Have you noticed? Spring has sprung (almost) and lawn care decisions need to be made. Go Green Wilmette has some useful information that may be helpful whether you renew old contracts, find new services, or plunge in and do it yourself.
Gas-Powered Lawn Equipment
Lawn equipment with gas engines generates high levels of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and nitrogen oxides, producing up to 5 percent of the nation’s air pollution. Pollutant levels are often higher in metropolitan areas where there is concentrated use of lawn equipment.
One gas mower emits 87 pounds of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and 54 pounds of other pollutants into the air every year. One mower running for an hour creates the same quantity of pollutants as eight new cars driving 55 mph for an hour according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
More than 17 million gallons of gas are spilled each year in the refueling of lawn and garden equipment—more oil than was spilled by the Exxon Valdez! In addition, 800 million gallons of gas are burned yearly by Americans mowing their lawns.
Gas-powered lawn equipment, especially gas blowers, used during the hot summer months contributes to ground level ozone when it is the highest, which aggravates respiratory conditions and throws all kinds of noxious substances into the air, according to the EPA. That is why Wilmette passed an ordinance to protect our health forbidding the use of gas-powered leaf blowers from May 15- September 30 on residential property. Be sure to inform your lawn service of that restriction.
Gas leaf blowers are just a part of the problem. If just 20 percent of U.S. homeowners switched to electric lawn mowers, 84,000 fewer tons of carbon monoxide would be emitted into the air each year, and the average user would save 73 percent in total energy costs. (www.greenseal.org)
Three million tons of fertilizers are used on lawns each year. We would need 50 percent less fertilizer if grass clippings were left on the lawn. Roughly 30,000 tons of synthetic pesticides are used on lawns annually with the average homeowner using ten times more pesticides per acre than the average farmer.
Of the 32 pesticides routinely used by many lawn service companies, many are known to be either disruptive or toxic to human endocrine or reproductive systems. All of them pose a threat to the environment, including our water systems; 53% include possible carcinogens; and 41 percent include ingredients that are banned or restricted in other countries. (www.nicholas.duke.edu)
Lawn Leaf Collection
The Village of Wilmette budgets over $200,000 for pickup, transportation, and disposal of leaves from the Village. If residents composted even a portion of the leaves from their yards to use for fertilizer, this cost could be significantly lower, benefiting taxpayers.
Compost enriches soils by encouraging the production of beneficial micro-organisms that break down organic matter. This process increases the nutrient content in soil and helps soil retain moisture, thus reducing the need for water, fertilizers, and pesticides. Thus, composting can save you money. (EPA)
A “Botanic Garden”
Wilmette resident, Ann Hammond explains, “My husband and I decided to do away with our front and back lawns. Our yard is small, but, since we like to garden, we decided to devote what space we had to something more interesting. Our landscape architect laid out some paths, constructed low stone walls, and built in some soil contours and a small fish pond. We planted perennials and shrubbery. We are also adding native plants. I even have a tiny vegetable garden—room for some herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, and, in the spring, peas. We manage our water with a drip irrigation system and a couple of rain barrels.
There’s still quite a bit of weeding and pruning to do, but it is so much more rewarding than it ever was before. We love sitting out in our botanic garden taking in the changing seasons and watching the wildlife. We wouldn’t trade it for a lawn—ever!”
For information on “How to green your lawncare service,” go to www.gogreenwilmette.org, and click on “landscaping.”