Bill Muneio is on a mission to make gardens greener, but he’s not referring to the kind of green that happens with sunlight, chloroplasts, and photosynthesis.

Muneio owns Eco Lawn and Garden, a maintenance company that offers environmentally friendly services and creates sustainable lawns and gardens. The Santa Barbara resident started the company last January after years of tending to yards on his own, though not in an entirely eco-friendly fashion, he said.

Although he applied organic and nontoxic fertilizers to his clients’ lawns and gardens, Muneio’s good-natured intentions were always thwarted by his use of gas-powered equipment; gasoline combustion is difficult to avoid when your tools are lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and weed eaters and you need a car to transport it all. “It’s amazing how much pollution that gas equipment puts out,” he said.

In fact, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, much outdoor equipment emits high levels of harmful pollutants, such as carbon monoxide. The millions of Americans using lawn mowers alone burn 800 million gallons of gas each year, accounting for 5 percent of the nation’s air pollution.

Realizing that polluting while grooming gardens is neither efficient nor logical, Muneio began cultivating his idea for a more eco-friendly approach. When he discovered a line of electric, rechargeable outdoor equipment, that idea grew into a business concept. But Muneio hoped that Eco Lawn and Garden would be more than just a business.

“I decided to do this as a completely green, environmentally aware–type thing just because I wanted to do something that made a difference,” he said.

Electric equipment certainly helps in that regard. By using only electric tools, Muneio can mow, blow, and weed whack without consuming a single gallon of gas.

That’s not the only difference, though, Muneio said. “Not only are you not using gas, so you’re not burning fossil fuels, but they’re much quieter. Which is great for people who work at home, or have kids, or just don’t like the loud noises.”

In addition to having equipment that is both quiet and environmentally sound, Muneio recharges his tools using solar power — from the company’s van. The solar panels sit on top of the vehicle and charge lithium ion batteries located inside, which are then used to power Muneio’s machines.

“I got the idea to put the solar panels on the vehicles so I could charge right out there in the field,” he said. “It’s just one more level of sustainability.”

Muneio admitted that the van isn’t as sustainable as it could be, though. He still relies on gas to run his otherwise all-green operation. “I suppose I could ride my bike with a trailer behind,” he said, chuckling.

Eco Lawn and Garden not only practices green techniques but also produces what Muneio said are safer, healthier — and greener — lawns and gardens. Using materials such as natural, organic fertilizers and compost tea, the company protects nutrients in the soil that are often destroyed by nonorganic fertilizers, weed killers, and pesticides. The company also aims to reduce water consumption by improving watering techniques and growing native plants or plants that don’t require as much water.

With a background in fine arts from UCSB’s College of Creative Studies and years of experience in horticulture and landscaping, Muneio also knows how to make a garden look good. “A lot of people want specific things in their yard,” he said. “I can help pick out plants and give them design comments.”

Muneio noted that he hopes his business will help change the way people take care of their lawns and gardens, explaining that the lawn care industry is becoming increasingly environmentally aware. “I think people are actually going to be forced to make changes,” he said.

But Muneio insists that the cost of going green is “really about the same” as comparable lawn and garden maintenance services … with, he said, one exception. “The only difference is that I do things right.”


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