Oh, the wonderful sounds of spring and summer! Although we close our windows to block the noise and gas emissions from the equipment’s exhaust, we can still hear them all around us. But it is not the annoyance that should concern us — there is a real danger to our health from this constant noise and gas emissions.
The good news is there is a movement across the U.S. to lessen the increasing noise and pollution caused by the ubiquitous lawn equipment: Gas mowers, gas trimmers and gas leaf blowers. This movement doesn’t ask you to go back to the rake and push mower, instead it proves scientifically that unless we find a way to control the noise and emissions of this gas powered equipment, and transition to battery or electric equipment, we will have a serious problem in this country.
Why? First, studies show that our hearing, as well as the landscapers’ hearing is affected by the constant low frequency decibel level of gas-powered lawn equipment. This equipment emits as many ozone-forming compounds and cancer-causing compounds as a diesel truck that is idling around your neighborhood.
My village of Ridgewood does not have a noise ordinance to protect my hearing. The only ordinance that applies is the one-barring power tools, landscaping and yard equipment to be used certain hours and days (and anyone driving around on a Sunday or Saturday afternoon can see that most homeowners/landscapers don’t know about or ignore the ordinance). But Ridgewood should join the towns, counties, and some States in regulating this dangerous machinery A statewide hub started by Westfield residents, called Advocates for Transforming Landscaping in New Jersey (ATL-NJ), and now includes residents and officials from dozens of towns, including Ridgewood and Glen Rock.
ATL-NJ meets by ZOOM and shares the resources from local success stories as well as a national initiative called Quiet Communities (www.quietcommunities.org), which has produced studies that unequivocally prove that the low power frequency from most gas powered equipment operates at as much as 50% higher than any recommended decibel level. The low power frequency component causes the noise to travel much further from the homeowner, sometimes hundreds of yards away. This is in addition to the serious pollution from gas-powered lawn equipment that emits clouds of oil/gas mixture. This is serious.
Most gas-powered mowers have a two-stroke engine. This burns both gasoline and oil and produces an aerosol that not only forms ozone but also contains dangerous compounds that can lead to serious health problems. Although workers may wear headphones or mouth covers, the chemicals and noise can still penetrate.
In the past year and a half, people who worked remotely or stayed home with their children for longer periods of time have noticed when their neighbor or we have landscapers who use their blowers for long periods of time. We have taken steps to ensure that there are no leaf Grass remains on our driveways. Even though we shut our windows, the sound still comes from many houses away. Recent research has shown that insects that burrow under grass are disturbed by constant blowing on lawns. They are literally blown away, creating problems for our soil as well.
But there are solutions. For the past decade companies have manufactured quieter, healthier and greener alternatives. The battery or electric lawn mowers of the past were not powerful enough. But now there are many models on the market. This is the future.
Recent literature targeting industry professionals highlights how the commercial landscaping industry is moving from gas to battery-powered equipment. It discusses the rapid pace at which battery equipment is being developed and performance gains, differences in operating costs, ease of use, as well as strategies for converting from gas to electric equipment. Manufacturers recognize the signs and are making the transition to electric equipment. Battery packs are stronger and more efficient. In fact, many states and towns across the US have banned gas-powered equipment.
It is amazing that while cars, planes and other sources of power are less polluting, lawn equipment remains the same. There is an opportunity to make things better.
Let’s learn more about this solution to the problem of gas powered lawn equipment. We love our trees and lawns. Now there is a way that we can keep our town looking great while protecting our hearing and lungs.
Ellie Gruber is chair of the League of Women Voters of Ridgewood Climate Committee and a member of Green Ridgewood.