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Mowing Down Pollution
Shirley King | Avenida Primavera

There is a high price associated with that sweet green scent of just-mowed grass. Many of us enjoy smelling those green leaf volatiles (GLV) even though the grass is shrieking from its injury. Distress and recovery are overwhelming the grass when it realizes that it has been chewed not by a gentle cow but by a greasy lawn mower - gas-powered tends to predominate in our neighborhoods.
The GLVs trick our neurons into believing that having a lawn is such a ‘green’ thing. But on the contrary that green pollution in addition to the emissions of the mowers are being cooked by the heat and sunlight to make more smog-forming ozone. And the hum of the engines adds annoying noise pollution that we are conditioned to tolerate.

The hard facts are that even the new generation of gas powered lawn mower produces such significant emissions in the form of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides in one hour of operation as 11 new cars each being driven for one hour – adding 5% to the nation’s pollution. And to increase the problem in our nation are the more than 17 million gallons of fuel, mostly gasoline, that are spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment - trickling down our driveways and streets. This is more than all of the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez.

Unless we are mowing our own lawns (not likely), our landscaping services bear the burden of our yards. Most use gas mowers as a well-worn practice in attending to multiple households in a day. Our gardeners want to avoid the worry about recharging a mower or buying an extra battery pack. It is too bad because on May 3rd the County of San Diego’s 15th Annual Lawn Mower Exchange Program traded in 600 working gas mowers for brand new cordless, rechargeable electric mowers capable of mulching or bagging for as little as $99.

Our gardeners may not be so willing to surrender their gas mowers for ones with new technology and the performance uncertainties for their businesses. Then perhaps as a consumer of this service, we can help to ease them into this decision and at the same time offset the environmental costs. We can purchase an electric mower to keep on hand for our gardeners to use. Small corridors of grass do not require a powerful machine. The new electric reel mowers are quiet, lightweight and have the power assist when needed. And they are reasonably priced. For larger lawns the new battery-powered mowers are made for the big jobs with an hour of power. They have few maintenance issues, store vertically, no emissions or spilled gas, and your neighbors will love you for the quiet.

Let’s reduce the greenhouse gases in our own backyards by helping our gardeners make the adoption to the emission-free mowers. Let’s help them reduce their emission exposures. So remind them next spring to trade in their guzzlers at the County’s “Mowing Down Pollution” (first Saturday in May).



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