Gas leaf blowers, lawn mowers banned in US to fight climate change
DENVER – Your lawn can be a battleground against climate change. And parks. And playgrounds.
Regulators and clean air advocates are increasingly looking at pollution from the small gasoline engines used to power lawnmowers and leaf blowers as they try to tackle climate change. Advocates say using a commercial gas leaf blower in one hour produces the same emissions as driving from Denver to Los Angeles.
Cities and states with bans or restrictions include: California; Burlington, Vermont; Vancouver, Canada; and Washington, DC
While many critics attack small engines for their noise, experts say these small, two-stroke engines produce enormous amounts of pollution — two problems that modern and increasingly affordable electric-powered equipment can solve.
The absence of noisy leaf blowers is already being felt in Washington. “You hear them all day, everywhere you go. And now you don’t,” said Susan Orlins, who helped pass the nation’s toughest ban on gas-powered leaf blowers in D.C.
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Which states and cities have moved to ban gas lawn equipment?
California has taken the biggest step yet in banning what are officially known as “small road engines,” or SOREs. California will phase out the ban next year and ban the sale of new small gas engines. People can use the ones they already have and resell the used ones.
In Washington, D.C., a much stricter ban is in place starting Jan. 1, 2022, that prohibits anyone in the area from using gas-powered leaf blowers and fines violators $500 unless they are on federal property. The DC ban also allows anyone who sees or hears a gas-powered leaf blower to file a complaint — they don’t need a city inspector to witness it.
Regulators in the Denver area are considering restrictions aimed primarily at large commercial and municipal users, but will provide exemptions for homeowners. The Denver-area ban aims to reduce ozone pollution, which makes breathing difficult and contributes to climate change.
The residential retail market is already responding, and most hardware and department stores now sell electrical equipment.
“For most residents with single-family homes, it’s going to be running on electricity all day,” said Daniel Maybe, founder and president of the American Green Zone Alliance.
AGZA advises organizations and governments on best practices to adopt in the transition to electric equipment, but does not take a position on bans or restrictions.
Why is gas lawn equipment banned?
According to experts, lawn and garden equipment accounts for about 85% of all SORE operating in the country today, and these engines emit without the pollution controls typically used in automobiles.
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Virtually all small engines are two-strokes that burn a dirtier fuel mixture than cars. Advocates say that in addition to climate-changing emissions from engines, workers are directly exposed to their exhaust and rarely wear filters to protect their lungs.
Other people complain about the noise, especially when most suburbanites now work from home.
“Switching to battery-powered landscape equipment is a sustainable alternative that brings us closer to meeting climate action goals and reducing adverse health impacts,” said the California-based San Diegans for Sustainable, Fair and Quiet Landscape Equipment Group.
What are the disadvantages of electric lawn equipment?
Critics say battery-powered machines aren’t as powerful as gas-powered machines and also worry about the need to buy new equipment, which is usually more expensive.
According to Mabe, someone starting a small landscaping business can buy the gas-powered equipment they need for about $6,000, but electric equivalents can cost three times that much.
He said organizations going electric will need more space to store and charge batteries, and may need to upgrade power to meet overnight charging demand.
Advocates argue that a big state like California’s switch to electric appliances will create a market that international manufacturers can count on, lowering overall prices as other states and cities enact similar bans. Like the District of Columbia, California offers grants to small businesses that replace gas-powered equipment with electric.
What if I want to keep my gas lawnmower or blower?
Most existing proposals limit the sale of new gas-powered equipment only and allow people to continue using what they already own.
But advocates say the shift to electric equipment is inevitable as the U.S. tries to curb greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Orlins said he has paid his lawn care workers to switch to battery-powered equipment.
“We decided we had to take that first step and we’re all very excited,” he added.
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