Many of us are lucky enough to have things that we take for granted: bathrooms, beds, automobiles, access to all kinds of technology, three meals a day — the list goes on and on. One major possession that many of us take for granted is our access to yards. In many nations, the concept of having a space that is as large and fertile as some of our front yards and isn’t used for growing crops or raising livestock is unthinkable. Meanwhile, some of us just let it sit out there looking beautiful and even consider it a burden to “have to” cut the grass once a week. Some will even leap at the opportunity to hire someone else to cut their grass when they have the funds to take the burden off of themselves. While this is a good thing for creating jobs and allowing more free time to those who have busy schedules or other conflicts, it also creates a real issue. Beyond the simple disconnect between a human being and his or her land (yes, our property is our land, though it isn’t held in such high regard for most anymore) there also emerges a new problem of severe air pollution from commercial lawn care companies.
As a novice in the lawn care business, I have already seen some of the things that are causing serious issues when it comes to air pollution, and have also seen, as a novice in the sustainability world, that there aren’t many feasible solutions to these problems. An organization called Quiet Communities presented the results of an EPA study that showed lawn and garden equipment emits over 20 million annual tons of carbon dioxide into the air. While this is a small amount compared to the 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide produced by transportation vehicles per year, it is still troubling. The world has rapidly made great advances in automotive emissions issues and in creating cars and trucks that don’t create any emissions (electric, fuel cell, etc.), but when it comes to commercial lawn care, the same thing can’t be said.
Companies that mow multiple (as in 10 to 30+) lawns per day need mowers, blowers, trimmers, and other equipment that can last long enough to get the most possible work done between charges/fill-ups, and also that simply can get the work done, and there simply isn’t enough of this technology out right now. Mowers that are powered by rechargeable batteries either do not have the battery power to last as long as companies need them to, or do not provide enough power to the blades to get a quality cut on the grass. Another major problem is that the quality electric mowers are too expensive for buyers to even consider. The Mean Green lawn mowers are some of the only commercial grade, high quality electric mowers, and even have a run time of up to 7 hours, which is in a comparable range with gas powered mowers. However, the price of this mower is $14,725, which is, as you can imagine, at the highest end of prices of these mowers. While Mean Green promises that the mower costs less to operate with its plug-in-recharge compared to mowers that must be refilled with gasoline or diesel, I fear that the initial price of this mower is too high for most in the lawn care business to even be able to consider. This, along with logistics issue of having to find outlets to recharge the machine as opposed to simply being able to pour liquid from a can into the tank as with gas and diesel mowers, provide problems that most would probably not be willing to deal with.
The primary issue when it comes to lawn care is that too many people have looked at lawn maintenance as a horrible burden rather than as an opportunity and a blessing. However, since most Americans are past the days of mom or dad walking the push-powered reel mower across the yard every Saturday, and since we have moved toward big-time lawn care companies with multiple four-foot-wide, triple-blade, gas powered zero-turn mowers rolling into neighborhoods and cutting 20-30 lawns per day, it is time that we use our great advancements in technology to find a solution to the environmental problems that stem from commercial lawn care. We are on the right track with automobiles, but even if every person in the world were to end up driving a zero-emissions water powered jetpack to work each day, our nation would still have grass that needed cutting, and there needs to be an equally clean, equally affordable, and equally efficient way to get that job done.
This blog was submitted to the Greening Forward Blog Competition by John Martinson and selected as one of the winning posts.