing about the new California green lawn care law? Well, Lawn Love is based in San Diego. Lawn Love’s founder, Jeremy Yamaguchi, says the law’s phased-in impact and state incentives will help ease the transition. 

“California’s new law is following the trend the industry is taking anyway,” Yamaguchi says. “Much like electric cars, electric and battery-powered mowers, leaf blowers, and trimmers are becoming more common, especially here in California.”

Yamaguchi noted the law bans only the sale of new gas-powered equipment; homeowners and pros can use their current equipment until it needs to be replaced. In turn, “as a result, the switch to greener lawn care equipment is not going to be as abrupt as you might think.”

Let’s look at what California’s green lawn care law means for homeowners, lawn care professionals, and retailers.

Understanding California’s green lawn care law

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California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the state’s green lawn care law (Assembly Bill No. 1346) in October 2023, barring selling new gas-powered equipment using small off-road engines (SORE) in 2024. This ban includes all gas-powered lawn and landscape equipment, generators, pressure washers, and chainsaws. 

According to the law’s sponsors, SOREs pose serious health risks to the equipment operators, the surrounding neighborhoods, and the environment at large. Here’s why: These small engines emit high levels of particulate matter (PM), reactive organic gasses (ROG), and nitrogen oxides (NOx). 

This new legislation is part of the state’s strategy to lessen greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. The bill states California currently exceeds EPA and state ozone standards across many areas of the state. As such, it is the first state in the U.S. to attempt to curb emissions by outlawing the sale of gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.  

Beyond reducing air pollution, one of the benefits of the new law is an improvement in the health of lawn care pros and landscapers.

“Gas mowers and leaf blowers spit out a fair amount of exhaust. The roar of leaf blowers can damage the ears,” Yamaguchi says.

Since the market now has many zero-emissions options available for homeowners to purchase, the state felt it was the right time to implement stringent regulations. The number of electric and battery-powered lawn care tool options should continue expanding as more companies develop alternatives to gas-powered equipment.

The state is providing $30 million in rebates to homeowners and landscapers to help ease the transition from gas-powered equipment to more environmentally friendly choices. 

Implications of the green lawn care law

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What does this lawn mean for homeowners?

First, know that any gas-powered lawn equipment you own is still legal to operate. But under the new law, you won’t be able to purchase any new gas-powered lawn and garden equipment (manufactured after Dec. 31, 2023) from a local retailer.

Translation: You can use what you already have until it no longer works. At that point, even the most diehard gas-engine enthusiasts will have to come around to using electric or other zero-emissions lawn tools. 

As with most new legislation, there are supporters and protesters. 

Many homeowners who have made the switch are immense proponents of battery-operated electric mowers and trimmers. 

Some homeowners – and many lawn care and landscaping professionals – however, prefer the power, performance, and durability of gas-powered equipment. Especially for large lawns or tough landscaping jobs. 

Others worry about the charging constraints of battery-powered models and the higher upfront costs.

According to Christine Potter, president at Stanley Black & Decker’s outdoor unit, a hand-held electric trimmer can cost up to 25% more than a gas-powered one, and a push mower can run as much as 50% more. 

As technology continues to improve, the hope is that battery performance and power may improve, and costs may drop slightly. Plus, the incentive programs will help to offset purchasing more expensive equipment.

Are you in the market for battery-operated equipment but feeling overwhelmed by all the choices? Lawn Love can help:

What does the green lawn care law mean for professionals?

gardener mowing with a gas powered lawn mower
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Truthfully, it seems like the law’s biggest impacts will be felt by lawn care and landscaping professionals. These guys and gals depend on large, powerful, gas-powered equipment daily to do their jobs. In other words, they’re spending a good amount of money on commercial lawn care equipment to run their business.

Unfortunately for them, there is a vast disconnect between the intent behind the legislation and its practical application. 

Plain and simple: Commercial-grade, battery-powered mowers, trimmers, and leaf blowers lack the power and durability of gasoline engines, and they are considerably more expensive.

That will change in time, Lawn Love’s founder says. 

“Commercial electric and battery-powered lawn care equipment will get better and more powerful,” Yamaguchi says. “As products get better, switching to greener lawn care equipment won’t be a major hardship for lawn care pros.”

To help the industry, the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) feverishly attempted to push the implementation timeline back to 2026 for landscape professionals and other commercial applications. 

Don’t get the wrong impression — the industry association supports the transition to zero-emissions equipment and the resulting improved air quality. Instead, the NALP wants to give manufacturers more time to prepare the equipment. 

According to the National Association of Landscape Professionals:

“The primary issue with the impending regulation is the failure to acknowledge the differences between commercial and residential uses and take into account the fact that commercial zero-emission equipment is currently not yet comparable to gas-powered SORE because of:

  • Significantly higher costs
  • Performance deficiencies
  • Battery compatibility issues
  • Lack of adequate infrastructure to support full transition”

The delay would have given the manufacturers time to improve the performance of commercial equipment and bring the cost down, making the switch more feasible for landscapers. Especially the estimated 51,000 one-person California companies run by Latino immigrants. 

Regardless, increased equipment costs will trickle down to customers, resulting in higher lawn care service costs.

What does the law mean for retailers?

The silver lining of this new green lawn care law for California brick-and-mortar retailers is they can now sell off anything they have in their existing inventory. So, if they already have gas-powered equipment, they can sell it. 

But once those gas-powered mowers, string trimmers, leaf blowers, and chainsaws are gone, they’re gone. Retailers won’t be able to purchase any other new gas-powered SOREs, and their product line will be made entirely of zero-emissions lawn and garden equipment.

What this new California law means for online retailers remains to be seen. In theory, online sellers shouldn’t be able to sell and ship gas-powered SOREs to California customers, but it may not work in practice. 

Zero-emission landscaping equipment rebate programs

electric string trimmer on grass
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Several incentive programs are available across the state to help homeowners purchase new zero-emission lawn and garden equipment. Local air quality districts run the programs, so the details vary. 

To determine if your county has residential or professional landscaping equipment rebates, head to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) website.

Firsthand Experience: How I switched to battery-powered lawn care tools

electric lawn mower cutting grass
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I was one of those homeowners resisting the move to more environmentally-friendly lawn care equipment options. I loved my powerful, reliable gas push-mower and trimmer. 

And then, earlier this season, the gas tank on my trimmer cracked, and I found myself standing in Home Depot looking at a new weed whacker.

After an extensive conversation with a sales associate and some advice via text from a friend who has been a professional landscaper for many years, I opted to go with an electric Ryobi string trimmer. I also purchased a Ryobi electric leaf blower that uses the same battery.

Honestly? I like them. My yard is an average-sized residential lot, and they easily have enough power to do the job well. I love that the string trimmer is noticeably quieter than my old gas Echo trimmer, and the battery life is better than anticipated. I can use one battery in both the trimmer and leaf blower 2-3 times before the battery needs charging.

Electric trimmers and leaf blowers definitely have my vote of support in situations similar to my own. And even though Idaho has yet to pass legislation similar to the California green lawn care law, my gut feeling is I’ll look at electric push mowers when my 20-year-old gas-powered Honda finally gives up the ghost.

However, I see the shortcomings of battery-operated equipment in different scenarios. Especially for homeowners keeping up with a 2-acre lot or those with many trees and other stuff to trim around. Constantly switching out batteries or waiting for them to charge and having less powerful equipment to work with will add extra time and effort to an already laborious job. 

FAQ about California’s green lawn care law

Can I still use my gas lawn mower in California after 2024?

You can still use the gas lawn mower you’ve already purchased. The new California legislation applies only to lawn mower sales starting in 2024 — it doesn’t prohibit using gas-powered lawn tools you already own. Plus, stores will be allowed to sell out their current inventory.

What small engines are banned by California’s new law?

The small engines banned by California’s new law are small off-road engines (SORE); they are spark-ignited and rated at or below 25 horsepower (hp). They are commonly used in lawn and garden equipment, including mowers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, logging equipment, and specialty vehicles.

Is there a tax credit for an electric lawn mower?

President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022, which includes a tax credit for electric vehicles. Large, commercial grade lawn mowers are included in this act and can qualify for a 30% tax credit up to $7,500. Small residential mowers are not eligible for the tax credit. However, some rebate programs are available within the state of California.

READ MORE: Get answers to a full 15 FAQs about California’s Green Lawn Care Law.

The transition from gas-powered to battery-operated

Moving forward, California’s green lawn care law means big changes for homeowners in the Golden State. 

For some, it means transitioning the equipment in their garage to battery-operated mowers and trimmers. For some, it means their lawn care professionals will transition their equipment to zero-emissions commercial-grade equipment – and purchase lots of batteries to power the new equipment

And for everyone across the U.S., California often is a harbinger of changes that will sweep across the country. New York already plans to adopt its own restrictions on gas-powered lawn care equipment. Some cities have already limited gas-powered leaf blowers because of their noise.

As Yamaguchi noted, California’s green lawn care law is part of a trend. Electric vehicles are catching on across the U.S. Elecric and battery-powered lawn care equipment may not be far behind. 

How Lawn Love makes lawn care easy

If you need help with your lawn care, whether or not you’re in California, Lawn Love’s local pros will keep your grass green, trim, and healthy. And you won’t have to worry about any new rules regarding lawn mowers, trimmers, or leaf blowers.

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Amanda Shiffler

Most comfortable with soil under her fingernails, Amanda has an enthusiasm for gardening, agriculture, and all things plant-related. With a master's degree in agriculture and more than a decade of experience gardening and tending to her lawn, she combines her plant knowledge and knack for writing to share what she knows and loves.