How do Lawn Mowers impact climate change?

With the growing concerns about climate change and air quality, I have reviewed the basic, British Summer activity of lawn mowing to understand its contribution to carbon emissions and air pollution & to seek a sustainable alternative.

An article on a US Environmental Protection Agency study found that each weekend, about 54 million Americans mow their lawns, using 800 million gallons of gas per year and emitting high levels of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, producing up to 5% of the United States’ air pollution.

This got me thinking about my own lawn mowing and the fact that I use have a petrol lawn mower. I will have contributed directly to some of the Volatile Organic Compounds, CO2 and Nitrogen Oxides in the atmosphere, here, in the UK with an estimated 88 kilograms of Carbon per year based on a study from the sciencing.com website.

Why did I choose a petrol mower, about 10 years ago?
Well, it was the optimum option at the time.

I had a manual hand-push lawn mower but couldn’t keep up with the physicality of mowing our large area of lawn despite it being a good option for low carbon emissions estimated at 10 kilograms of carbon and low noise levels, not to mention healthy exercise.

Manual Hand-push Lawn Mower

An electric mower was not an option as the electricity supply was not readily available in the garden and concern about the long lengths of mains cable needs as well as the present danger of electrocution, if you mowed the “live” cable. Although, electric lawnmowing would emit 14.4 kilogrammes of Carbon per year, only slightly higher than the manual hand-push mower and a lot better than the petrol mower.

So, petrol mower it was.

Now, there is a new breed of lawnmower.

Which brings many of the advantages of an electric lawn mower without the length of main cable to worry about and is zero emissions at the point of use.

It is easy to unpack coming out of the box weighing about 13.4 kilogrammes without the battery & and comes with the battery, battery charger and the manuals. It is almost fully built with a simple turn screw arrangement to complete the handle into it upright position.

The battery came with about 50% charge, but it is good to fully charge the battery before first use. This initial charge took about 60 minutes with a full charge rated at about 2 hours.

Once built and with a newly charged battery, it was ready for a full test across fully grown lawn, which had not been mowed for over five weeks. Our initial test of the lawn mower will be across a split lawn and a further grassed area covering approximately 300 square metre.

The mower starts with a press of the “on” button and a grip on the safety handles. The mower has an interlocked safety handle, which cuts out the blade when you release your grip.

It is relatively quiet in use at a rated 94 dB(A) under mixed use and is, certainly, less noisy that my previous petrol mower under the same conditions. So, it is good to see that noise pollution is well controlled.

It cuts the grass very easily and can cope with relatively tall grass on its highest setting (4) as well as a good lawn height at, either 1 or 2.

Overall, the mower ran for approximately 40 minutes on a full charge and cut-out at 2% charge. During that time, it made a top cut of our heavily overgrown lawn covering a total of 300 square metres in our “real world” test.

Type of Lawn MowerCarbon Emissions (kg CO2e) per year
Manual Hand-Push 10.0
Electric14.4
Petrol88
Summary of Carbon Emissions for each of the three main types of Lawn Mower
(Reference: sciencing.com)

Two Environmental tips for efficient lawn mowing.

The first is to ensure that the blade is sharp at the beginning of the mowing season to ensure that the cut is as efficient as it can be and to reduce energy use.

Secondly, if you can leave the excess grass to mulch on the lawn to return much needed nutrients including nitrogen to the soil and to retain soil moisture. Additionally, it can act as a efficient carbon sink with a recent NASA study showing that leaving grass clippings to decompose on the lawn could lead to storage of 16.7 teragrams of carbon each year for the estimated lawn areas in the United States.

So, you can see that there is a new way to mow our lawns that is both efficient for the user as well as zero emissions at the point of use. Something which will help with the reduction of our carbon emissions as well as improving the local air quality.

I hope that this content will promote your own ideas on the environmental impacts of lawn mowing and opportunities to reduce your carbon footprint over the Summer months. Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

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