One of my 2020 “goals” was a deeper level of decarbonization. In prior years I have installed solar panels (twice) and purchased an electric vehicle. However, for 2020 I wanted to examine other parts of my lifestyle and see where I could decarbonize even more.
The first area was lawn care and its attendant equipment. As anyone who cares about the air we breathe knows, lawn equipment powered by small gasoline engines is one of the dirtiest sources of air pollution that we use on a regular basis. God help you if you are still rolling around with a two-stroke mower or string trimmer.
For the lawn care “season” so far I have mowed my lawn 11 times with my new battery electric mower and string trimmer.
Each mowing session represents approximately 1 hour of small engine runtime eliminated. Depending upon the study and assumptions, an hour of small engine runtime is equivalent—in terms of emissions—to approximately 100 miles of automobile travel. Considering I a running 100% “on the sun” right now you could say that my change in mowing equipment has resulted in the equivalent of reducing driving by 1,100 miles.
While reducing CO2 emissions is a big deal, it is even more important to reduce other types of emissions like small particulate and gasses other than CO2. This is where reducing small engine runtime is so beneficial. Without catalytic converters or other advanced emissions equipment, small engines are essentially belching out pollutants like it was 1972. There are no hard estimates, but there are guesses that for every hour of mowing something like34 pounds of “other” pollutants are shot into the air. This includes things like nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter. The image of an American lawn as some kind of green idyll takes on a whole other bent when you consider the maintenance costs.
The second area where I was going to decarbonize was commuting. Well, commuting is out because of coronavirus. By accident both my wife and I have ended up cutting our commuting dramatically since mid-March. Through June 30th we have avoided commuting for 63 days—not counting furlough, vacation, or holidays—which works out to a combine savings of ~2,500 miles driven and ~3,300 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
My original goal had been to replace 500 miles of driving—EV or otherwise—with the equivalent of human powered transport. However, as you can see my household is blowing those goals out of the water in a totally different way.
There are some other areas of my household that I am looking to decarbonize in the coming months, but restrictions and closures due to coronavirus may impeded the progress toward those goals. Regardless, I think that between the revised lawn care routine and cessation of commuting there has been some good progress made toward any goal of emitting less carbon dioxide and other emissions.