Three years ago Scott Cooney's friends thought he was crazy for starting Eco-Mowers, an environmentally friendly lawn care lawn-care business.

Since that time, interest in green businesses has grown exponentially. Not only is Cooney's business expanding, but this year the lawn care portion of it merged with Clean Air Lawn Care, a lawn-maintenance company that began last season in Fort Collins, Colo.

Cooney is in favor of the merger.

"I fully support what Kelly (Giard, the president of Clean Air) is trying to do, and it's something I'd thought about," he said. "It's a green business that basically anybody can run regardless of their financial situation."

This year Giard is expanding Clean Air into Denver, Boulder, New York City, Seattle, Portland, Austin and Atlanta, in addition to Salt Lake City. The Salt Lake location mainly came about because of the merger with Eco-Mowers, but Giard feels it has been a good decision.

"It's our first acquisition of a like-minded business in the country. What Eco-Mowers is doing is fairly unique and innovative," he said. "We think the Salt Lake market is a good market for us to be in. It has some issues with inversions and air pollution there."

Clean Air offers a weekly lawn maintenance service from April to the end of October. All the company's mowers, edgers and blowers are powered by electrical or bio-diesel power. They recharge with wind and solar-energy panels installed on the truck where they are housed.

Steep gas prices have increased interest in greener lawn care.

"Higher gas prices, in a lot of ways, help us," Giard said. "It makes people more cognizant of what they should be doing. It also makes us more competitive."

Cooney credits several other factors for the attention on the business, including Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," Hurricane Katrina and melting in Glacier National Park.

"People are starting to realize they have got to do something," he said.

It's too early to tell the full impact of the merger, Cooney said, but he likes Giard's management style.

"Kelly and the organization bring a level of professionalism," he said.

Cooney continues to run Eco-Mowers as a separate company, doing non-toxic lawn fertilizations in lieu of environment-friendly lawn maintenance. He urges public support for green businesses.

For more information about Clean Air, visit www.cleanairlawncare.com.


E-mail: twalquist@desnews.com