Lawn care goes electric

More Americans across the country are ready to say, 'Get off my lawn!' to their noisy, polluting, gasoline-powered lawn mowers, trimmers and leaf blowers.

Clean air

Staff | Used by permission
More Americans across the country are ready to say “Get off my lawn!” to their noisy, polluting, gasoline-powered lawn mowers, trimmers and leaf blowers.

This fall, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group released Lawn Care Goes Electric, a new report that documents health-threatening pollution from gas-powered lawn gear by state and by county—and that promotes electric lawn equipment as the healthier, safer alternative that also saves consumers on fuel and maintenance costs over time.

TOP: CoPIRG Foundation Advocate Kirsten Schatz speaks at our Denver press event surrounded by examples of electric lawn equipment. BOTTOM: Kirsten uses a decibel meter to demonstrate harmful noise levels of a gas-powered leaf blower for reporters at our Denver event.
As the Washington Post pointed out in its coverage of our report, “Blasting fallen foliage with powerful winds isn’t just problematic because of the noise. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers also spew toxic chemicals and planet-warming emissions into the air and disrupt natural habitats.”

Our research uncovered some alarming facts about the sheer quantity of the pollution that gas-powered lawn gear is responsible for:

  • Running a gas lawn mower for one hour produces as much pollution as driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas;
  • According to EPA data, in 2020, fossil fuel-powered lawn equipment emitted 30 million typical cars’ worth of nitrogen oxide, a component of ground-level ozone that triggers asthma attacks and contributes to premature deaths; and
  • In 2020, fossil fuel-powered lawn equipment emitted more than 30 million tons of carbon dioxide, the leading cause of global warming—more than all the greenhouse gas emissions Los Angeles produced in 2021.

To move away from loud, gas-powered machines that spew carbon dioxide, smog-forming chemicals and cancer-causing pollutants into our own neighborhoods, many Americans are switching to quieter electric tools for commercial and residential lawn care. (And indeed, more among us are also asking, “Do I really need to mow my lawn or blow leaves around in the first place?”, an important topic we cover in a blog accompanying our report.)

PIRG’s in-state leadership partnered with Environment America Research & Policy Center’s state network to elevate the voices of the people and companies who’ve made the transition to clean, electric lawn equipment at stand-up events nationwide, where we also unveiled our report and discussed its findings with television, print and radio reporters.

Lawn Care Goes Electric events in (TOP) Portland, Oregon, with representatives from Electrify Now and Quiet Clean PDX, Multnomah Landscape and Pride + Joy Landscapes and (BOTTOM) in Dallas, Texas, with City Councilmember Paula Blackmon and manufacturers and users of electric equipment such as Eco Mow, Stihl and Oso.
In our report and media outreach, we offer recommendations to local and state elected leaders seeking to transition from gas-powered to electric lawn gear. For instance, earlier this year, our Colorado advocacy organization CoPIRG helped convince state leaders to adopt a law providing a 30% discount on electric lawn mowers, leaf blowers, trimmers and snow blowers.

To build upon the attention our report garnered in the Washington PostPhiladelphia InquirerCleveland Plain DealerArizona Capitol-TimesGristHouston Public Media61 television news stations and more than 80 other outlets nationwide, we followed up our report release by hosting a national online legislative briefing. Joining CoPIRG Foundation’s Kirsten Schatz to discuss electric lawn equipment solutions were Colorado State Sen. Chris Hansen, Regional Air Quality Council Executive Director Mike Silverstein and Clean Air Lawn Care CEO Kelly Giard.

PennEnvironment Field Director Flora Cardoni with an electric leaf blower at the Pennsylvania State Capitol. 
We host online briefings like these to help catalyze action. Sure enough, a professor from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business who’s active on this issue asked to be connected to our staff in Pennsylvania to team up on local efforts after our event. We’ve also followed up with attendees from Colorado and Oregon who expressed interest in forming a nationwide coalition to coordinate efforts.

These are encouraging signs, as are the actions local and state leaders are already weighing. For example, Dekalb County, Georgia, officials are considering a noise ordinance to address the problem, and the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission will vote later this month on whether to restrict the sale or use of push mowers and handheld tools, the dirtiest gas-powered gear.

As we help more Americans get the facts about gas-powered lawn gear, they’ll think back to their personal experiences: a noisy lawn mower disrupting an otherwise relaxing day, the child with asthma who lives down the block, the unseasonably warm weather that’s becoming more common. Our research and their own intuition will tell them there’s a better way to maintain our yards. Many will adopt common sense, accessible alternatives, from electric equipment to old-fashioned rakes. With our help, many will take action that results in real change in their communities. All this clean air and climate progress will add up to a better, more livable world.

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Authors

Faye Park

Executive Vice President; President, PIRG

As president of PIRG, Faye is a leading voice for consumer protection and public health in the United States. She has been quoted in major news outlets, including CBS News and the Washington Post, about issues ranging from getting toxic chemicals out of children’s products to protecting Americans from predatory lending practices. Faye also serves as the executive vice president for The Public Interest Network, which PIRG founded. Faye began her public interest career as a student volunteer with MASSPIRG Students at Williams College. After graduating in 1992, she began working with the Student PIRGs in California as a campus organizer and organizing director, working on campaigns to help students register to vote and to promote recycling. She lives in Denver with her family.

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