Of the various chores that come with adulthood, I like shoveling snow.
I appreciate the sense of accomplishment I get when I look back at a clean sidewalk. Shoveling is a good form of exercise. I also appreciate that I can think about other stuff while I shovel without jeopardizing the quality of my efforts; whereas cooking means I have to be attentive, nobody complains if I daydream while I shovel the driveway.
Still, shoveling has lost some of its glow over the years. Definitely, I am getting older and more creaky. And it does not help that I opted for a house on a corner lot with seemingly endless sidewalks. A sense of accomplishment only goes so far.
Decades ago my solution was the Dakota Shovel, a wheel-based plow-style shovel (reportedly invented by a couple of farmers in my home state of North Dakota). We own two Dakota Shovels and we have converted at least one neighbor to the shovel as well. It works great in lighter, dryer snow.
During a particularly wet and heavy snow earlier this season, though, I started daydreaming about a snow blower.
The daydreams were unusual because I am not a fan of snow blowers. I remember when my dad bought his first snow blower many years ago. It was huge and it dragged me down the sidewalk before I could figure out how to turn it off. In my view snow blowers were loud, felt dangerous, and took away the terrific solitude of shoveling. I was happy to stick with my shovel.
When I became a homeowner I did not even consider purchasing a snow blower. My first yard purchases were a shovel and a human-powered mower. I felt intimidated about gas-fired tools (and nervous about storing gas). Plus, I knew the small engines on gas snow blowers, lawnmowers and other gas-fired yard tools are some of the most polluting engines out there.
Eventually I transitioned from the human-powered mower to an electric lawnmower. When it came to snow, though, we remained a household with human-powered shovels.
This year, though, that first snow was heavy and we keep getting older. Increasingly, I am aware that we have new electric options. There are a growing number of electric snow blowers out there. Over time, we have seen electric lawnmowers get better and better. It seemed likely that the electric snow blowers were getting better and better too.
More, electrification—transitioning from products fueled by dirty oil and other fossil fuels to products powered by 100% clean electricity—is a cornerstone of our climate action efforts. Whereas a gas-fired snow blower seemed unthinkable, an electric snow blower felt feasible, especially since all of our electricity comes from clean energy sources.
So, for the first time, I really thought about a snow blower—an electric snow blower.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, a colleague of mine posted a story on LinkedIn about an electric snow blower. It seemed like fate. I re-posted the link, asking my network to share their experiences with electric snow blowers. Almost immediately I got some great insights, insights moved us a step closer to an electric solution.
We have not purchased a snow blower yet. Transitioning from human power to electric power feels like a retreat from sustainability, even though all of our electricity comes from our solar panels. The transition is also an acknowledgement that we are getting older, which is also annoying to think about. My sense is it will take a few more really heavy, really wet snowfalls to propel us toward a purchase.
Other people, though, might well be making a purchase decision right now. After reflecting on the great insights my network shared I thought I should share those insights in a blog—so that if you are thinking about a new snow blower, you can read about some of the electric options.
The road to a more sustainable future can feel complicated. Sharing lessons learned enables us all to get to our clean energy future faster. I promise to share what I'm learning and I hope you'll do the same. (And thanks to everyone in my network who responded to this question!)
Kathy is the Director of the Dane County’s Office of Energy and Climate Change. In that role she's leading efforts to implement the Climate Action Plan. Prior to coming to Dane County, Kathy led Cool Choices and, prior to that, she led Wisconsin's Focus on Energy program.
The Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change maintains this blog as a way to offer:
To be sure that you don't miss new blog entries, subscribe to our email updates.