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Electric Lawn & Garden Maintenance

The following article was submitted to the Waco Tribune-Herald by Alan Northcutt and was published on May 25th:

LAWN EQUIPMENT & THE CLIMATE CRISIS

Enduring the typical rainstorms of May in Waco, we anticipate the upcoming explosion of vegetation in our yards.  Managing this growth will require capable lawn equipment, including mowers, weed eaters (string trimmers) , and grass blowers.  Although this equipment has traditionally been powered by fossil fuels, the worsening climate crisis mandates  we transition these tools to electric power.  This transition is detailed herein, and is relevant to individuals, businesses, governments, schools, and lawn maintenance crews.                                                                                                                           

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions.  Recent research from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), found that gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment (GLGE) produced 20.4 million tons of carbon dioxide  annually in the U.S.  A lifecycle analysis in 2021, found that using an electric instead of a gas mower  reduced the carbon dioxide emissions about 49.9%.   Since electric yard equipment is similar in price to the gasoline variety, going electric is an affordable method of shrinking one’s carbon footprint.   

Air Pollution.  Although carbon dioxide emissions produce global warming, gas-powered yard equipment also emits annually 6.3 million tons of other dangerous substances,  including volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, small particulate matter, and nitrogen oxides. This is an incredible 5% of U.S. air pollution.  In the presence of sunlight, these substances cause or contribute to cancers, cardiovascular diseases, stroke,  congestive heart failure, anxiety, asthma, neurologic disorders, abnormal prenatal development,  autism, and premature death. People in lawn maintenance crews, schools, and parks are at increased risk of exposure.  In total, the burning of fossil fuels from all sources causes approximately 350,000 premature deaths in the U.S. annually.    

Toxic Spills.  The EPA estimates that in the U.S. an astonishing 17 million gallons of gasoline are spilled annually during fueling of yard machinery, more than was spilled from the Exxon-Valdez.  This pollution, which could reach yards, ponds, and groundwater, is totally eliminated by the use of electric garden tools.  

Noise Pollution. The average gasoline lawn mower emits a thunderous 100 decibels (dB), while exposure to only 85 dB  may produce hearing damage.  The average electric mower is safer at 75dB, and helps maintain  neighborhood tranquility.

Ease of useThe temperamental crank starting of gasoline yard equipment is avoided with electric devices, which have foolproof on-off switches.  And while gasoline mowers require annual tune ups, oil, filter and spark plug replacement, electric mowers typically require only blade sharpening and regular cleaning—saving time and money.    

Availability.  Although one can purchase almost anything online, I surveyed local businesses, to  highlight the Waco economy.  Loews and Home Depot carry a large selection of  electric mowers, including  riding models;  Ace Hardware and Walmart focus on gas mowers with only one electric model each;  and Tractor Supply Co. sells riding and tractor-type mowers, all gas powered.  Electric mowers are now predominantly cordless, battery type, with up to 75-minute run time per battery.  And the future has landed in our yards:  robotic electric mowers are now available at Loews.  Electric weed eaters and grass blowers are  mainstream:   all five businesses carry a generous assortment of both. 

Some of the most powerful actions individuals can take to combat the climate crisis are using a 100% renewable electric utility, driving a battery- electric  car, eating less meat/dairy/eggs, and maximizing  home efficiency.  But we must electrify ALL sectors of our economy, and the collective GHG savings if everyone used electric yard equipment are significant.  In addition, use of these electric devices will improve health by decreasing dangerous air pollution, eliminate gasoline spillage,  and contribute to quieter neighborhoods.   It is the definition of a win-win proposal. 


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