Photo: Gas-powered lawn mower

One hour of gas-powered lawn mowing produces as much pollution as four hours of driving a car.

Photograph by Tim Evans/Shutterstock

Environmental Impact

Pay Attention to What Your Mowing

Once you purchase a mower, don’t overuse it. Lawns originated in England, where rainfall was sufficient to keep lawns watered naturally. When Americans adopted the green lawn, we realized that we needed to use lots of water in maintenance. A hose running a sprinkler is estimated to use nine gallons per minute, or 530 gallons per hour. Ways to reduce water waste include planting drought-resistant local grasses, leaving grass clippings on the lawn, using organic fertilizers, and using xeriscaping tricks, such as building zen gardens with rocks and statues. These water tips will help reduce the time you spend mowing.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In 2009, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found that an hour of gas-powered lawn mowing produces as much pollution as four hours of driving a car. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also recognized the alarming amount of pollution generated by lawn mowers. In 2008, the EPA created rules to enforce manufacturers of lawn mowers and weed whackers to cut smog-forming emissions from their products by at least 35 percent starting in 2011.

Energy Efficiency

The EPA’s new rules will help consumers save money. The EPA projects that improved energy efficiency of lawn mowers will reduce demand for gasoline by 190 million gallons annually.

Although lawn mowers are not eligible for the EPA Energy Star label, there are cordless electric models that come equipped with an Energy Star-rated battery charger, which uses 35 percent less energy than standard chargers.

Smog

The new rules should also help improve the health of Americans. The agency estimates that five percent of the country’s air pollution originates from the more than 50 million people cutting their grass on any given summer weekend. With the anticipated emission reductions of hydrocarbons (which cause smog), carbon monoxide (a highly toxic gas), carbon dioxide (a major cause of global warming), and particulate matter (which causes breathing trouble for humans), reductions in lung damage, asthma attacks, heart conditions, and premature deaths from exposure to air pollution should occur.

Debris

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the most deadly threat from lawn mowers is flying debris. Riding mowers cause 95 deaths each year, while walk-behind mowers cause three.

To prevent injuries, wear shoes while mowing. More than 80,000 people are sent to U.S. hospitals each year because of lawn-mowing accidents, mostly because of debris shooting out from the blades. It’s also a good idea to wear glasses, earplugs, and even a face mask.

In rare cases, lawn mowers have been known to spread fatal diseases, as was the bizarre result in 2000 on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, a man died after his mower turned tularemia—an infectious disease spread by rabbits, beavers, and other animals—from a carcass in his yard into an aerosol.

And while it is always nice to get kids to understand the importance of a strong work ethic, the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that they should be at least 12 years old before mowing the lawn. Kids should also never ride along while adults are cutting the grass.

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