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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Go Wild - Why Lawns are Passé

May 05, 2009 09:08PM
Starting next year, gasoline-powered lawn mowers, chain saws and weed trimmers, as well as boats and other watercraft, must clean up their act. New Environmental Protection Agency emission and fuel evaporation standards for new, small, spark-ignition engines take effect with 2010 models. They’ll now have catalytic converters, like those required in cars since 1975. A riding lawn mower, for instance, currently emits as much pollution in an hour as 34 cars. The move, “will allow Americans to cut air pollution, as well as grass,” quips EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson.

By 2030, the improvement will cut 15 percent of the nation’s annual hydrocarbon pollution load, including 600,000 tons of hydrocarbons, 130,000 tons of nitrogen oxide, 1.5 million tons of carbon monoxide and 5,500 tons of fine particulates. It’s like removing one of every five vehicles on the road, notes the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. This means less summertime smog, with associated reductions in respiratory illness, hospitalizations, lost workdays and deaths.

NASA researchers estimate that, despite widespread water shortages, chemical fertilizer pollution and injuries from mowers, Americans still cling to 50,000 square miles of lawns. “[Lawns] could be considered the single largest irrigated crop in America, in terms of surface area,” they report, consuming a third of all residential water use. Plus, lawns receive more pesticide and herbicide application than any other U.S. crop. They advise that just leaving clippings on the grass could nearly halve the current volume of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer used.

Secondary Source: Environmental Defense Fund

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