You have done all the things that most green sites have suggested you do to be green. You drive a hybrid, bring your own grocery bags, and carry a refillable bottle of water. You support your local farmer's market and have a small patch of yard set aside for lettuce and tomatoes. But every Tuesday morning, like clockwork, your gardeners rev up the gas powered mowers, blowers and weed whackers. It can't cause that much pollution right? The EPA has estimated that this type of gas powered equipment accounts for 5% of our air pollution. Gas powered mowers and their kin emit all sorts of noxious gases into the air. The EPA has found:
Most people do not associate air pollution with mowing the lawn. Yet emissions from lawn mowers, snow blowers, chain saws, leaf vacuums, and similar outdoor power equipment are a significant source of pollution. Today's small engines emit high levels of carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. They also emit hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, pollutants that contribute to the formation of ozone. While ozone occurs naturally in the upper atmosphere and shields the earth from harmful radiation, ozone at ground level is a noxious pollutant. Ground-level ozone impairs lung function, inhibits plant growth, and is a key ingredient of smog.
In addition estimates are that about 17 million, yes million, gallons of gas are spilled refilling this equipment.
So what can you do now that you know? You can ask your gardener to switch to equipment that does not cause as much pollution and eliminates spills. Electric equipment works well and there are more options coming onto the market weekly. Power plants do create pollution but the industry is regulated and does not cause the same amount of pollution and certainly not right outside your window.
The best option is the old fashion push mower. It actually works much better than you might think it does. They are easy to push and come in some pretty nifty retro styles.
The gas leaf blowers have just become the standard method now for leaf removal. But rakes and brooms work a lot more efficiently most of the time. I have done informal tests watching my employees use both methods and I am convinced that rakes are the better alternative as long as you are not having to get leaves out of beds with a lot of plantings. You also don't damage tender plants as easily.
An interesting website to take a is here.
It has interesting statistics and suggestions for alternative equipment.
If your gardener is unwilling to make changes, there are environmentally friendly services cropping up in many cities. If that is not an option, consider having your lawn mowed every other week instead of weekly. Let your grass grow one week longer. Let the leaves stay on the lawn a week longer. I know that in some cities this is heresy. But it is nature after all, it is supposed to look natural to an extent. You will be cutting down on the pollution by half without doing anything else. Have your gardener work on some other things at your home like the pruning and weeding that seems difficult to get to on the off weeks.
Get rid of your dirty little secret and you will breath a lot easier, literally.