Clean Air and Water: Green Gardens Campaign

Clean Air and Water: Green Gardens Campaign

Goals

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.

 

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 in the air we breathe. 

These health 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, 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)

 

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS

 

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. 

 

Source: California Air Resources Board, 2017

 

In short, this outdated yet widely-used equipment is causing health and environmental impacts that are too high to ignore.

 

THE SOLUTION

 

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!

 

 

BACKGROUND:

 

  • Why are gas powered blowers the most egregious compared to other gas powered gardening equipment? The real problem is their archaic technology. Cars are constantly improved for efficiency. Gas blowers are using the same polluting two- and four-stroke engine technology from decades ago. (Michigan State University, no date)

  • Gas vs Electric – Switching to electric yard equipment reduces your family’s carbon footprint, does not emit harmful pollutants into the air we breathe, helps create a quieter community, and is safer and cheaper to operate than gas-guzzling alternatives. (NPR, 2017)

  • Gas blower vs 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, and hedge trimmers – are creating a whopping 43% of our country’s volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and 50% of our fine particulate matter (EPA, 2015).

  • In 2017, the California Air Resources Board 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. (CARB, 2017).

  • 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)

Source: AGZA.net

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 lawn 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 devices, the more of us will be able to live healthier, happier lives.
Karina Maher, MD