Achieving gas-free gardens in our neighborhood

 Sheda Morshed  MARCH 11, 2021

As a Resilient Palisades volunteer in the Green Gardens program, one of the hats I wear is delivering free lawn signs to residents who have stopped using gas powered leaf blowers or lawn mowers (or all gas-powered equipment!) in their yards – creating a low or zero-emissions property. The most rewarding aspect of receiving these email requests is hearing each homeowner’s motivation to say goodbye to the gas. From climate crisis to local air pollution and carcinogenic outputs, homeowners are helping create a cleaner and quieter community in Pacific Palisades by adopting the latest and more sensible approach to garden maintenance.


At least 60 cities in California have banned one or more gas-powered garden equipment and communities across our country. However, enforcement is proving to be an unsustainable approach when it is not accompanied with education and support to shifting away from gas-powered equipment. From South Pasadena to Dallas and Washington D.C., communities are using education, gardener trainings, discounts to reduce upfront costs of new equipment…and their communities are becoming cleaner, safer, and quieter. Many of these communities haveor are working towards becoming an American Green Zone – and Resilient Palisades is hoping to make Pacific Palisades one, too!


In 2017, the EPA warned that by 2020, gas-powered leaf blowers, lawn mowers, and similar equipment in the state could produce more ozone pollution than all the millions of cars in California combined. Although their exhaust seems insignificant to the pollution from trains, planes, and automobiles, the archaic technology of two- and four-stroke equipment has not been held up to the same emissions standards as other gas-powered machines. In fact, operating the best performing commercial grade gas-powered lawn mower for one hour emits as much smog-forming pollution as driving a 2017 Toyota Camry from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Operating the best performing commercial grade leaf blower for one hour.

And what’s worse is that this heavy load of smog-forming pollution and carcinogens are being dumped into a single backyard. These gases linger in our local community and the particulate matter from this equipment is also settling on surfaces we regularly come into contact with, including our lawns, playgrounds, and interior surfaces. Gas-powered mowers, blowers, and other small lawn and garden equipment are contributing a whopping 43% of our country’s volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and 50% of our country’s fine particulate matter (EPA, 2015).


A 2015 EPA study stated:

Gas powered lawn and garden equipment (GLGE) is an important source of toxic and carcinogenic exhaust and fine particulate matter.

  • GLGE ozone precursors are expected to decrease through 2018, but fine particulate pollution is expected to increase.
  • 2-stroke engines of leaf blowers, vacuums, trimmers, edgers, brush cutters account for the vast majority of fine particulate pollution in landscape maintenance activities.
  • Workers and other vulnerable populations are exposed close to the emitting sources.
  • Short term as well as long term exposure to GLGE pollutants close to the emitting source are public health concerns.

As a Resilient Palisades co-founder and medical doctor recently wrote, “these fumes have been linked to human health harms such as increased risk of heart attack, stroke, asthma, cancer, miscarriage, birth defects, and premature birth.”


Unfortunately, we cannot depend on our government to lead the way. Even though the California Air Resources Board is revisiting emission standards for gardening equipment, the fossil fuel industry, gas-powered lawn equipment industry, and landscaping unions are lobbying heavily against the shift to electric equipment (or even worse, rakes).


Fortunately, there are easy and actionable steps that each and every Palisadian can take. Use the three buttons at the top of the Green Gardens page to learn more about the issues and download a bilingual one-pager to help guide you in your conversation with your gardener.


As South Pasadena’s City Councilmember, Mayor Pro Tem, and member of the South Coast Air Quality District Michael Cacciotti stated in a recent interview with the South Pasadenan, “We’re demonstrating the newest version of electric-powered equipment to keep our residents safe…it’s great for our community”.  This should make sense for all communities, don’t you agree Pacific Palisades?


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