City pushes electric mowers to improve air quality – The Land

Jared Bartley’s son mows his garden in the Slavic Village neighborhood. Photo by Jared Bartley.

When the City of Cleveland Air Quality Division posted on Facebook that he was offering $100 to the first 200 residents who were willing to trade in their gas-powered mower for a cleaner electric mower, Jared Bartley thought maybe it was time.

“Battery-powered mowers are quieter,” he said. “My children mow the lawn more and the youngest is eleven. I feel better that he’s not handling gas.

The city made it easy, Bartley said, identifying metal scrap operations where the old gas mower could be safely disposed of, including one near his home in Slavic Village. As an employee of the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District, Bartley was aware of the environmental benefits to society as a whole, which is exactly what the city hopes to motivate people with this pilot program.

All 200 spots were quickly claimed in the first month, which clearly shows that there is demand at the individual level to do something about air pollution.

While Lawn Mower Replacement Doesn’t Clarify Cleveland-Akron-Lake County Area – American Lung Association recently identified Cuyahoga County as having one of the dirtiest airs in the United States, ranking it 24th among metro areas — that’s a start, said Christina Yoka, quality division administrator for the Cleveland air. Although we’ve improved in recent years, northeast Ohio still falls short of several national air quality standards, according to the Northeast Ohio Regional Coordinating Agency. (NOACA). Poor air quality, which tends to affect low-income communities and communities of color the most, can lead to serious health disparities, according to to research.

“This is a first for the city of Cleveland,” she said. “It benefits the quality of life.”

The Cleveland-Akron-Lake County region and similar regions across the United States are required by the EPA to measure air pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide comes from burning diesel fuel which, on hot, sunny days, turns into a gas called ozone. Unlike the good kind of ozone that lives in the upper atmosphere and protects the planet, this ozone, also called smogfalls at ground level and can cause respiratory problems, especially in children, the elderly and asthmatics.

The EPA has found that gas-powered lawn mowers are much worse for the environment than electric lawn mowers. They emit eight times more nitrogen oxides, 3,300 times more hydrocarbons, 5,000 times more carbon monoxide and more than twice as much CO2 per hour of operation as electric mowers.

The Bartleys’ old mower was replaced by the town program. Photo by Jared Bartley.
Jared Bartley used the city program to purchase this new cordless electric mower. Photo by Jared Bartley.

“It will be a tedious job, but small pieces will make a difference,” said Sam Rubens, administrator of the air quality division at the Summit County Board of Health, which has launched an incentive program for homeowners to put scrapping their gas-powered lawn mowers. for a cleaner, battery-powered release in 2020. “We’re removing tons of pollutants from the air and that’s the name of the game.”

As a child who came of age in Akron in the 1970s, Rubens remembers factories filling the sky with black smoke. “All the ‘money smell’ we had with the rubber companies was producing a lot of emissions,” he said. “Today, the industry is not our biggest contributor.”

Motor vehicle addressing

That distinction belongs to motor vehicles, he said. Cleveland, like Akron, is taking small swings to tackle air pollution from motor vehicles, starting with those that don’t use the roads – lawn mowers. Collectively, these tiny engines produce tons of air pollution you may not see, but it adds up – the EPA estimates that the gas that spills onto the ground each year (17 million gallons) when refueling lawn mowers is greater than what was spilled by the Exxon Valdez disaster (11 million gallons).

Cleveland learned from Akron and Summit County. The program shares the cost of a new electric mower with the participants. Cleveland is offering residents a $100 rebate and requiring a receipt from a scrapper to prove they are removing the gas mower from operation. Although lawnmowers emit much less pollution than cars and trucks, replacing them is a good decision.

“It’s one less potential source of air pollution,” said Bartley, a Cleveland resident. “My mower alone won’t make a huge difference, but if you can increase that…on days like today when it’s 90 degrees and probably an air quality alert day, it can be a few drops in the bucket.”

Part of the appeal of swapping a gas mower for a battery mower may be that it’s a lighter lift. Literally, electric mowers are lighter and easier to use for young and old (who made up the majority of candidates at Summit), Rubens said. It’s also easier to get people to buy a new mower than to convince entire industries like transportation companies or school districts to change their behavior and stop idling trucks and buses when they are parked on a construction site or in schools.

That said, Cleveland still wants trucking and schools to join the fight against idling. “We are looking at voluntary programs for the industry and how can we develop an incentive program for those who have heavy vehicles to have anti-idle (programs) or idle reduction devices,” Yoka said.

under the microscope

Cleveland’s decision to invest $20,000 in a lawnmower trade-in may not seem like much, but it was influenced by a report from the Lake Michigan Air Directors Consortium (LADCO) based in Rosemont, Illinois, showing that air pollution is a significant public health issue.

“Air pollution, we know, leads to respiratory health issues,” said LADCO executive director Zac Adelstein, adding that gas-powered mowers produce significant amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and d nitrous oxides. “Some new studies are looking at mental health and the link to different illnesses like mental illness, [and] we didn’t know there was a connection.

City Club Cleveland Air Purification Event. From left to right: Rick Jackson, Ideastream; Diane Howard, community activist; Christina Yoka, CRPD; Joe MacDonald, NOACA; Yvonka M. Hall, Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition. Photography by Michaelangelo’s Photography.

Cleveland and Akron are taking action to reduce pollutants because they’re under the microscope. Rubens, Yoka and their counterparts in Columbus and Cincinnati have been approached by state regulators in 2021 — ahead of a major federal air quality compliance test taking place this year — to submit a plan. pollution reduction. Major metropolitan areas in Ohio were expected to fail the ozone test at the time.

“We have made great progress since the start of the EPA,” said Rubens. “Carbon monoxide (CO) is down 70%. Lead, unless there is a specific source like a smelter, doesn’t float like it did when we had lead gas.

Although ozone is still a concern, the science of detection has improved in the decades that have followed, with research into how the concentrations of compounds in industry and in vehicles, blown into lungs, cause health problems like asthma and high blood levels of lead and mercury.

“In the 1990s, science showed that it was not an hour-long concentration (of pollutants) that was the most dangerous; it was a longer, lower concentration,” Rubens said when explaining the National Air Quality Standard. “The standard has changed because science has proven that longer exposure is a dangerous thing.”

While the EPA effectively targeted and cleaned up what came out of smokestacks, emissions from driving, trucking, construction sites and landscaping increased as regions expanded eastward. outside.

Currently, 35% of regulated air pollutants (not including carbon dioxide) in the United States come from motor vehicles, Rubens says, both those that drive on the roads and those, like lawn mowers, that don’t. do not. By comparison, industry produces 30% of air pollutants. The rest comes from general “local” sources, such as paint fumes released during the application of coatings or the manufacture of paints and solvents.

“The (lawnmower trade is) understanding that industry is not the primary driver of pollution,” Rubens said, adding, “Individual actions can aggregate to collective action. My purchase a hybrid or battery-powered mower won’t make an impact, but together we can make an impact.

Summit County gave away 88 gift cards for battery-powered mowers in 2020 and another 100 in 2021, removing 2.5 tons of pollutants, Rubens said, adding the program costs $10,000 a year. Although eliminating 1.25 tonnes of pollution each year is a small number, Summit has been encouraged by demand and has increased its offering to 200 gift cards this year. Additionally, the Summit program has inspired Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo to follow suit.

“We got involved with the EPA and NOACA looking at broad issues for voluntary programs that could be implemented and that’s how the lawn mower rebate was born,” Yoka said. “It’s part of a larger push toward cleaner vehicles, vehicle electrification, that the city of Cleveland is pursuing.”

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