Mow Mow Mow Your Lawn, But Not on High Ozone Days

By the Green Team 

MowerWho knew that your gasoline-powered lawnmower (or leafblower) is as much a part of our summertime air pollution problem as your gasoline-powered vehicle?

On Earth Day, the Utah Dept. of Environmental Quality announced a lawnmower discount and exchange event, at which electric lawnmowers would be available for a discounted price. But if you brought in an old gasoline mower to exchange (i.e., put out of service), the new electric lawnmower only cost $100 (lower than the discounted price).

Mandatory preregistration for the event started on April 22. Less than a week later, all 389 lawnmowers available for purchase had been reserved and registration for the event was closed.

At least 389 someone’s knew what an air quality disaster even the “cleanest” gas-powered lawnmower is.

DEQ’s announcement stated that “emissions from one 4-stroke lawnmower operating for one hour [are] equivalent to one average vehicle traveling 500 miles.” According to the EPA, a new gas-powered lawnmower operating for one hour emits the same amount of polluting emissions as 11 new cars each being drive for one hour. EPA has also suggested that gas-powered lawnmowers may contribute as much as 5% of the nation’s air pollution.

Lawnmower emissions were not regulated until 1995. Older machines have two-cycle engines which do not burn efficiently, releasing as much as 25-30% of their unburned fuel into the air. EPA regulations designed to reduce air emissions from lawnmowers were phased in over several years, with the Phase 3 regulations effective as of 2012. But even new lawnmowers with four-cycle engines do not burn totally efficiently.

Lawnmowers emit carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, all contributors to ground level ozone. Salt Lake City experiences high levels of ground level ozone during hot summer days, which can trigger coughing, throat irritation, and chest pain while increasing the risk of premature death from heart or lung disease.

One of the easiest things each of us can do to improve summer air quality is not to use a gas-powered lawnmower on high ozone days. Or, we could exchange our gas-powered lawnmower for an electric one. Or, we could use a push mower (multi-tasking with our strength training).

Another solution to the lawnmower air pollution problem? Get a goat or get rid of your grass and xeriscape your yard. But that’s a topic for another blog post …


Picture credits:
“ReelMower” by Unknown (Chadborn & Coldwell Manufacturing in Newburgh, New York) – Garden and Forest, February 29, 1888 issue (available from the Library of Congress)Transferred from [1]: 2005-09-10 07:44 . . Kayaker . . 1300×1150 (82,708 bytes). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –