If you are someone who owns or uses a gas lawn mower, you may be concerned about the impact that your gas lawn mower has on the environment.
Gas lawn mowers are typically convenient options, especially for those who have big yards. However, their effects on the environment can be substantial.
Some of the general environmental impacts of using a gas lawn mower include:
- Increased carbon emissions
- Nitrogen oxides
- Volatile organic compounds that are released into the environment
- Noise pollution
- Gas spillage
- Pollution from grass clippings
- Manufacturing the lawn mower itself
The negative impacts of a gas lawn mower may have you wondering how you can sustainably mow your lawn. Fortunately, there are many options to make your yard care routine more sustainable. Keep reading to understand the full environmental impacts of lawn mowers, the science behind pollution caused by gas lawn mowers, and to explore some alternative options for lawn mowing.
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Are Gas Lawn Mowers Bad for the Environment?
Those looking to spruce up their lawns may not put much thought into the type of lawn mowers they use and just go with one to get it done. This fact can be a problem when multiple people are doing it.
Gas lawn mowers have many negative impacts on the environment and have a significant impact on overall pollution in the United States. Gas lawn mowers release harmful carbon emissions and nitrous oxides contributing to an increase in greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.
The ways that gas lawn mowers impact the environment are a bit complex. As you operate a gas lawn mower, its internal operations cause them to release various emissions that are harmful to the environment.
What Are Emissions?
Now that you’re hearing about the carbon emissions caused by gas lawn mowers, you may be wondering, “What are emissions?”
According to The Environmental Protection Agency, “Emissions are the gases and particles which are put into the air or emitted by various sources.” Emissions can occur from natural sources, like from wood-burning fires or livestock, but are often produced by manmade machinery and operations.
Many of the man-made emissions in the United States come from the following sectors:
Emissions that negatively harm the environment are known as greenhouse gases. These gases act within the atmosphere to trap heat, warming the planet and resulting in potentially catastrophic effects to life on earth, such as severe weather events and the loss of life due to extreme and inhospitable temperatures.
Recent years have seen many people attempting to become more conscious of the emissions that they create to combat this growing issue.
Many choose to do so through choices in their personal life, such as the fuel efficiency of the car they use or where they source their household power, turning to sustainable power options such as solar and wind.
Carbon Emissions Caused by Gas Lawn Mowers
Perhaps the greatest environmental impact caused by using a gas lawn mower is its release of carbon emissions. Carbon emissions occur when carbon monoxide, a potentially harmful greenhouse gas, is released into the atmosphere.
How Do Gas Lawn Mowers Create Carbon Emissions?
Now that you know how carbon emissions occur, you might be wondering how gas lawn mowers specifically create them.
Gas lawn mowers create carbon emissions because of their gas-powered engine. Like anything that uses an engine to operate, this machinery requires some sort of fuel in the form of gas. As the fuel burns, carbon monoxide is emitted as a byproduct.
Just like a burning fire releases heat and smoke, a running engine releases carbon emissions, among other byproducts. Oftentimes, these byproducts are known as exhaust.
Are Carbon Emissions Dangerous to Humans?
The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the environment can certainly have a long-term health impact on humans, however, you may be wondering if the emissions created by operating your gas lawn mower have any direct health consequences for you.
Generally, you won’t notice any direct impacts on your health from running a lawn mower. However, you should avoid the following:
- Mowing in an enclosed space
- Being exposed to exhaust for an extended time
- Breathing in exhaust
- Getting close to the exhaust if you have heart problems or respiratory concerns
Though your gas lawn mower is not friendly to the environment, it will probably not have any direct impacts on your personal health.
Nitrous Oxides That Are Released by Gas Lawn Mowers
Another type of polluting emission created by gas lawn mowers is nitrous oxides. Nitrous oxides are a type of organic compound that, much like carbon monoxide, are released whenever the engine of a gas-powered lawn mower begins burning fuel.
Nitrous oxides can have harmful effects on the environment and are released in large amounts anytime a gas lawn mower is started.
What Are the Effects Caused by Nitrous Oxides?
Now that you know that gas lawn mowers cause nitrous oxides, let’s get into its effect on the environment.
Nitrous oxides are known to generate the following negative impacts on the environment when they are released:
- Smog formation
- Acid rain
- Ozone formation when the nitrous oxides and other compounds interact with sunlight
Though these emissions are less well-known to the general public than carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides can be very detrimental to the natural world and human life.
How Much Pollution Does a Gas Lawn Mower Generate?
Gas lawn mowers generate a great deal of pollution.
Though the exact amount of emissions a lawn mower produces can depend a lot on the age and type of your lawn mower, some of the following comparisons have been made:
- A 2001 study found that running a lawn mower for one hour has the same negative environmental impacts as driving a car for 100 miles.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) more recently estimated that running a lawn mower for an hour generates emissions closer to 350 miles of car travel.
- Studies estimate that the average gas lawn mower releases anywhere from 16 billion to 41 billion pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.
Although the statistics can vary in their exact predictions, almost all seem to agree that using gas-powered lawn mowers creates a large number of emissions over a typical year and can contribute greatly to the pollution that leads to global warming.
Why Do Gas Lawn Mowers Generate Emissions?
Gas lawn mowers are known to cause emissions at such high rates because of the ways that their engines operate.
The majority of lawn mowers and lawn machinery in general are operated through the use of the following engine types:
- Two-stroke engines
- Four-stroke engines
These engines power lawn mowers by burning fuel to operate the internal machinery of the mower.
In particular, two-stroke engines produce emissions at an accelerated rate because they allow the gasoline and oil to mix, which results in a large portion of the fuel not combusting as it should.
As a consequence, emissions are released at a much higher rate from this unfinished fuel.
The other engine types may be slightly better, but not much. Each type results in a given amount of fuel that cannot be combusted and releases more emissions in general than electric or battery-powered alternatives.
Other Environmental Impacts Caused by Gas Lawn Mowers
Emissions are the most obvious form of pollution caused by lawn mowers and should not be overlooked; however, there are still some other forms of pollution that result from the everyday operation of lawn mowers that can have severe environmental impacts as well.
Gas Spillage from Lawn Mowers
If you are using a gas lawn mower, you will inevitably have to fill it with gas. In this process of refilling the gas tank, gasoline can often be spilled onto the ground, especially if you are using an older gas canister that has weaker seals that allow fuel to spill more easily.
Additionally, old gas cans often are made from weaker material that causes more fumes to be released from the canister at all times, even when you are not directly fueling your mower.
Although gas spillage may not seem like a huge issue if you are filling up your lawn mower on a hard surface such as garage flooring (despite safety issues that can arise from adding fuel to a lawn mower in an enclosed space), it can severely impact the environment if the spillage occurs on grass or other natural surfaces.
You might be wondering how much impact the small amounts of gas spillage you produce would really have, but it all adds up. Some studies estimate that around 17 million gallons of gas are spilled each year collectively just from refilling lawn mowers.
When you spill gas while trying to fill up your lawn mower, it permeates into the ground. Not only is this bad for plant life, but it can also permeate into the watershed, making water or affected plants potentially toxic to people and animals alike.
Recent oil spills have shown us the devastating consequences that gas spillage can have on the natural world. While we typically imagine these spills happening on large ships or major oil fields, they can happen just as easily on a small scale in our own yards.
Noise Pollution from Lawn Mowers
Another less obvious result of using a gas lawn mower is the resulting noise.
Anyone who has used a gas lawn mower knows that they are noisy; however, this noise can have unexpected environmental consequences as well, including the following:
- Loud noises can impact animals’ health. Wildlife can suffer hearing loss, hypertension, and fertility.
- Noise pollution can lead to habitats shrinking. As animals are repelled by loud noises, they avoid certain areas. As a result, the biodiversity, or different types of life, in a given area goes down. They can also find it more difficult to navigate their territory, leading to confusion and poor health.
- Animals fall victim to predators. When animals are disrupted by loud noises, it may be more difficult for them to detect potentially dangerous predators. Especially if a species is threatened or endangered, this can have serious impacts on a species’ overall well-being.
In addition to wildlife, humans can also suffer the consequences of noise pollution. Noise pollution in humans is known to have an impact on hearing and cardiovascular health, among other aspects.
The Environmental Impact of Grass Clippings
Any time that you mow your lawn, you will generate grass clippings. Beyond just being a challenge to clean up, grass clippings can have adverse environmental impacts that add to the pollution created by your lawn mower.
When grass clippings are sent to a landfill, they can potentially create methane during decomposition, which is a harmful greenhouse gas. They can also be blown in the wind or carried away by rain and collected in natural bodies of water. This can harm existent life and ecosystems living in this water.
If you treat your lawn with pesticides or other chemicals, grass clippings will contain residue from these treatments as well and potentially contaminate composting sites or affected bodies of water.
Do Push Mowers Generate Less Pollution?
You may be wondering if a gas-powered push lawn mower is less environmentally detrimental than a riding lawn mower, and for the most part, the answer is no.
Just like riding lawn mowers, push lawn mowers still run on gas, and as a result, the emissions produced are roughly the same.
However, push lawn mowers are often owned by people who have comparatively smaller lawns than those with gas-powered lawn mowers. Because of this, the push mower may create fewer emissions simply because they run for shorter amounts of time and burn less fuel as a result.
The Environmental Impacts of Lawn Mower Construction
Another factor that can impact your gas lawn mower’s carbon footprint is the resources and energy needed to build the machinery.
This may seem like a small number of emissions compared to the pollutants a gas lawn mower releases over years of use, but the environmental impacts of manufacturing are still significant overall.
Gas lawn mowers are often created using a mixture of materials, such as steel and synthetics, that require a lot of resources to produce. The factories that continuously use energy dedicated to producing them are known to be a high source of environmental pollution.
Consider Buying a Secondhand Lawn Mower
If you are in the market to buy a lawn mower, one way that you can address the carbon output associated with manufacturing mowers is to buy the machinery secondhand.
There are many places where you can find used or preowned lawn mowers, such as:
- Local classified ads
- Online marketplaces
- Some home and garden stores
- Lawn mower power equipment dealerships
By buying a mower that has already been used, you will not contribute to the cycle of demand that causes more lawn mowers to be produced. This may seem like a very small contribution, but it all adds up if more people adopt this mindset.
One thing to note is that recently built mowers are required to follow the most up-to-date policies from the EPA regarding emissions. This can mean technologies that help regulate the amount of carbon that is released, or other regulations that the manufacturer must follow.
If you do buy a secondhand mower, be sure to check when it was made and see what the carbon emissions regulations were like at that time.
Although it is sustainable to buy secondhand, you will be doing more harm than good if you use a machine that releases carbon at a rate that is no longer permitted.
How Do I Reduce Pollution in My Lawn Mower?
After learning of the negative environmental impacts created by gas lawn mowers, it may come as a comfort to know that there are some things that you can do to reduce the consequences that your lawn care can have for the natural world.
Strategies for addressing pollution created by your lawn mower can vary from changing the way you mow your lawn to changing your lawn mower itself.
Purchase an Electric Lawn Mower
One potential solution to the environmental problems posed by a gas lawn mower is the electric lawn mower. These have become increasingly popular in recent years as an efficient alternative for lawn care that will allow you to cut your grass quickly while also minimizing your emissions.
Electric lawn mowers are much more friendly to the environment as they do not burn fuel and release emissions. Instead, they are often battery-powered or operate from a power cord.
The only environmental consequence is the amount of electricity it will take to charge your lawn mower, which is minimal in comparison to the consequences of burning gas.
Routine maintenance on electric lawn mowers is an easier task than maintenance on a gas lawn mower. Read the article, A Guide to Caring for Your Electric Lawn Mower for an overall guide to maintaining an electric lawn mower.
Electric lawn mowers will not completely cut your emissions, and they will still pose the same challenges regarding noise pollution. However, they are an eco-friendly alternative that will be a big step in the right direction when working to lower your emissions.
For additional information on the safety of electric lawn mowers read our article, “Electric Lawn Mower: Dangers and Safety Guide“.
Purchase a Manual Lawn Mower
Manual or reel lawn mowers might seem like an outdated invention, but in actuality, they can be a great way to cut your lawn with little to no emissions. Manual lawn mowers are an especially great fit for those who have a small yard as they can be a bit time-consuming.
Manual lawn mowers do not need to be plugged in, nor do they require gas. Because of this, they could be said to be completely emission-free beyond the carbon needed to manufacture the product.
Additionally, they are also very quiet, making them a good option for those concerned about the health or environmental repercussions of noise pollution.
Besides being eco-friendly, manual mowers are also typically offered at a lower cost than electric or gas mowers, making them a great fit for those looking for inexpensive and environmentally conscious lawn care options.
Keep an Eye Out for Solar-Powered Alternatives
Solar power is a wonderful energy option as it eliminates emissions and makes use of a renewable energy source.
In recent years, more lawn mowers that rely on solar power are emerging on the market, although they are still fairly rare and can be very expensive. Some of these new mowers are automated, meaning caring for your lawn takes less work while taking steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle.
However, as more people wish to minimize their environmental impact, more solar-powered lawn mowers may become available at reasonable prices.
Continue to research what exists on the market and how convenient and affordable it is if you hope to one day power your lawn care through sustainable methods.
Another option to make use of solar power is solar-powered battery packs. If you choose to buy an electric lawn mower that runs off of a battery, buying a compatible battery pack is a great way to increase the sustainability of your lawn mower and transition it away from emission-generating electricity sources.
Change Your Mowing Habits
If you do not have the resources or are not able to change out your gas-powered lawn mower itself, there are other things that you can do to reduce the pollution created by cutting your grass.
Some ways to change your mowing habits that can lessen the impact on the environment include:
- Reduce how often you mow: If you change your lawn mowing schedule to allow your grass to grow longer between mows, you can greatly reduce your emissions. Also, longer grass is more drought-resistant and overall healthier than a very short, frequently mowed lawn.
- Mow in the evenings or night: because emissions form ozone when they interact with sunlight, you can minimize this by mowing in the evenings or at night. Try not to mow too late, though, as the noise may disturb your neighbors, and machinery can be dangerous to operate in the dark.
- Leave your grass clippings in your yard: when you leave grass clippings in your yard, they can return nutrients to the soil as they decompose, reducing the need for fertilizer and making your yard healthier. Additionally, any pesticides or herbicides that you apply to your grass will be recycled into your own lawn, reducing the chance that they may affect any external areas or wildlife.
- Upgrade your gas canister: to address the problem of gas spillage, you can make sure that the gas canister you use for refueling is newer and of high quality. Newer gas cans have leak-proof technology and more durable walls. They will be less likely to leak as you fuel your mower and also release fewer vapors into the atmosphere overall.
Altering the way that you mow may take some trial and error, but soon you will be able to find a way to cut your grass in a manner that works for your lifestyle and still be conscious of your environmental impact.
Reduce the Size of Your Lawn:
One thing that plays a large role in the emissions your lawn mower produces is the amount of time that you run it for. To cut emissions, consider running your lawn mower less by reducing the size of your yard.
Even though this might seem difficult to accomplish, there are many ways that you can dedicate more of your yard space toward things other than grass.
Consider the following options to minimize the size of your lawn and the time you spend mowing as a result:
- Get creative with landscaping: add rock gardens or more areas for growing plants that rely on mulch or other surfaces rather than grass.
- Plant wildflowers: dedicate a portion of your yard toward growing native plants. Not only are these good for the environment by fostering biodiversity, but they also require very little maintenance and look beautiful!
- Plant trees: trees are a great way to take up yard space. As trees grow, they increasingly provide shade and refuge for wildlife. Trees also directly combat carbon emissions.
Spending less time mowing will not only cut the time that you spend on this household chore, but it will also go a long way to reduce the pollution that you are creating from running your lawn mower.
Lawns can be beautiful and provide a source of enjoyment for any homeowner, however, in recent years, the ways that we take care of our yards have revealed many unexpected environmental consequences.
When you mow your lawn with a gas lawn mower, you are releasing emissions and creating environmental consequences that can harm all forms of life and contribute to some of the dire climate problems that our planet is facing.
However, these consequences do not mean that you have to give up on grooming your yard. Many technologies are now arising that will allow you to mow your lawn more sustainably.
If you can’t invest in newer technologies, there are some strategies that can reduce the environmental impact of your mowing as well.