Clean Air and Water: Green Gardens

Clean Air and Water: Green Gardens

Gas-Free Gardening Campaign

Dear Palisades resident,

 

Even though they’re woven into the fabric of our everyday lives, gas-powered gardening equipment – from gas-powered lawn mowers and blowers to hedge and string trimmers – are simply too polluting and carcinogenic for our community to accept them as a rational choice in garden maintenance. Peruse this page to learn about the health and environmental impacts of this equipment – we have no doubt the info will stop you in your tracks. Then, follow the steps outlined below to easily transform your home garden into a gas-free garden today.

 

The degree of pollution from this equipment has come to light in the latest efforts by CA legislators who plan to phase out the sale of all gas-powered gardening equipment by 2024. However, every hour this equipment is used is another hour of a very high and needless source of carcinogens flowing into our homes, our neighbors’ homes, and settling in our neighborhoods. Also, the use of gas-powered gardening equipment will remain in use well after 2024 since some gardeners have already said they will continue to refurbish their equipment for as long as they have to. Until homeowners take the initiative to help their gardeners adopt cleaner and safer alternatives, our gardens (and parks, commercial areas, etc.) will continue to be a source of heavy pollution, carcinogens, and climate-changing gases.

 

Homeowners are the catalysts of change in this low-hanging fruit to creating a cleaner and safer Palisades. Please take a few minutes to learn about the health and environmental impacts of gas-powered mowers, blowers, and trimmers. We cannot expect all of our gardeners to comply on their own.

 

 

 

Campaign Goals

HEALTH IMPACTS

 

Exhaust

These two and four-stroke engines are spewing toxic and carcinogenic pollutants – including benzene, butadiene, and formaldehyde – that linger at ground level and eventually land on surfaces. So as we walk, jog, play outside, or even sit inside our homes, these highly unfiltered and dirty compounds are floating around in the air we breathe and landing on surfaces all around us. 

As with any pollutants, impacts are more severe for children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.

 

Noise

Both landscapers and community members are at risk for hearing loss, increased cortisol levels, dementia, heart disease, and increased stress levels due to the frequency, vibration, and duration of this high-decibel (> 80 decibels) and low-frequency (far-traveling) noise, especially gas blowers. (There’s increasing evidence that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing.)

 

 

The vibrating and low frequency of gas-powered equipment causes the noise to travel farther (a few city blocks) and pass barriers, including walls (Pollock et al., 2018; Pasanen et al., 2004).

Electric equipment, on the other hand, produce higher frequencies that are concentrated closer to the equipment; the absence of their vibration also makes them less harmful to the operator.

“Internal combustion power tools and leaf blowers (“equipment”) pose multiple hazards to human health. Children are the most susceptible members of our population to these hazards because they breathe more air per pound of body weight per day than adults and thus inhale more of any pollutants that are thrown into the air by this equipment. Children’s vulnerability to the health effects of this equipment is further magnified by the fact that they are passing through the stages of early development, and thus their lungs, ears, eyes, and other organ systems are inherently more sensitive to environmental hazards than the organs of adults.” (Sheffield, Perry, MD, et al., 2010)

 

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS

 

Gas-powered gardening equipment is greatly polluting our air, water, and even our soil. These two- and four-stroke engines emit high levels of hydrocarbons from burned and unburned fuel, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and reactive organic gases.

 

These go on to form low-level ozone, which causes the much-reviled brown smog that hovers over Los Angeles. And nitrogen oxides contribute to acid rain. Thanks to evaporation, leaf blowers even pollute while they’re not in use. (TerraNova; EPA, 2015)

 

The refueling of this equipment also results in gas (and oil) spills that turn into ozone in the summer, and end up in our groundwater and the Santa Monica Bay all year long.

“I read…over 17 million gallons of gas are spilled each year refueling lawn and garden equipment – more petroleum than was spilled by the Exxon Valdez.” (EPA Senior Policy Analyst David Piantanida, 2008)

 

Just as we see more and more electric vehicles on the road, the technology in zero-emissions gardening equipment has also vastly improved over recent years. But adoption of newer technologies is often met with skepticism and financial barriers. 

 

Source: California Air Resources Board, 2017

 

In short, this outdated yet ubiquitous equipment is causing health and environmental impacts that are too high to ignore.

 

 

ACCESSIBLE SOLUTIONS

 

Fortunately, we can all adopt easy and practical solutions to help create a safer and healthier working and living community while lowering our collective global warming footprint.  Resilient Palisades is collaborating with zero-emissions expert Dan Mabe – the founder of the nationally recognized zero-emissions consulting firm, the American Green Zone Alliance, AGZA. In partnership with the Southern California Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), Dan and his team guide cities and communities and train gardeners in reduced-emissions maintenance practices.

Resilient Palisades and Dan Mabe are here to provide you with the facts, empower you with solutions, and support you and your gardener in making the shift to a zero-emission garden.

 

 

GET STARTED ON YOUR GAS-FREE GARDEN EVOLUTION, TODAY!

 

Step 1: Before taking any action, familiarize yourself with the health and environmental impacts surrounding gas-powered equipment by reviewing the Green Gardens webpage. There are myriad reasons why everyone should ditch the gas. But you will most likely find some reasons to be personally more compelling than others – creating a sense of ownership over the issue rather than an impersonal mission.

 

Step 2. When you’re ready to speak with your gardener, print out the “Handout for [your] Gardener” to help familiarize them with worker-impacts of gas-powered gardening equipment, including nerve damage and higher operational costs. The handout also helps familiarize them with in-store discounts of 75% at authorized SoCal dealers (while SCAQMD funding lasts. If funding has expired, it will be renewed next quarter).

 

Step 3: Follow one of the suggested PURCHASING NEW EQUIPMENT options below to buy and stow your own gas-free equipment, for your gardeners to use.

 

Step 4: Download or email the Fact Sheet and Rethinking Your Blower to share this info with your neighbors, either directly or anonymously. To go further, crown yourself a “block ambassador” and work alone or with other neighbors to turn your block gas-free.

 

Step 5. Write sheda@resilientpalisades.org for a free yard sign to help spread the word to your neighbors and gardeners!

 

PURCHASING NEW EQUIPMENT:

 

FOUR (SUGGESTED) OPTIONS

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for purchasing gas-free equipment. Here are a few ways you can go:

 

OPTION A: Purchase your own set of electric residential-grade equipment to stow on your property for your gardeners to use: Find blower, mower, hedge, and string trimmer models on Consumer Reports, or choose from one of these third-party tested and approved brands. This will ensure that you’re buying quality products that will not compromise performance or durability. Another advantage to owning your own equipment is you keep disease and weeds traveling from other gardens into yours: Bladed equipment should always be wiped down with alcohol from one garden to another. 

 

OPTION B: If you would like to buy residential-grade equipment powerful enough for your gardener to take and use throughout the day, our zero-emissions consultant Dan Mabe (founder of AGZA.net) suggests EGO Brand Power+ models of mowers, blowers, and trimmers and suggests buying 3 extra 56 Volt batteries so gardeners can swap and charge throughout the day. Each 56V battery will run for ~45 minutes on a blower and mower, and up to 90 minutes on a trimmer. The universal battery fits all EGO models (other brands offer this, too). Gas-free mowers are also available at authorized dealers with discounts through the South Coast Air Quality Management District Residential Electric Lawn Mower Rebate.

 

OPTION C: Help your gardener find suitable and affordable commercial-grade electric equipment by sharing the “Bilingual Flyer for Your Gardener” (orange button at the top of this page). This will help explain the issues and let them know about the South Coast Air Quality Management District Commercial Lawn and Garden Equipment Exchange Program, offering 75% in-store discounts (plus tax) at authorized dealers throughout Southern California. (Funding buckets are replenished every few months.)

If you’re in a position to do so, consider providing financial assistance to your gardener for new equipment and spare batteries.  The annual maintenance cost of electric equipment is significantly lower than gas-powered equipment (see below graph from AGZA), but the upfront cost can stymie some gardeners.

 

 

OPTION D: Consult our zero-emission consultant, Dan Mabe: Email sheda@resilientpalisades.org or contact Dan Mabe for either a FREE phone consult to learn which brands will work best for your specific garden or a one-hour FREE in-home training for you and/or your gardeners. Dan will suggest the perfect equipment for your garden’s needs, provide tips to your gardener on how to use the equipment for maximum performance, and guide them on how to handle the equipment to reduce damage. (You may also invite neighbors to the in-home training using the blue-button handout on the top of this page; designed for you to fill out and either hand-drop or mail.)

 

OPTION E: Hire a new gas-free, organic landscape company: Dirty Girl Organic Landcare, FormLA, or Suntek.

 

 

Leave the Leaves-be 

 

If you opt out of a free and professional phone or in-person consult with zero-emissions consultant Dan Mabe, optimize your garden’s zero-emissions success by:

  • encouraging your gardener to stop using blowers under flower beds and hedges altogether!
    • let the leaves be: 1-3″ of leaves will help protect your topsoil by providing organic material and protecting microorganisms that help create nutrients for your soil. (Always follow fire-zone clearance regulations, including not mulching or letting leaf litter build-up against the structure of your home.)
    • Topsoil will also provide a microhabitat for beneficial garden insects that will naturally aerate and compost your soil.
  • encouraging your gardener to use a rake in other areas that blower power simply isn’t needed possible

 

 

 

 

ELECTRIC EQUIPMENT IS FAR LESS EXPENSIVE TO OPERATE THAN GAS (AND SAFER!)

 

Source: AGZA.net

 

DIG DEEPER

 


In 2015, the EPA issued a warning that by 2020, gas-powered leaf blowers, lawn mowers, and similar equipment in California could produce more ozone pollution than all the millions of cars in California combined. (EPA, 2015).


Gas vs Electric – Creating a zero-emission garden will greatly reduce your family’s: carbon footprint, emission output of harmful carcinogens and fine-particulate matter into the air your gardener and family breathe, gasoline and oil leaks that end up in the Bay, and, will create a quieter community.


Homeowners are the ultimate catalyst in creating zero-emission gardens in Pacific Palisades: Zero-emission equipment is infinitely safer and cheaper to operate than gas-guzzling alternatives. But gardeners aim to please their employers, so homeowners need to start the conversation.


Gas blower vs 2016 Toyota Camry – One hour of even the best-selling commercial gas-powered leaf blower emits the same smog-forming pollution as driving a 2016 Toyota Camry about 1100 miles, or approximately the distance from Los Angeles to Denver. The difference is that all of this pollution is being dumped into a single backyard in practically every home in Pacific Palisades. (CARB, 2017).


Fuel Spills – Hundreds of incidental fuel spills happen every week during the refueling of gas-powered lawn equipment, poisoning our neighborhoods, the Santa Monica Bay, and our groundwater. (EPA, 1996)


Gas-powered blowers produce nitrogen oxides. Nitrogen oxides can create environmental health hazards when they react with sunlight and other chemicals to form smog, including respiratory damage. Nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide react with substances in the atmosphere to form acid rain. (CDC, 2002)


Gas-powered gardening equipment used routinely around residential neighborhoods, schools, parks, and other public spaces – leaf blowers, mowers, string trimmers, and hedge trimmers – are creating a whopping 43% of our country’s volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and 50% of our fine particulate matter, PM2.5 (EPA, 2015).


Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) that linger at ground level – including benzene, butadiene, and formaldehyde – combined with particulate matter together cause or contribute to early death, heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cancer. (footnote 1-5 from EPA study)

A Doctor’s Perspective

 

We all know that leaf blowers, especially the gas-powered variety, are obnoxiously loud, utterly stinky, and irritating to the eyes. Much more important than those nuisances, gas-powered leaf blowers and other gardening equipment are harmful to our health, both in the short and long term.
The fumes this equipment emits have been linked to human health harms such as an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, asthma, cancer, miscarriage, birth defects, and premature birth. Gas-powered lawn equipment contributes significantly to air pollution and climate change.
Blowers aerosolize and spread infectious organisms and toxins – think animal feces, fungal spores, viruses, and chemicals on the street from motor vehicles  – all of which cause disease and death in humans. Blowing the soil in your yard disrupts the soil microbiome and insect life.

So please, do yourself and your neighbors a favor and consider these alternatives:

1. Leave organic matter on the ground to give nutrients back to the soil, as is the natural cycle.

2. Consider using a rake or broom instead of a blower if removal of leaves and organic matter is desired or needed.

3. If you feel it is necessary to use a blower, use an electric one and only intermittently when absolutely necessary, not simply out of habit.
The more people who make the change from gas-powered lawn equipment to a rake, broom, or electric device, the more of us will be able to live healthier, happier lives.
Karina Maher, MD
Pacific Palisades resident