Clean Air and Water: Green Gardens

Clean Air and Water: Green Gardens

Gas-Free Gardens Campaign

 

BREAKING NEWS:
New California Law Bans all Gas-Powered Gardening Equipment

 

LA Times

Wall Street Journal

CA News Times

 

 

 

Gas-Free Garden

FAQs

 

(Ready to go gas-free? Scroll down to the

turquoise and orange bubbles at the end of the FAQs.)

 

 

 

What is gas-free?

 

Gas-free is the new and evolved way of maintaining your property, responsibly: Using a combo of electric and manual tools instead of the archaic gas-powered equipment. 

 

Why go gas-free?

 

Don’t let their ubiquity fool you. Every hour of gas-powered equipment (lawnmowers, leaf blowers, hedge and string trimmers, etc.,) is exposing you,  your family, and your gardeners to extreme levels of carcinogens and heavy metals. Not to mention, releasing high levels of climate-changing gases. Other communities have gone gas-free. Why can’t we?

 

 

Aren’t gas-powered leaf blowers illegal in Los Angeles? 

 

Gas leaf blowers are illegal within 500ft of a residence, but there’s very little enforcement. (Also, enforcement only works with public outreach.) So it’s up to each homeowner, building manager, and institution to start the dialogue with their gardeners about changing from gas to a combination of electric and manual equipment.

 

How do I go gas-free?

 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but everyone can get the gas-free ball rolling in just a matter of minutes. Use this Homeowner Toolkit to get started!

 

How do I start the conversation with my gardener?

 

Change is difficult for all of us. Once you have understood the negative impacts of gas equipment, use this bilingual handout to help communicate your concerns with your gardener. (Recent studies show that operators of gas-equipment have double the risk of cancer). Electric equipment is much less expensive to operate and maintain, and gardeners will see savings within the first year. But the upfront cost is higher for this equipment, especially the additional batteries. So consider offering a small donation to help cover the cost. Visit the Homeowner Toolkit’s “Buy” for more help.

 

Why not wait until the California ban of gas equipment?

 

Given their extreme pollution levels and archaic technology, California is the first state to have banned the sale of all gas-powered gardening equipment – starting in 2024, or when the CA Air Resources Board (CARB) deems it feasible.

 

But don’t wait until 2024. This historic law demonstrates just how harmful this equipment is to both the operators and residents. Every hour your gardener uses gas equipment is another hour of excessive carcinogens and heavy metals dumped in your backyard. Not to mention the smog and climate-changing emissions. Plus, the law only bans the sale of gas equipment. It will not make it illegal to use them. And some gardeners are saying they will reuse and repurpose their old equipment until their employers (you!) ask for a change.  

 

This feels overwhelming. I’m just going to wait for things to change on their own.

 

Yes, change isn’t easy. But this is much simpler once you get started. Gas-free equipment is readily available at ACE hardware and online, so it’s just a matter of speaking with your gardener and working out a solution together. This is very low-hanging fruit to cleaning up heavy loads of toxins in your backyard and beyond.

 

Resilient Palisades is here to help! Email us for one-on-one help: sheda@resilientpalisades.org

 

 

HEALTH IMPACTS

 

Exhaust

These two and four-stroke engines are spewing heavy metals and carcinogens that linger at ground level. So as we walk, jog, play, or even sit inside our homes, these highly unfiltered and dirty compounds are landing all around us. 

A 2012 EPA report concluded the well-known adverse health effects of this equipment:

  • Benzene, 1,3 butadeine, and formaldehyde are 4 top-ranking cancer-causing compounds, including lymphomas and leukemias.
  • Ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter “cause or contribute to early death, heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cancer.” (Pg 12, EPA study).

On Mondays, one of the highest gardener-activity days, the air quality index dips all around the Palisades. Here’s a real-time look at air quality and particulate matter (PM) from monitoring stations around the Palisades: https://bit.ly/38fiUMM

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

 

Noise

A Harvard University study warns that gas-gardening equipment noise has adverse health impacts not just on the user, but also on surrounding communities. The low vibration noise travels several city blocks and penetrates building walls. Studies warn that regular exposure to the >80-decibels (at 50 feet) increases chances of heart disease, diabetes, sleep disruption, obesity, and even dementia. (Walker and Banks, 2017). There’s also 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 building walls (Pollock et al., 2018; Pasanen et al., 2004).

 

 

E-equipment, on the other hand, produces higher frequencies that travel shorter distances and are <50-decibels at 50ft; the absence of vibration also makes them unable to pass building barriers.

“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 egregiously polluting our air, water, and even our soil. These two- and four-stroke engines emit high levels of hydrocarbons from burned and unburned fuel including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and reactive organic gases.

 

GLOBAL WARMING

Nitrogen oxide is a harmful greenhouse gas that traps 300x more heat than carbon dioxide (Chrobak, 2021). By using fossil fuels to mow, blow, and trim our gardens, we are releasing more emissions than our gardens can absorb.

 

SMOG 

When in contact with sunlight, these compounds create smog: In California, gas gardening equipment is creating MORE smog than ALL of our passenger vehicles (EPA, 2021).

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)

 

SOIL AND WATER POLLUTION

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)

 

Source: California Air Resources Board, 2017

 

In short, this outdated equipment is causing health and environmental impacts that are too high to ignore. Hundreds of communities across the USA have ditched the gas. Shouldn’t we?

 

 

EASY 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.

 

 

 

Campaign Goals

SAVINGS: 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