Dear Palisades resident,
Although widely woven into the fabric of our everyday lives, gas-powered landscaping equipment – from mowers and blowers to trimmers – are severely impacting our health and harming our environment at levels that warrant immediate action.
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 in the air we breathe.
These health impacts are more severe for children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.
Both landscapers and community members are at risk for hearing loss, increase cortisol levels, and increased stress levels due to the frequency, vibration, and duration of this noise on a daily basis. The vibrating mechanism and low frequency of gas-powered equipment cause the noise to travel farther (a few city blocks) and pass barriers, including walls. (Electric equipment produces a higher frequency noise that’s concentrated closer to the equipment and the absence of vibration makes them much less harmful to the landscaper.)
“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)
Gas-powered landscaping equipment is harming our air, water, and even our soils. 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.
In short, this outdated yet widely-used equipment is causing health and environmental impacts that are too high to ignore.
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 company 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.
Collectively, we will provide you with everything you’ll need to make the shift.
We are here to provide you with the facts, empower you with solutions, and support you in making the shift to a zero-emissions garden.
Here’s how you can create a cleaner, safer, and quieter zero-emissions garden:
Step 1: Familiarize yourself with the issues surrounding gas-powered equipment. You can start by reviewing the handouts accessible from the three orange buttons at the top of this page.
Step 2. Use the “Handout for [your] Gardener” to start the conversation with your gardener. The handout helps them better understand your concerns and gain insight into the best commercial-grade models and in-store discounts of up to 75% off.
Step 2B. Your conversation should help you understand their concerns with ditching their gas equipment. Also, discuss your eased needs for a “perfectly manicured garden”. You’ll want your gardener to stop blowing under hedges altogether, even with electric blowers. Ask them to let the leaves be under hedges: 1-3″ of leaves will help protect your topsoil by provide organic material and protecting microorganisms that help turn your soil and even provide food to local birds. When it’s time, ask your gardener to clean the leaves above 3″ using a rake or their hands…never any machinery.
Step 3: If needed, provide financial assistance to your gardener to help make the shift. Alternatively, consider purchasing one or more of the equipment yourself and store them in your shed or garage for them to use. The annual cost of electric equipment is significantly lower than gas-powered equipment (see below graph from AGZA), but the upfront cost is higher.
Step 4: Use the orange-button handouts 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. Order yard signs to help spread the word and help create a new social norm!