Each year, Americans burn more than 800 million gallons of gasoline mowing and manicuring their lawns. And those small engines found in mowers, trimmers, and leaf blowers produce a surprising amount of air pollution. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
- At least 5 percent of annual air pollution emissions for the entire U.S. come from lawn mowers.
- A single, new lawn mower produces as much nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compound emissions in one hour as 11 new cars!
- Americans spill some 17 million gallons of fuel each year while refueling lawncare equipment – that’s more than all the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez!
All of those emissions and spilled fuel contribute to smog-forming ozone pollution, especially in the summertime. Unlike the good ozone that surrounds earth’s atmosphere and protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, ground-level ozone is bad for human health. Breathing ozone can irritate and inflame your airways and can make you feel like you have a sunburn in your lungs.
What can you do to protect your air while taking care of your lawn?
- Mow in the evening hours, when the air is cooler and the sun is lower in the sky. Ground-level ozone forms when sunlight and heat “cook” other pollutants in the air, transforming them into ozone. Mowing later in the day means those pollutants are less likely to contribute to ozone problems.
- Consider human-powered or electric mowers. They are quiet; need no gas, oil changes or tune-ups; and in the case of electric mowers, turn on with the push of a button. Best of all, these mowers produce no at-source emissions and have a much smaller carbon footprint than gas-powered mowers.
It all adds up to cleaner air!