It can seem a daunting task to tackle the many assaults on clean air and water in Pennsylvania and the global threat of climate change. It’s important to be informed about what is happening and to contact and support groups that are working to counter the unfettered use of fossil fuels. But you can take your own steps to limit how much your family or business is contributing to the problem. We encourage you to Reduce Your Energy Use, Switch to Renewable Energy, and Change Your Lawn Mower.
Reduce Energy Use First
Buildings account for 40% of the energy use in the United States. Most of that energy comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas). Natural gas is the cleaner burning of these 3, but still produces carbon dioxide and methane – key contributors to climate change. You can save money and reduce pollution from fossil fuels, by cutting energy use in your home or business.
If your energy bills are low, then your home is probably well insulated and has energy efficient equipment. But many homes, including newer ones, have areas that could be upgraded to make you more comfortable and safe. It’s best to get an energy audit of your home before any major upgrades, including windows. A qualified energy auditor will use equipment, such as blower doors and infrared scanners, to look for leaks.
For a list of auditors and other information, Click Here.
Switch to Renewable Energy
While renewable energy only contributes a small amount to Pennsylvania’s energy (less than ), more and more businesses and homeowners are adopting solar, particularly photovoltaics (PV) panels to generate electricity. The cost of solar PV has declined sharply in the last few years, and there is a federal tax credit for adding solar. Interest rates are low, so you can recoup the expense in less time if you borrow the money. If you are buying or building a new home, you can include the cost in your mortgage. You can sell any excess electricity back to the utility.
Besides reducing the use of fossil fuels for electricity, you also will help avoid the transmission losses when electricity travels through power lines. With low costs and interest rates, adding a solar PV system is an investment in your home or business and the environment.
For a list of Renewable Energy Contractors and other information, Click Here.
Your Lawn Mower – The Real Story
Gas Mowers represent 5% of U.S. Air Pollution.
- One gas mower running for an hour emits the same amount of pollutants as 8 – 10 new cars driving 55 mph for the same amount of time, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
- A two-stroke gasoline powered leaf blower generates as much tailpipe emissions in one hour as an automobile does over 350 miles.
- Americans burn 800 million gallons of gas each year trimming their grassy yards, according to the EPA.
- Over 17 million gallons of gas are spilled each year refueling lawn and garden equipment – more oil than was spilled by the Exxon Valdez.
- Small engines emit disproportionately large amounts of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides that contribute to smog.
What You Can Do
- Maintain less lawn. Convert lawn to borders, gardens, meadow or woodland.
- Use a reel mower. It’s good exercise.
- Consider a battery powered electric mower. Get two batteries so you mow up to an hour. Use other battery powered equipment, such as trimmers, edgers, leaf blowers & snow blowers. Charge the batteries at off-peak times – early morning, evening or night.
- Switch to a renewable energy electric supplier so you aren’t burning fossil fuels.
- Install solar (photovoltaic) panels. It takes about 3 panels to generate enough to charge batteries quickly, but consider a larger system to power your house.
- Look for efficiency ratings on gas-powered equipment you buy.
Selecting an Electric Mower
If you have a small yard, you can use an electric mower with a cord. Many companies now offer battery powered electric mowers. There are a few electric mowers with built-in solar chargers, but they are more expensive and don’t have a long track record. Most experts say it’s best to purchase a regular battery mower and then charge them as you do other equipment.
You could use a separate solar battery charger but you may not have enough power to charge many batteries in a short time. If you choose a renewable energy electric supplier or have your own solar PV system, then you are not using fossil fuels to charge your batteries.
One key feature is to have extra batteries since most batteries only last for 30 – 40 minutes. Also find out if the batteries can be refurbished when they get old. It may be best to go with a company that sells other battery powered products and are able to service and handle replacements.
A few companies now offer larger riding mowers that are battery powered. They are expensive, but some lawncare companies are now offering “green” mowing to their clients.
Find Out More
Here are some resources on battery powered electric mowers and ratings on electric mowers. Ask your friends, neighbors or local dealers about their experience with their equipment.
Groom & Style
Top Ten Reviews
American Green Zone Alliance
Best Mower Reviews
Essential Home & Garden
Environmental Protection Agency
People Powered Machines
Top Cordless Mower
Rivertown does not endorse any of the choices or products that are featured in these resources.
Photo Source: People Powered Machines (see above)