The drone of lawn mowers is a classic sign of summer in the suburbs. But these gas guzzlers contribute heavily to another summer phenomenon: smog. The yearly pollution from one gas mower is equivalent to "43 new cars driving 12,000 miles each," says Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
Atwood’s district can’t
regulate gas mowers; its jurisdiction covers "non-mobile" sources,
such as businesses and industries, which produce only 20 percent of
smog-causing chemicals. That’s why the district has created
the "Mow Down Air Pollution" program, which allows residents of
Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange and L.A. counties to trade in gas
mowers for $300 rebates on electric mowers. The rebate money comes
from fines collected from businesses that don’t participate
in ride-sharing programs. In two Saturdays this spring, over 1,400
mowers were exchanged in Riverside and San Bernardino alone.
The California Air Resource Board also sponsors mower
trade-ins throughout California. "Small engines are not
well-regulated and end up being much greater polluters than cars,"
says board spokesman Jerry Martin.
most successful trade-in program is run and funded by central
Arizona’s power and water utility, the Salt River Project. In
a partnership with Home Depot, the SRP has recycled over 15,000 gas
mowers since 1996.