This Saturday! Get a Clean New Mower, Prevent Ozone

We all know about emissions from driving our cars, but we sometimes overlook small-motor emissions. Small-engine equipment must comply with a different set of emissions requirements than vehicles; they are  allowed to pollute more than many of the cars we drive. In fact, if you have an old pre-1995 mower, these machines are from the wild west of small engines and didn't have to meet any emissions requirements at all. Gas-powered mowers produce the same types of pollutants as gas-powered vehicles, many of which (nitrous oxides and volatile organic carbons) contribute to low-level ozone formation.

To help keep our ozone levels low this summer, the Department of Environmental Quality is sponsoring a lawnmower exchange this weekend for Oklahoma City residents and offering a $100 rebate towards the purchase of a brand new electric lawnmower.

If you are married to your gasoline-powered lawnmower or miss your opportunity to grab this rebate, you can still help prevent ozone formation by choosing to mow only when your yard really needs it and by mowing either early or late in the day. If you mow during these time periods, the emissions are less likely to react in the sunlight and create ozone.

My husband and I take lawn care one step cleaner and use a manual muscle-powered reel mower on our yard. I like that I don't have to worry about cutting my foot off or maintaining machinery. He likes that it is lighter weight and we don't have to buy fuel. Our lawn is healthier because we let the clippings compost back into the earth. Our neighboors stop in the street to talk when they see us using it - they tell us how they used to have a mower like this when they were a kid, or how well they think it works, or that they have one sitting in their garage that they never use. One person was surprised you could still buy a manual push-mower! (It was at the hardware store - they're still there.)

The right choice for the hubby and I might not be the right choice for you, but so long as you know the options and how your choice of mower affects your lawn, the air you breathe, and your community, you'll be ahead of the game!  I hope you're all able to snag one of the available rebates if a new electric mower is your cup of tea.

  • For an ABC story on lawnmower emissions, click here.
  • For a National Geographic environmental impact guide to lawn mowers, click here.
  • To read EPA's regulations on lawn equipment emissions, click here.
  • To view Oklahoma's monitored Ozone values for the past year, click here.


EcoIcons: Reading Colin Beavan's "No Impact Man"

Happy Earth Day everyone!

I recently finished reading No Impact Man by Colin Beavan. I suspect you've heard of it? Just in case... a few years ago it was "kind of a big deal." A writer from NYC (and his wife and baby) spends a year trying a myriad of ways for his family to live with zero net environmental impact. He made national news. He made the talk shows. There was a documentary. But the heart of the project was that he wanted to write a book on what he learned.

I watched the documentary a while back. It was interesting/good. Maybe that is one of the reasons I was lackadaisical about getting around to reading the book? (I already knew the plot, I felt.) Well. I should have read it sooner.  It's not very long and it flows well to make a quick and interesting read. For me, the book is a solid home run. I wish I'd read it sooner. In some ways, it was not at all what I expected.

I expected the bits about why we should try to do better for the environment. I expected the parts where he talks about what measures he undertook, and the parts where we find out if those measures were difficult or enjoyable. I did not expect intensely personal storytelling. I did not expect such deep, philosophical speculation.

In the end, I learned a little bit. But I thought a lot. And I felt more inspired than I anticipated.

At work, I like to keep a few special books. These books serve a purpose for me. If I am feeling uninspired and selfish, or even bored; when I don't want to work or have trouble focusing, I pick these books up, flip to a random page, and read just a little bit. When I do that, I am hoping that these books remind me of my priorities and my values. I am hoping they remind me that I didn't come to work to entertain myself, but to accomplish Something Good. I am hoping they keep me grounded and focused. These books are thoughtful and quotable and give my brain something to chew on, in little bits. No Impact Man is going on that book shelf. I might buy a second one to have as a loaner.

So here's a little quote for you to chew on this Earth Day, one which the author decided was the moral of the story:

"I got too paralyzed by this question of whether I was the type of person who could make a difference. Finally, during the year of the project, I realized that's the wrong question. The real question is whether I'm the type of person who wants to try."


On Monarchs and Free Flowers

Did you know that butterflies (and some other insects) taste with their feet? True. Can you imagine tasting your shoes when you put them on? Or walking on a chocolate cake? Delicious.

Also, monarchs migrate through the US from Mexico. They breed in the US. They live in the tropics.

Also, monarch butterflies are at a historic low population this year. So low, that some entomologists believe there is a chance that they will not be able to rebound to normal levels in years to come. There is a variety of reasons for this. Habitat loss. Less food growing around.

So the awesome part is... monarchs love to eat milkweed. And milkweed turns out to be a beautiful garden plant. (Google image search for the genus "Asclepia"... all Asclepias are milkweeds... you will see what I mean!)

To help the butterflies... and/or to get free flowers for your garden... send a SASE to:

Live Monarch - Seed Campaign
3003-C8 Yamato Road #1015
Boca Raton, Florida 33434
$3 donation is requested but not required. For more info on the seeds click here
To listen to an Science Friday story on monarch butterflies, click here


Eco-Documentary Favorites

Happy April, everyone!

April means Earth Day. Cool eco-things happen in Oklahoma during April. It would be nice if the events were more equally spread out during the year, but I understand that this is when environmental issues are more prominently on people’s mind and I certainly! understand the desire to break out of jail and go outside after the last frost. What a better time to have outdoor events than sunny April, with its crisp breeze and green buds?

I’m not going to list April environmental awareness events for you – you can find those yourselves, you smart webby people, you!

Instead, I’m going to recommend some environmental documentaries – you know, from when you’re zonked out on the couch because you’re tired after doing a trash-off or tree-planting event? Of course you wouldn’t be watching tv otherwise! ;-)  Well, I am an eco-, bio-, and adventure-documentary junkie. These are some of my eco-favorites.

Earth Days – describes not only the history of Earth Day, but the history of environmentalism in the US. Educational, interesting, and best of all… intensely inspiring! This one has my highest recommendation. In fact, I might have to go watch it again myself.

John James Audobon: Drawn From Nature – Describes the life of Audobon – including how he came to his profession, his travels, his struggles at becoming recognized in America followed by success abroad, and how his experiences in nature changed his life. Most surprising to me was that he began as an avid hunter – using mounted birds as models for his art – and later became a conservationist after years of watching wildlife populations decline.

Ghost Bird – Not going to lie. I cried. (The story of the ivory-billed woodpecker, it’s alleged re-discovery and later de-bunking, and the affect that had on the local community)

No Impact Man – A journalist in New York City attempts to live for one year without making a negative net impact on the environment. The man (Colin Beaven) takes this interesting challenge to extremes at times, learning along the way. This was less educational than Earth Days, but I found it thought-provoking and fascinating. As an aside, there is a book by the same title.