Putting the green back in Aspen lawn care | AspenTimes.com

Putting the green back in Aspen lawn care

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
John Colson/The Aspen TimesBrian and Emily Hightower stand beside their Sun Source cargo van, with some of their new, solar-powered equipment and in front of their relatively new, solar-powered house.

ASPEN ” Brian and Emily Hightower, an Aspen Middle School teacher and a part-time yoga instructor, respectively, are embarking on a new business venture, called Sun Source Lawn Care.

It is based on the idea that an environmentally aware and active community such as Aspen is a good place to use renewable energy for as many basic needs as possible, including lawn care. With an upfront investment that used up much of their personal savings, they have a fleet of small electric mowers, trimmers, and other equipment that can be recharged by hooking them up to an array of solar cells attached to the roof of the cargo trailer they use to haul their equipment. They also have a large diesel-powered big mower that will burn biofuels and take care of larger lawn areas.

Inside Business recently posed a few questions to Brian and Emily Hightower. Here are their responses:

Q: What made you decide to go into this business?

A: (BH) Well, I knew I was going to go back to teach [he’s been on a leave of absence] and we needed something to supplement the teaching income. So we started thinking about lawn care … and we looked around and realized that pretty much all the lawn care companies are using traditional means to cut and blow, and mow and trim ” they’re powered with gas. We started to research to see if it was possible to do something more sustainable, more in line with our values, and realized it could be done.

Q: What are your values?

A: (EH) You see, the house works on solar [points to solar cells and water pipes on the roof.] In the mowing months we create more power than we can use. So instead of getting credit from Holy Cross [Electric Association], we decided to use that extra power to fuel the [rechargeable] batteries [that power the equipment]. So now, instead of filling up our mowers with gasoline, we’re just going to put [spare] batteries in … [and] anything that we pull from the grid, we’ve got wind energy credits from Holy Cross.

Q: And you use organic fertilizers and non-toxic weed management methods?

A: (EH) Yes, it’s just part of our sustainable platform, which will promote the health of the lawns.

Q: Any other companies in the area doing this?

A: (BH) There are a couple of combines doing it, one’s on the Eastern Slope … and they seemed to be having some success, so we just decided to go for it. As for as we know, there’s no one else [locally] doing what we’re doing.

Q: How many lawns do you think you have to mow to break even on your start-up costs?

A: (EH) I think our limit is about 40 clients, with just Brian and this fleet with one other guy.

Q: How’s the response from the public been?

A: (EH) Really positive. I think everybody right now is looking for ways to make a difference and to solve some of the problems that we have on the planet but still keep the things that we love, like lawns. It’s a real easy way for people to reduce their carbon footprint without having to sacrifice anything. [And] it’s quiet. You’re not going to hear your lawn getting mowed four houses away.

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