Public Health Impact of Traditional Lawncare
This paper is updated occasionally for sustainable lawncare info.
Traditional Lawncare: ILL Effects on Health & Environment
The Case for Reforming Lawn Treatments and Power Equipment thats "Not Green"
By: James LiVolsi & Dan Delventhal Final Term Paper for Prof. David Schmidt, PHD
Fairfield University, Dolan School of Business, MBA Program, Management 503, Ethical & Legal Environment ofBusiness, Date: 12/16/2009
Traditional lawncare practices in the US involve toxic treatments and power equipment that are detrimental to society primarily due to air and water pollution, among other problems. Issues with chemical pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers are being raised as people start to realize that green lawns are not necessarily "green". The use of gasoline - based power equipment also has a plethora of problems including noise, spillage, consumption, dust, traffic and air pollution. Organic and equipment alternatives that don't use gasoline exist.
This paper presents issues and information including environmental, public health, economic, regulatory and ethical aspects of "dirty lawncare" and argues for reform.
Pesticides and Gas Powered Mowers: The Facts
Pesticides pollute water
Most lawn-care chemicals have the potential to contaminate underlying groundwater. The top five selling lawn-care pesticides, 2,4-D, glyphosate, MCPP, dicamba, and diazinon, are all listed by the State of California as having the potential to contaminate groundwater based on their physical and chemical characteristics. Studies of major rivers and streams have documented that 100 percent of all surface water samples contained one or more pesticides at detectable levels. While pesticides are heavily used in Connecticut, neither groundwater nor surface water monitoring is routinely conducted by the State of Connecticut to detect contamination. (EHHI)
Homeowners may unknowingly contaminate their own well water by using pesticides on their lawns. Factors that influence a pesticide’s potential to contaminate water include physiochemical factors, environmental factors, application methods and other practices associated with the pesticide use. Only two of the top five lawn-care pesticides, 2,4-D and glyphosate, are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, despite governmental acknowledgement of the intensity of effects of their release on the environment, and their potential to leach into groundwater supplies. (EHHI)
Pesticides—especially herbicides—have contaminated drinking water throughout the country. Removing pesticides from contaminated water supplies is difficult, expensive, and not always successful. A California study found that among 600 water suppliers that have detected pesticides in their water sources, only 40 use treatment facilities that effectively reduce concentrations of pesticides. Another expert estimated that it cost an average of $3,000 per well to rid it of pesticide contamination using filtration. (EHHI)
Pesticides Pollute Soil
Pesticides poison soil and combined with synthetic fertilizers have severely degraded our soil for agricultural purposes nationwide setting us back hundreds of years by some estimates. (Pollution Issues)
Grass Clippings Removal - Ton's of Contrary Waste
The second largest component of the solid waste generated in the United States is yard waste and of that 3/4 is grass clippings. These clippings need not be removed. In fact, by removing them, the nitrogen that they contain is also being removed. In the state of Connecticut alone if 20% of all the grass clippings from a year's worth of mowing are removed, a total of 2000 tons of nitrogen is being removed with them and placed into a landfill, which are rapidly filling up. (SALT)
Reel push mowing is a great way to recycle grass as lawn compost while
Power Mowers Pollute the Air
Power mowers, especially riding types, are fossil fuel demanding devices. They also require more energy in initial construction and maintenance than do hand-operated mowers. In California alone it has been estimated that the annual emissions from lawn care equipment is equivalent to the emissions produced by 3.5 million 1991 automobiles driven 16,000 miles each.
Power Mowers Use Fossil Fuels
Power mowers use large amounts of fossil fuels, and are grossly inefficient. 580 million gallons of gas are used annually for power mowers alone. Taken along with the inefficiency of power mowers, this is an extreme waste of limited resources. Often manually operated mowers could do the job adequately. (SALT)
Power Mowers Generate Noise Pollution
The noise produced by power mowers, especially the larger riding types, is an environmental insult that no neighbor should have to tolerate. In the present age one is not immune, even on Sundays -- the one time that used to be recognized as a day of rest. (SALT)
Pesticides: The Issues
The pollution caused by pesticides or any other chemicals used in lawncare, as well as the pollution caused by powermowers, manifests into serious problems not only for the environment, but also for the health of humans, pets and wildlife.
Pollution Affects Wildlife
According to EHHI, many pesticides that are used to treat lawns are toxic to birds. The article claims that between three and 14 bird deaths may occur due to pesticides per acre of farmland. It only takes one granule of diazinon to kill a bird. Recent testing of dead birds for the West Nile virus by the State of New York found that birds had commonly died from pesticide poisoning. Lawn-care pesticides were found to be among the most common causes of death among the birds tested. A U.S. Geological Survey found that 96 percent of all fish analyzed in major rivers and streams contained residues of one or more pesticides at detectable levels. (EHHI)
Pesticides have been identified as a potential cause of amphibian declines and deformities and have been implicated as one of the reasons that wild and managed pollinators are disappearing at alarming rates. (EHHI)
Health Effects of Pesticides:
Pets are vulnerable to pesticide usage because they have a larger skin to body weight ratio than humans do. They also have no protection from the ground—pets do not wear shoes. Pets also lick their fur in grooming themselves, thereby increasing their exposure. The dangers of pesticides to pets are very real, and the health problems that can manifest over the long term are serious. A 1991 National Cancer Institute study, finds that dogs whose owners’ lawns were treated with 2,4-D, four or more times per year, are twice as likely to contract canine malignant lymphoma than dogs whose owners do not use the herbicide. Exposure to herbicide-treated lawns and gardens increases the risk of bladder cancer by four to seven times in Scottish Terriers, according to a study by Purdue University veterinary researchers published in the April 15, 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Research published in the December 1988 issue of Preventive Veterinary Medicine links hyperthyroidism in cats to lawn pesticides. According to 2004 statistics compiled by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Animal Poison Control Center, 22% of approximately 880 cases of pet birds being exposed to common household items involved pesticides (including rat bait and insecticides. (Seattle PI)
Children are the most vulnerable to the health consequences of pesticides. Because their bodies are still developing, they have not yet developed the mechanisms that adults have in detoxifying their bodies from environmental pollution. Childhood activities and behavior also compound the problem-they spend more time than adults playing in yards that could be treated with pesticides. To put in perspective, 50% of lifetime pesticide exposure occurs during the first five years of life. (BeyondPesticides.org)
Children are most at risk not only because of their yet developed detoxifying mechanisms but also because of their behavior. Infants crawling in the yard would give more exposure because they touch with not only feet but also hands and have higher inhalation exposure being much closer to the ground. Children with developmental delays and those younger than six years are at increased risk of ingesting pesticides by ingesting soil or grass.
Risk of Cancer in Children
The probability of an effect such as cancer, which requires a period of time to develop after exposure, is enhanced if exposure occurs early in life. According to BeyondPesticides.org, household and garden pesticide use can increase the risk of childhood leukemia as much as seven-fold. Studies show that children living in households where pesticides are used suffer elevated rates of leukemia, brain cancer and soft tissue sarcoma. Pesticides can increase susceptibility to certain cancers by breaking down the immune system’s surveillance against cancer cells.
Children developing asthma
Children are at risk for asthma induced by pesticide exposure. According to BeyondPesticides.org, infants and toddlers exposed to herbicides (weedkillers) within their first year of life are 4.5 times more likely to develop asthma by the age of five, and almost 2.5 times more likely when exposed to insecticides. The EPA lists common herbicides such as 2,4-D, mecoprop, dicamba, (often combined as Trimec®) and glyphosate (Roundup®) as respiratory irritants that can cause irritation to skin and mucous membranes, chest burning, coughing, nausea and vomiting. (BeyondPesticides.org)
Children, learning and developmental disorders and pesticides
Studies on lawn pesticide product formulations show effects on learning ability, aggressiveness, memory, motor skills and immune system function. A 2002 study finds children born to parents exposed to glyphosate (Roundup®) show a higher incidence of attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity. (BeyondPesticides.org)
Legal and Ethical Considerations
Pesticide Packaging, Labeling and Sales
EHHI surveyed 18 stores in Connecticut and found that most stores displayed pesticide packages with visible tears or rips. Their contents had visibly contaminated store shelves, floors, and storage areas. The packaging of many lawn-care chemicals is porous, releasing vapors from the chemicals into nearby air. These vapors are easily detected by sense of smell, and often contaminate indoor air where sold. The risks of long-term health effects, such as cancer and neurotoxicity, are not reported on product labels. Only summaries of acute toxicity are required on labels. Pesticide labels do not provide the consumer with sufficient warning and instruction regarding the toxicity of contents, pesticide potential to contaminate water supplies, effects on fish and wildlife, and proper handling and disposal. (EHHI)
Pesticide labels claim product benefits in multicolored letters often several inches high.
By contrast,warning information, directions for safe use and disposal are commonly displayed in minute type on the backs of 25-pound packages. Some lawn and garden packages require you to remove a plastic wrapping to access multi-paged warnings about product ingredients, often printed in minute type. Pesticides are commonly sold in stores that also sell food and other consumer products. (EHHI)
Current laws and regulations do not demand safe and effective pesticide packaging that ensures proper containment of the product throughout the process of shipping, storage, sale, and disposal. The Connecticut Commissioner of Environmental Protection holds the exclusive authority to regulate “pesticide spraying” on private lands in the state, depriving local governments of the right to restrict pesticide use on private property. (EHHI)
Local governments do have the legal authority to limit the use of pesticides on public lands, such as parks, highway rights-of-way, schools and other grounds. Some pesticides commonly used on lawns and gardens in Connecticut, including 2,4-D, MCPP, dicamba, and diazinon, have been banned or restricted in other countries because of concerns about health effects. A number of cities in North America have restricted pesticide use on public lands or limited the uses and types of pesticides. (EHHI)
Many Canadian municipalities have banned or severely restricted the use of lawn-care
pesticides. The Province of Quebec recently set “the highest standards in North
America to decrease exposure to pesticides” 23 when it prohibited some commonly used lawn care pesticides (including 2,4-D and MCPP) from use on public lawns. These pesticides will be prohibited from use on private and commercial lawns in 2006. (EHHI)
Industry Trends (Economic Data)
In 1995, approximately 20 American million households used the services of landscape professionals to improve their yards. This number grew to 26 million households by 1999. Spending for lawn/landscape maintenance, landscape installation/construction, landscape design, and tree care totaled $14.2 billion in 1995 and grew to $17.4 billion in 1999.
Between 1995 and 1999, the average amount spent for lawn/landscape maintenance increased by 17.1 percent, and spending for landscape design increased by 56.9 percent. Alternatively, during this same period, spending for landscape installation/construction decreased by 64.5 percent, and spending for tree care decreased by 10 percent.
People choose to have their lawns cared for because of the value it adds to the property. According to Gallup Poll, landscaping can increase the value of a home by 7 to 15 percent. Yard and garden improvements are becoming as important and popular as kitchen and bathroom renovations. (http://www.sbdc.uga.edu/pdfs/landscaping2.pdf)
Environmental concerns, however, is not the highest priority of the average consumer. In a recent poll, consumers were asked, “what do you look for when choosing landscape lawn/tree care professionals?” The three leading answers were good references and reputation (67.4%), satisfaction guarantees (39.5%), and free estimates (33.8%).
Gas Powered Equipment: Environmental Effects and Regulation
Operating a typical gasoline-powered lawn mower for one hour produces the same amount of smog-forming hydrocarbons as driving an average care almost 200 miles under typical driving conditions. (EPA)
Because of the heavy pollution caused by lawncare equipment, the EPA issued new emission standards for small lawn equipment to take effect in 2009, replacing the old emission standards written in 1997. (EPA)
Each weekend, about 54 million Americans mow their lawns, using 800 million gallons of gas per year and producing tons of air pollutants. Garden equipment engines, which have had unregulated emissions until very recently, emit high levels of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, producing up to 5% of the nation's air pollution and a good deal more in metropolitan areas. (People Powered Mowers)
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a traditional gas powered lawn mower produces as much air pollution as 43 new cars each being driven 12,000 miles.
(People Powered Mowers)
Until 1995, lawnmower emissions were unregulated. Older more powerful, less efficient two-cycle engines release 25-30% of their oil and gas unburned into the air. Gas mowers emit hydrocarbons (a principle ingredient of smog), particulate matter (damaging to the respiratory system), carbon monoxide (a poisonous gas) and carbon dioxide (contributing to global warming). The health toll includes cancer as well as damage to lungs, heart, and both the immune and detoxification systems. Plus smog inhibits plant growth. EPA regulations are beginning to reduce mower emissions. (People Powered Mowers)
Electric mowers don't totally eliminate pollution, however emissions from the electric industry are more regulated and are not in your backyard. Also they save on gas spills and gas refinery and transportation. To achieve a net environmental savings from switching from gas to electric mowers depends on the efficiency of the power plant from where the electricity originates. Only reel mowers have a 0 carbon footprint. This is why we still prefer reel mowers to all other types of mowers, and electric reel mowers which can have an electric kick for those days when the lawn is longer or your time is shorter.
(People Powered Mowers)
Alternatives to Traditional Lawncare
Organic Fertilizers, Pest & Weed Control (Alternatives to Petroleum-based Synthetic Fertilizers and Chemical Pesticides)
“The common use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer is a tragic result of repurposed World War II technology. The petroleum-based chemical warfare labs developed all this capability and technology, and after the war, companies emerged to capitalize on it by marketing it as pesticides to farmers, landscapers and individual consumers. Back in 1950 ads like “DDT is good for me” were not uncommon. I don’t want to be a downer, but its pretty late in the game.”
-Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides
Organic alternatives exist to the chemical pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers. There are companies today who do strictly organic lawncare. In Fairfield, CT, one such company is called Plantscapes, Inc. who has been in business doing exclusively organic lawncare since 1980. According to founder Michael Nadeau, organic methods can actually be less expensive in the long run and more effective as well, reducing reliance on chemicals and resulting in healthier plants, soil, water and air. He also cites a growing demand for more eco-friendly services in this area. Evidence of the growing interest in "Going Green in Your Own Back Yard" can be seen with the activity featured in pictures below, sponsored by the Fairfield and Sasqua Garden Clubs featuring experts on Organic Alternatives to chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
Earthday Event ‘09, Southport Well Attended!!
Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides, Dan , MowGreen, Chip Osborne, Osborne Organics
Synthetic Fertilizer alternatives: Good soil care, Mulching mowing, compost application (top dressing), long grass, reel mowing, aeration:
• Mulching mowing: Often, allowing cut grass to mulch back into the lawn will give it most of the feed it needs.
• Use of native plant diversity, especially clover increases nitrogen to feed the soil and produce green grass.
• Compost tea is used to feed grass to produce a greener and healthier appearance (or any compost comprised of old garden scraps, pine needles, leaves, grass clippings, etc.).
• Cutting the grass higher, at a recommended height of 3 inches keeps it healthier looking and produces stronger and deeper root system which also requires less water.
• Reel mowers, which clip the grass rather than rip the grass, as do rotary mowers also make it healthier and more resistant to disease.
• Aeration and top dressing are other methods to promote healthy grass and soil, eliminating the need for synthetic fertilizers. Aeration is the practice of poking or cutting holes in the soil which improves the health of the grass roots allowing for more oxygen, and making it easier for passage of the roots as well as other beneficial life, like earthworms who fertilize further. Top dressing is a 50/50 mix of sand with compost in a thin layer on top of the grass.
Chemical pesticide and herbicide alternatives: Good soil care (as mentioned above), Overseeding, manual weeding, diversity tolerance, correct mowing height and frequency, proper thatch management, nematodes, and more:
Here is an excerpt from the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP):
“Lots of pesticides are used on lawns. Many people are familiar with 2,4-D, an herbicide that's often found in "weed and feed” products and is the most commonly used lawn care pesticide. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 9 million pounds of 2,4-D are used on U.S. lawns every year (1) -- that's more 2,4-D than is used on all 50 million acres of wheat grown in this country! (2)
This pesticide use is unnecessary. And it's not hard to have a pesticide-free lawn. Here's how EPA sums up what you'll need: "You don't have to be an expert to grow a healthy lawn. Just keep in mind that the secret is to work with nature. This means creating conditions for grass to thrive and resist damage from weeds, disease, and insect pests." (3) This article outlines five uncomplicated steps that will get you to that goal. (3)”
Jay Feldman of Beyond Pesticides points out that the best soil health has complex biology. This is destroyed by pesticides.
Beneficial nematodes are an organic method of controlling grubs. First of all grubs are not a problem unless you have too many of them. A section of soil can be tested and you can apply beneficial white grub control nemotodes if the density of grubs found in the sample is beyond a certain point (more than 2 or 3 in a 6" by 6" x 3" inch square of sod). For more information, here is a good resource: www.uri.edu/ce/factsheets/sheets/whitegrub.html.
Good soil care as mentioned in the paragraph about organic fertilizers helps produce healthy grass and ward off damage from pests or plant disease. Overseeding is one way to reduce weeds without herbicides. In the spring, the grass can be cut a little shorter, say 2 inches instead of 3, to give the grass seed a chance to germinate and grow fast. 150% of normal grass seed dispersion creates thicker grass and afterwards weeds have a harder time starting up, especially after you let the grass grow back to 3 inches in height, its harder for new weed seed to germinate.
Manually pulling plants that are unwanted (weeds by definintion) is a better way to go than to apply herbicides (weed killer).
Tolerance for diversity would be helpful, as there is really no reason to worry about variety thats not a pure blade of grass. Clover returns nitrogen to the soil and other naturally occurring plants are probably there because of favorable conditions. Its all green, its all good!
Mowing frequency can maintain healthy pest resistant grass. If mowing is more frequent, then the amount of grass blade cut is limited to less than a third of the entire grass blade, so the grass is healthier and the roots grow deeper.
Thatch is partially decomposed grass roots, stems and leaves forming between the green part of the grass and the soil surface. Its good for water absorption and avoiding compaction, but only if its around a half inch. If it is more than that it causes deterioration and should be removed in Spring and/or Fall. Excess thatch can be a result from excess watering infrequent mowing and heavy use of pesticides.
Economics of Organic Lawncare
According to Michael Nadeau of Plantscapes, Inc, it is initially more expensive to have totally organic landscaping, but less expensive in the long run due to grass and soil that is healthier and less dependent on frequent feeding from synthetic fertilizers and treatment with chemical pesticides and herbicides. Other social costs of damage to soil, water, and air are not normally considered by homeowers.
Manual, or People-Powered Machines
There are manual tools available to do most lawncare jobs for cutting grass, trimming, edging, raking, sweeping, aerating and seeding. We live in an era where many people pay money to belong to a health spa, and drive there to work out, while they also pay lawncare services to drive trucks and trailers to their homes to run power equipment which creates traffic, pollution, spillage, consumption and noise to perform their lawn maintenance. Often, they apply unnecessary synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers which pollute the air and water and damage the soil, creating dependency on more of the same. Some people have realized the inefficiency and waste involved in this cycle and have begun to seek manual tools in order to get their exercise on their own lawns by using manual tools like reel mowers and practicing organic lawncare. Companies structured to exclusively sell products to serve this growth market have emerged. Two such examples include www.PeoplePoweredMachines.com and www.clearairgardening.com.
Dan tests the MowGreen Reel2Reel(TM) Gang Adaptor
Reel Mowers, which have been around for a long time, have seen resurgence in popularity. Originally they were used for very small lots because they were heavy and they had a narrow cutting swath (12 to 16 inches), and they cut the grass very low (less then 2 inches adjustment height maximum). Now, there are a variety of models which are as wide as 20”, while they adjust as high as 3” (recommended cutting height for best grass health). The units are lighter, and much easier to push. Often, they can be used instead of gasoline – powered units and can mow a lawn as fast if not faster than gasoline - based units because they require no fuel and less maintenance, while they are easier to start.
In May 2007, Teri McClain of American Lawn Mower Co. of Shelbyville, Indiana, quoted in an AP news article, said sales of reel mowers were rising every year. She estimated annual US sales of push reel mowers to be 350,000 units per year, up from 250,000 in 2002 and 50,000 in the ‘80’s. That’s still not that significant however, as the author observed, given that 6 million walk behind gas-powered units were sold in the same year (2006). (New Haven Register, May29, 2007, pg A21, Manual Reel Mowers are making comeback in a greener world. Considering EPA statistics which state that gas powered walk behind mowers are the equivalent of 11 1991 cars, that 6 millions units creates the equivalent pollution of putting perhaps 30 million cars on the road.
Wall Street Green Journalist Gwendolyn Bounds tested a variety of new non-gasoline alternative lawn equipment; battery electric push and riding units, and push reel mowers for an article in May 2009. Ms. Bounds quoted Home Depot as reporting annual sales growth of “double-digits”, driven by “the greening of America” and concern over rising gas prices. She concluded that her favorite unit for her 3,500 s.f. lawn was the American Lawnmower manufactured 20” wide model (the same unit selected by MowGreen.US after significant testing as mentioned below).
MowGreen.US (http://www.MowGreen.US), a company based in Fairfield, CT committed to petroleum-free lawncare, founded by Dan Delventhal in 2007, has tested a variety of units and has recommendations, but hasn’t found the ideal solution yet.
Choosing a Reel Mower
Testing has determined that the American Lawn Mower 20" Reel Mower Design is their top choice so far. Some of these mowers are manufactured in the US by The American Lawn Mower/Great States Company (sales were up approximately 20% plus last year), but it appears the design is licensed out and most are now made in China. The least expensive of these is the one outsourced to China which bears the Scotts Classic Brand and is sold on the internet through MowGreen.US’s site for about $100 to $120. MowGreen has learned that Lee Valley Tool and Sears have similar units manufactured in the US which sell for about $160. MowGreen is hoping to get a link to purchase an American made unit at a price point around $140 (the same price that Home Depot sells the Chinese Scotts unit for) on their site, but American Lawn Mower won’t do that for them unless they order a few hundred at a time. The name of the American Lawn Mower U.S. made 20” reel mower is the Earthwise 2000. Environmentalists don’t want Chinese manufactured goods because of the lack of pollution controls in China and the pollution associated with shipping to the U.S. Contact MowGreen.US to find out how to purchase one from the US. Although the American Lawn Mower 20” model requires sharpening more often than say, the Sunlawn or Brill imports with more hardened steel blade models, it is one of the only 20" wide unit MowGreen is aware of and it adjusts higher than others as well, easily adjustable to cut as high as 3". And it’s easy to sharpen! There is a kit for about $20 which consists of some grit, a brush and a handle, to pop the wheel cover, slap it on and grind it backwards to sharpen it against its own counter/cross blade. And people can still push it with one hand; it’s so much lighter than the older models. Other units tested are lighter and claim to required sharpening less often due to hardened steel and a non-contact cutting design. However, its not clear how to sharpen them, as they may suffer from the high cost and complexity of sharpening which has plagued owners of older models of reels as well; they need to be disassembled and ground back to sharpness by specialists who charge $35-$50 per sharpen. And these units aren’t as wide, nor do they adjust as high, nor do they stand up to rough conditions like thick or wet grass very well.
In the search for the best reel mower, MowGreen discovered a 20” wide, 3” high model by Gilmour (owned by Bosch, a German company) which claims to be self-sharpening. If it holds up as compared to the American Lawn mower unit, then it offers significant advantage. Unfortunately this unit is also manufactured in China. A Greenwich woman, Ann Pierce, recently purchased one off the MowGreen website and will be testing it in the Spring. She fell in love with the American Lawn Mower 20” unit she borrowed from MowGreen after discovering it at a Greenwich Greenfaire that MowGreen was exhibiting at.
Ann Pierce of Greenwich, CT uses a reel mower – she is 78 years old.
For reel mowing to work most easily, it needs to be done slightly more often than with rotary mowers, which rip the grass and are not as good for your lawn as the nice scissor slicing motion from reel mowers. If the grass gets too long they don't cut as well, and you have to do it twice to get it right. Really long shoots don't get cut well and you have to whip them afterwards, or snap them off by hand when you have to. It’s worth noting that healthy grass and soil is maximized when you mow more often regardless of whether reels or rotary mowers are used.
Reel Mower Maintenance
If you own a reel mower and need it sharpened, you might try one of the sharpening kits from American Lawn Mower to see if you can do it that way, or you can take it to shops like Charlie Guerra of Sport Hill Lawn Mower Service where they disassemble and grind the them like new for $40. Other than sharpening after 10 to 20 uses, maintenance is fairly simple. It’s important to clean and dry reel mowers, and no lubrication is really necessary on newer ones, although the kit instructions suggest to spray a little wd40 on the blades after sharpening and cleaning to protect them (MowGreen doesn’t use wd40 very often). Occaisionally the blades need a simple minor adjustment which is easy. Sometimes the American Lawn Mower handles break, but they are covered by warranty or can be repaired by Thommen Welding of BlackRock (Bridgeport), CT for $25.
Gasoline to Hydrogen Conversion
“Hyrogen is the most plentiful element in the universe” -Tim Dolan of Enabling Technologies and others
Gasoline based equipment can be converted to burn Hydrogen, a fuel which offers the benefit of zero emissions. However, in gasoline to hydrogen converted engines, some oil is still used for lubrication and mixing with the fuel for combustion, creating a little pollution. Also, they operate just as loud as when they ran on gas. Even so, it’s a far superior alternative to gasoline and may offer a way to salvage some of the huge investment this country has in gasoline based lawn equipment. Hydrogen is not inexpensive to produce either, and breakthroughs in hydrogen production are necessary.
MowGreen.US partnered with Enabling Technologies to produce the first HydroMow ™gasoline to hydrogen conversion of a traditional walk-behind, self-propelled Toro 22” mulching mower. The converted unit cost about $800 with the ride along hydrogen tank, but with some scale, the cost of conversion would become lower than the value of the mower as is, offering salvage value on the investment while meeting green objectives. MowGreen.US gets their hydrogen from Enabling Technologies’ solar based electrolyzer in Fairfield. MowGreen.US uses the HydroMow for grass that gets too long for a reel mower, or for those who request occasional bagging of clippings, or just for a brief rest from powering the reels!
MowGreen's HydroMow(TM) Converted Mower
A variety of electric mowers are available. The corded units are better than gas, but the cord is an inconvenience and the source of power is hopefully not supported by oil or coal. Cordless electric units are better and more maneuverable, consuming less energy to charge. If reels or hydrogen units are not available or practical, cordless electric units are a great alternative and pricing is similar to gas units.
MowGreen.US is one of many lawncare companies emerging with green alternatives for mowing in addition to providing organic care. MowGreen.US approximates market pricing charged by traditional lawncare companies.
Below is text from the home page of their website:
Go Green with MowGreen & Get the Gas off your Grass!
MOWGreen.US cuts pollution, noise, spillage, consumption, traffic, dust, obesity, traffic and unemployment by reel mowing at the same price as “dirty” lawn care (6-10% of US gasoline emmissions), while encouraging lawn reduction with native plants & organic gardens.
MowGreen is a full service earth-friendly lawncare cooperative serving Fairfield, New Haven, & Greenwich areas. Although pollution-free mowing, trimming, raking and sweeping are the core focuses, the services can include landscape creation, landscape maintenance and debris removal. Eco athlete students and lawncare pros provide clean, prompt service, with minimal carbon footprint and waste!
MowGreen - Clean & Serene, No Gasoline Lawncare since 2007. Residential and commercial properties served.
Push Reel & Solar-charged Electric Mowing Lawncare.
Also Promoting: Less Lawn Mowing, More Food Growing.
MowGreen.US mowed over 40 acres during the summer of '09 and abated pollution roughly equal to 30,000 auto miles. Growth from 2008 was over 900%.
In order to increase efficiency and scale the green mowing business for commercial purposes to perform larger jobs, MowGreen created the HydroMow™ and Reel2Reel™ systems this past summer. The Reel2Reel is featured in the below photo and more information can be found at blog.mowgreen.us.
One-Armed 9 year old pushes the MowGreen Reel2Reel dual gang system at the GoGreener Greenwich Eco-Fair
Clean Air Lawn Care
Clean Air Lawn Care is a lawncare franchiser who claims a zero carbon footprint. With solar panels on top of trucks to charge cordless electric equipment in the field, they purchase carbon offsets to zero out their carbon footprint. This business model solves many problems inherent in gasoline gear-based lawncare. They currently boast over 25 franchises and abatement of the equivalent of taking 2 hundred cars off the road! More information is available at: www.cleanairlawncare.com.
The core issue to of current lawncare is that it is bad for the environment and society, and so it should be changed. There are two segments to this issue, one segment explains the harm caused by traditional lawncare methods, and the second segment argues in favor of using alternative lawncare methods to reduce carbon footprint while gaining the same benefits as traditional lawncare.
Homeowners and businesses shouldn’t use chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and gas powered mowing equipment to maintain their lawns.
Pesticides and synthetic fertilizers are liberally applied outdoors, where they cannot be contained.
Rain and wind spread these pollutants beyond the homeowner’s or business’s property.
Gas powered mowers release exhaust into the air because of internal combustion.
The exhaust from the machines is unpleasant.
People live in the environment that is being polluted by these means.
The environment should not be polluted, but rather preserved for those that live within it.
A polluted environment can cause health problems to humans, plants, and animals that live in it.
Studies have been conducted correlating high levels of pollution with health problems.
Studies also show that a disrupted ecosystem can hinder lawn growth, defeating the purpose of pesticides, fertilizers, and gas powered mowers.
People should be able to use these polluting methods because they are convenient and time saving and time is money. People should use their time wisely to make money as a priority over preserving the environment. People have to maximize their time to earn a living and don't have time to worry about the environment impact on public health, they need to earn a living. They have right to convenience and short term gains, by virtue of a quicker fix to primp their homes to maximize the value - often cited as making a 7-15% difference in selling price.
The lawncare industry should reform its production, packaging, and storage cycles.
Insufficient packaging, packaging is porous, allowing harmful substances to escape.
People who work with pesticides are exposed because packaging is too weak to contain the chemicals.
Manufacturers are responsible for the dangerous effects of the products that they produce.
Manufacturers of the products have control over how they produce, package, and store their products.
Common law provides for product liability for harmful products and employer liability for unsafe workplace conditions.
Laws regulating pesticides need to be stricter.
For a lawncare company to apply pesticides only one person needs certification.
This person does not have to be the one to apply the pesticides.
Not all of the harmful pesticides are regulated.
Regulators should be proactive to protect society and the environment
A democratic government exists to protect the interests of society.
A safe, clean environment is in the best interest of society.
Manufacturers need to provide better labeling of the harmful effects of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
Current labeling is hard to read and hidden.
Current labeling is easy to overlook.
People use lawncare products without properly following the guidelines.
People are not aware of the harmful effects of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, but rather are most interested in price and short-term results.
People should be aware of the harmful effects of the products they use, and manufacturers are responsible for disclosing this information in a more accessible format.
Manufacturers are the experts in the products they manufacture.
Laws have held manufacturers responsible for disclosing relevant information about their products (nutrition information, drug information, cigarette warnings, etc).
People should reduce consumption of petroleum-based (“oil”) products as much as possible by using “greener” alternatives especially if they cost less.
Oil use creates pollution which damages public health and the ecosystem and costs money.
It’s wrong to inflict harm on the public health and nature. Also, if we continue to, we will get sick and die, or if our ecosystem is destroyed we won’t be able to produce food and drink clean water or breath clean air and we will eventually die. It’s good for people’s welfare to save money if possible, they can have a better quality of life. It’s good for the US economy to consume less oil and what’s good for the US economy is good for its citizens.
Disease rates are way up especially in children as a result of pollution from oil products. Our air, water and soil have been severely diminished already and at the current pace, destruction of the life sustaining ecosystem is imminent. Lower cost alternatives exist to replace oil based products (synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, mowers, blowers, weed-whackers, etc.). Also, the reliance on oil is crippling the US economy while we borrow billions from the Chinese to pay for our oil imports, we face rapid debt increases beyond $80,000 per capita for all citizens. At the current pace, without reducing oil use, the US economy will collapse soon and detract from quality of life, even if the price of oil doesn’t go up!
Reducing consumption of oil based products will cause economic harm to those people earning a living from the sale and use of them. It’s wrong to expect people to change their habits when its what they know or do and is convenient for them. It would be bad for our economy to change how much oil we consume because it would be too expensive to change to alternatives given our substantial reliance on energy, with oil as the least cost and only present realistically practical solution. Economic damage from an all out effort in this manner may be worse than if we continued borrowing from China for our oil appetite.
Conclusion and Implications The use of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers for lawncare for a greener, more attractive lawn is like eating junk food for a fast and satisfying meal - the end result is the same; damage to the system. In the case of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, the plants, soil, air and water is all compromised, leading to a weaker system, depending on frequent re-use to maintain the desired result. In the analogy of people eating junk food, the person's health is deteriorated and the propensity to seek frequent, often excessive consumption of the junk food for that satisfying taste often leads to obesity and disease, creating early demise of the individual. The sad thing about traditional lawncare is that the damage isn't localized to the individual, but the damage to the environment is pervasive, adversely affecting the health of innocent bystanders and the environment, which leads to more widespread damage to all people, not just to those who perpetrate the "crimes". The negative impact of traditional lawncare with its toxic treatments and gasoline powered equipment is a major part of our national environmental and public health problems. I have learned more about alternatives which are viable from doing this paper, and as my career involves promoting the use of environmentally safe alternatives for lawncare and beyond, We can now do a better job of educating and serving the community in the quest for quiet, clean and green closest to home.
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