Ask Eartha: Need new lawn gear? Here are some tips.
Now that the snow’s melting, my yard is coming back to life! My old lawnmower is due to be replaced soon. Before I pick up another gas-powered mower, are there other options I should check out?
These days, you can electrify your car, your home heating system, your water heater, your cooktop — and, yes, even your yard equipment. In fact, electric alternatives for lawnmowers, leaf blowers, weed wackers, and snowblowers are as ubiquitous as garden voles but way more beneficial. Why bother? Let’s discuss.
Electric is Clean
What’s the bigger offender? Using a leaf blower, or driving a pickup truck? Shockingly, the truck generates far less pollution. Edmunds, the car shopping website, ran some tests to compare emissions from a consumer-grade leaf blower with a 2011 Ford Raptor. The results showed that half an hour of yard work with the leaf blower belched the same amount of air pollution as driving the pickup truck from Texas to Alaska. Say what?
Most gas-powered lawn equipment uses two- or four-stroke engines. Two-stroke engines don’t have isolated lubrication systems, so gas and oil are mixed together. And because of that, upwards of 30 percent of the fuel never combusts. Instead, it’s released as volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. In other words: air pollution. Four-stroke engines don’t fare much better. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that using a new gas-powered lawnmower for an hour produces the same amount of dirty emissions as driving a car for 45 miles.
Even though the engines are small, these yard appliances pack a polluting punch. Nationwide, yard equipment consumes 800 million gallons of gasoline each year. That results in greenhouse gas emissions eight times higher than what all of Summit County generates in a year.
The solution? Electric equipment! These appliances don’t spew any emissions at all, so you can work without damaging the environment, or your lungs. What about emissions from electricity itself? Every gallon of gas burned releases 19 pounds of carbon dioxide. On the contrary, the electricity needed to charge the two batteries that power my electric snowblower is responsible for just half a pound of carbon pollution, and that’s more than enough to clear my whole driveway, which, for context, takes about 45 minutes.
Electric is Convenient
There’s a reason the New York Times’ top-recommended lawn mower for 2023 is electric. Environmental impact aside, electric equipment is super convenient. There’s no oil, air filters, or spark plugs to replace. No trips to the gas station, and you won’t finish your chores smelling like gas. Instead, you can easily charge at home using a normal electrical outlet, so you’ve got power at your fingertips 24/7. And because there’s less maintenance required, electric equipment generally costs less to operate.
Electric is Quiet
Noise from lawn equipment can be a major nuisance. In fact, over 100 US cities have banned or restricted leaf blowers because of noise complaints! Whereas a typical gas-powered leaf blower can run between 80-90 decibels, most electric models hum along at 59–70 decibels. Normal conversation is 60 decibels, which means these devices are much easier on the ears — and your neighbors.
Electric is Affordable
Last year, the Colorado Public Interest Research Group Foundation published a report on the environmental impacts of gas-powered yard equipment, especially its contribution to ozone in the Front Range. The report also looked at equipment sold at major retailers and found that electric models are not only readily available but also cost competitive with gas.
And now, there’s even more incentive to go electric. Gov. Jared Polis recently signed a bill that — among other greenhouse-gas-reducing measures — implements a 30% state tax credit for the purchase of new electric yard equipment, including lawn mowers, leaf blowers, snow blowers and trimmers. Starting in 2024, the credit will be passed along to consumers as an upfront discount when you shop at qualified retailers.
Electric is Awesome
Unlike electricity, fossil fuels such as natural gas, gasoline and propane will always have a carbon impact. So unless you’ve got a hankering to go old-school and use a reel mower or — gasp — a rake, electric lawn (and snow) equipment is the best way to mow, blow, trim, and wack — all while being a good neighbor to both people and planet.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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