UCS: Cleaner Yards, Dirtier Air?

from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

Cleaner Yards, Dirtier Air?
March 2006
Read this issue of Greentips online

Warmer weather is on the way and, for many people, this means the start of yard care season. Homeowners might not realize that lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, chain saws, and leaf blowers represent a significant source of carbon monoxide and smog-forming hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, but the average lawn mower emits as much smog-forming pollution in one hour as eight new cars traveling at 55 miles per hour.

By following a few simple steps, however, you can keep your yard looking its best with less environmental impact:

  • Perform routine maintenance as recommended in the owner’s manual. Changing the motor oil, cleaning or replacing air filters, and getting periodic tune-ups will ensure your power tools run smoothly and efficiently.
  • Use the proper fuel/oil mixture (as indicated in the owner’s manual) for equipment with two-stroke engines. An improper mixture will decrease efficiency and increase pollution. (Four-stroke engines do not use a fuel-oil mixture.)
  • Maintain sharp blades on cutting tools so you spend less time running the motor.
  • Clean the underside of your lawn mower’s deck to reduce resistance and maximize efficiency.
  • Avoid spilling gasoline, which contributes to air pollution when the gasoline evaporates. Use a funnel to pour gas into the tank, and be sure not to overfill.

When the time comes to buy new yard equipment, consider electric-powered models. They may have a higher price tag than their gasoline-powered counterparts, but they are up to 50 percent less expensive to operate over a 10-year life span because of lower fuel costs. Electric tools are also cleaner—even if the electricity they use is generated from fossil fuels, it is easier to control the pollution from a single power plant than from thousands of individual tools.

You can eliminate pollution entirely by using old-fashioned manual tools such as push mowers, pruning shears, and rakes or brooms. These are especially appropriate for small yards or lawn care projects.

If you need gasoline-powered equipment, however, choose models with a four-stroke engine rather than a two-stroke engine. Generally speaking, four-stroke engines are far more efficient and generate fewer pollutants.

Related Links:

Environmental Protection Agency—Your Yard and Clean Air (pdf)

Green Seal—Lawn Care Equipment (pdf)

Canyon River Outfitters Association—The Environmentally Friendly Four-Stroke

Environmental Protection Agency—Beneficial Landscaping

Environmental Protection Agency—Lawn and Garden (Small Gasoline) Equipment

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