Jon Hess, looking for a way to differentiate his small lawn care companies from dozens of competitors, decided to go green.
It doesn't hurt that Hess thinks he's doing the right thing for the environment.
And it doesn't hurt, either, that he figures he'll be able to trim operating costs at his Reno-based Clean Cut Lawns LLC.
But first, he needed to make a big investment, replacing all of the gas-powered mowers, trimmers and blowers used by the company with propane-powered models.
The switch to propane, he says, will reduce hydrocarbon and greenhouse gas emissions by about 70 percent.
The price: Each piece of propane equipment typically costs $500 to $2,500 more than comparable gas-powered equipment.
In a time when financing for tiny businesses is hard to find, Hess financed the equipment purchases with the company's savings it's been in business since 2005 and brought a new investor on board.
Clean Cut Lawns will begin to recover the additional expense through lower operating costs. Propane is running about $2 a gallon compared with $3 a gallon for gasoline.
Hess figures, too, that propane equipment will last twice as long as gas-powered gear and will require less maintenance in the meantime.
But he's hoping the conversion will pay more immediate benefits as a marketing tactic.
"We have to carve out our own niche," Hess says. "This was a niche that was available."
Clean Cut Lawns handles about 100 accounts, working with a staff of about five during its peak summer season.
Existing customers have been enthusiastic about the change, Hess says, and he's been pitching the company's environmentally sensitive services at events such as a Reno Earth Day last weekend.
Hess took his first steps into the use of green practices last year, when the company began composting all of its grass clippings. He also made a commitment to the use of organic materials and products whenever it's possible.
But his eyes were opened a few months ago when he read an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report that a gas lawn mower engine produces six times more air pollution than a single-family car.
"It's hard to be 100 percent, but it's important to start somewhere and lower our impact," Hess says.
He notes, too, that new EPA regulations are tightening air pollution standards on gas-powered lawn equipment, and the conversion to propane gets Clean Cut Lawns ahead of the game.
The company is studying the possibilities of an even bigger step conversion of its two-vehicle truck fleet to propane vehicles.
Hess says that conversion could save an estimated $50 a week for each vehicle along with the reduction in hydrocarbon and greenhouse gas pollution.