Okay yes the title is a bit of hyperbole, but gas powered lawn equipment isn’t just horrible for the environment, but also the health of the operator.
Gas powered lawn equipment differs from gas powered cars in a few major areas:
- They lack the advanced emissions controls of a car
- Some are two-stroke which are far dirtier
- You’re standing right in the exhaust, rather than being in a cabin with filtered air
According to this EPA study gas powered lawn equipment emitted approximately 6.3 million tons of VOCs and 20.4 million tons of CO2 in 2011 – that’s nearly 4% of all VOCs emitted and 12% of the CO2.
VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are chemicals like benzene, 1,3 butadiene, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, etc. These are four of the top ranking cancer-causing compounds. They’re believed to cause lymphomas, leukemias, and other types of cancer (International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization). Ground level ozone (formed by VOCs and NOx in the presence of sunlight) and fine particles (common with 2 stroke tools) cause or contribute to early death, heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cancer (see EPA study for 6 references). Most of us don’t mow for a living thus the window of exposure is low, but its hard to know what a lifetime of exposure 30 minutes a week will do.
With a rather large yard at my new place and not owning any gear the answer was obvious – a battery powered lawnmower. I ended up with the Ryobi as it has a great bang for the buck – big battery, easy height adjustment, and super light and easy to push. For just $250 on sale it was a bargain compared to a gas mower and is cheaper and easier to run – no oil changes, spark plugs, or running out to fill a gas can. Another nice thing is the battery is sharable with a whole suite of tools, so adding tools is cheap – for example a blower is just $90.
For those with smaller yards its worth also considering going old fashioned with a reel mower.
All new lawn equipment may be a tough sell when you have working gas tools, but when the time comes to replace them – the earth and your health with benefit from not going gas.