Local Environment Agency team slash carbon emissions

An Environment Agency team in Barking and Dagenham are reducing their carbon emissions by swapping out their fossil-fuelled machinery for battery powered

Environment Agency field operative carrying out chainsaw work

An Environment Agency team in Dagenham have been doing their bit towards combatting climate change.  

Leon Palmer and his team can be seen year-round in Barking and Dagenham, operating machinery to clear local ditches and rivers to prevent flooding. But now they are doing it in a different way in a bid to reduce their carbon footprint.  

Since 2020, led by Leon, the team have been swapping out their old fossil-fuelled hand-held equipment for more modern, cleaner, greener battery powered technology, saving money and carbon emissions, and improving their health and wellbeing too.   

A typical day for the team can involve anything from strimming flood embankments to ensure they remain stable in floods, clearing trees and other obstructions from river channels and culverts, to inspecting and repairing the more than 20 flood defences in the area, including pumping stations, flood storage areas and sluices.  

But the machinery the team use to do these vital jobs ironically comes at a cost to the very environment they are trying to look after.  Like other organisations looking after community green spaces, they have traditionally used fossil-fuelled equipment like chainsaws, hedge cutters and strimmers.  In 2020, Leon decided to replace their petrol tools with electric motor battery technology.  

Budgets are tight so he is only replacing tools when they reach the end of their workable life. So far, he has replaced 2 strimmers, 1 hedge cutter and a chainsaw. Leon and his team have been pleasantly surprised. The new battery-operated tools cost less, reduce Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), are far quieter to use, and have comparable performance to the old fossil fuel alternatives. The new equipment is also cheaper to buy and service, with lower running costs.  

Leon Palmer, Field Team Leader said: 

"My team are so much happier with this equipment. It’s light, easy to use and just doesn’t vibrate like the more traditional petrol equipment did. We still have to use our petrol chainsaw for the heaviest duty jobs like tree felling but by switching out the rest we estimate we’re saving half a tonne of CO2 emissions every year. That’s equivalent to charging your smartphone 60,000 times or driving 1,250 miles in an average petrol car."

Leon is keen that other organisations tasked with clearing and maintaining green spaces could be doing the same: 

"I’ve always been passionate about the environment, ever since I watched my first David Attenborough as a kid. Working for an organisation like the EA is brilliant because they have supported me in making this change. If every small team like mine, whether in the EA, local authorities or any organisation working in public green spaces, made this change it would make a real difference to reducing our country’s carbon emissions and reaching net zero."

Environment Agency