Clean Air Lawn Care
An Easy Going Approach to Lawn and Garden Care
- What is Clean Air Lawn Care (CALC)?
- Who does CALC benefit?
- How does taking care of my yard affect air quality?
- What are the health effects of ground-level ozone?
- What can I do to reduce lawn and garden emissions?
What is Clean Air Lawn Care (CALC)?
Clean Air Lawn Care or CALC is a KDHE program under the Bureau of Air and Radiation (BAR). The purpose of the program is to reduce emissions from lawn and garden equipment and introduce cleaner greener yard care practices.
Who does CALC benefit?
The program has 4 target audiences in Kansas, general public, lawn and garden retailers/equipment manufacturers, the professional landscape industry and large landscape customers such as government offices. We all benefit from cleaner air and we all contribute to air quality problems. The CALC program offers guidelines for reducing lawn maintenance equipment emissions and reducing the need for fertilizer and pesticides.
How does taking care of my yard affect air quality?
The choices we make in caring for our property can also affect our community by contributing to air pollution. Gasoline powered lawn and garden equipment creates more air pollution than any other non-road mobile source. Nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contribute to ground-level ozone formation in the presence of sunlight and high temperatures. Ground-level ozone is harmful to living things including people.
What are the health effects of ground-level ozone?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exposure to ground-level ozone may trigger a variety of health problems, especially in vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing respiratory disease.
- Ground-level ozone can irritate lung airways and cause inflammation;
- Repeated exposure to ozone pollution for several months may cause permanent lung damage;
- Even low-level exposure can result in aggravated asthma, reduced lung capacity, and increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses; and
- Studies have linked hospital admissions and emergency room visits to ground-level ozone exposure.
Ground-level ozone pollution can damage vegetation and ecosystems within and downwind of cities.
- Ground-level ozone interferes with the ability of plants to grow and store food.
- Damages the foliage of trees and other vegetation, tarnishing the visual appeal of ornamental species and urban green spaces.
Ground-level ozone transported downwind of cities reduces crop and forest yields and increases susceptibility to disease, insects, other pollutants, and harsh weather.
What can I do to reduce lawn and garden emissions?
We contribute to air quality right problems in our own backyards. The following suggestions will help us do our part for clean air in Kansas:
Plant Native (No Need to Mow, Watch ‘em Grow)
Decreasing the amount of time your gasoline powered equipment is running decreases emissions that contribute to ground-level ozone. Consider dedicating a part of your lawn for planting native flowers, ornamental grasses and shrubs. Native plants such as purple coneflowers, prairie phlox and sunflowers require less maintenance, less watering, and no fertilizer or pesticide compared with grass. All plants remove pollution from the air, native plants look great and are naturally adapted to Kansas changeable weather. Save time mowing, save money on chemical treatments, simply sit back and enjoy.
Professional horticulturalists recommend keeping grass length no higher than 3.5”. This practice chokes out weeds like crab grass. Taller grasses are less susceptible to erosion and drought. This practice requires less clean up time, requires less fertilizer/pesticides, and saves water. Grass-cycling, the simple process of leaving grass clippings on the lawn when mowing, saves time, money, and protects the environment. Mowing time is reduced because the bagging and disposal of clippings is eliminated. Grass clippings add beneficial organic matter to the soil.
Keep ‘em Tuned
Regular maintenance of lawn and garden equipment can reduce ground-level ozone forming emissions and reduce gasoline usage. Just like an automobile, schedule filter changes for oil, air, and fuel according to the owner’s manual. Maintenance should also include sharpening mower blades and checking tire pressure. These practices increase efficiency and reduce the time the energy must run. Thus emissions are reduced and air quality improved.
Plan to mow later in the day
Ground-level ozone forms from VOCs and NO x when weather conditions are hot and sunny. Consider mowing in the evening when it is cooler and emission from the mower will form less ground-level ozone.
Check the daily Skycast if you live in the Kansas City area. Ozone alert days (orange and red) are ozone action days and it is best not to do yard work when ground-level ozone is elevated. Other cities in Kansas can check the forecast at AirNow.
Consider an alternative to gasoline powered equipment
Consider battery-powered or electric lawn and garden equipment. These are light and maneuverable, saving you time and energy and work great on smaller yards. Best of all they emit no air pollution. The use of a reel mower can burn considerable calories in addition to being quiet and gentle to grass. If this is not an option choose 4-cycle engine lawn equipment over 2-cycle. Be sure to use the correct gas/oil mixture in 2-cycle equipment according to the manufacturer (EPA).
Avoid fuel spills
Americans spill gasoline while refueling lawn and garden equipment. Gasoline also evaporates from loosely capped gas cans and leaks from old containers. Gasoline loss is a large contributor to air pollution. A spill-proof gas container will help avoid spills and evaporation.
When fueling lawn and garden equipment use a funnel and pour slowly. Cap regular gas containers tightly and close the vents. Check for leaks each time you mow and never leave any gas can outside in the sun.