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Clear the Air: Green Up My Yard

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of posts—published every Wednesday during July—of what DEQ employees are doing to reduce emissions during the 2014 Clear the Air Challenge.

By Bryce Bird

Clear the Air Challenge: Drive Down Your Miles

I enjoy a green yard and a productive garden. Unfortunately, when I water and add fertilizer some of the “green” starts moving beyond the boarders that I have established. Many years ago I discovered the perfect tool to keep the green in the right places. The growing shoots and stems were no match for the string trimmer that returned the crisp edges to the landscape.

I figured that the weekly chore of pulling out the string trimmer, filling (and spilling) from the separate container of gasoline mixed with precisely measured 2-cycle oil, inserting the ear plugs, priming the carburetor, adjusting the choke and pulling a few, too many times until the noisy, smelly, smoky, leaky machine jumped to life was a necessary operation in order to keep the yard green and in shape. That is in the past. One day last summer, the old plastic connector for the fuel line running from the tank to the engine broke; emptying the contents down the back of my leg and onto the grass.

EPA maintains a website that details some of the advances in small engine technology to reduce emissions while doing the same amount of work: EPA

Older technology (pre-2010) small 2-cycle engines emit as much as 70 percent more hydrocarbons (VOC) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) than the latest models. Per hour of operation, the old 2-cycle engines are 10-times more polluting than the average new passenger vehicles. I could drive several hundred miles with the same emissions as one hour of operating the string trimmer. Unlike the tailpipe of my car, the exhaust from the string trimmer was expelled about 2-feet from the entrance to my respiratory system. With cars getting cleaner, EPA estimates that small engines now account for 10 percent of the total emissions (VOC + NOx) from all internal spark engines responsible for the formation of summer smog.

For almost any application there are now alternatives to the old 2-cycle engines.

With the demise of my old trimmer, my wife jumped on the opportunity to visit the local home and garden store. She soon returned with our new 40-volt, battery powered string trimmer. In contrast to the old one, it is quiet, clean and able to trim the entire yard in one charge. The odors, smoke and spills are eliminated. Setting the battery on the charger is much simpler than mixing and maintaining the mixed fuel container. The yard is a little greener and I am happy with my first move to a clean and efficient alternative to the 2-cycle engine.

Bryce Bird with electric trimmer
This month’s Clear the Air Challenge is all about reducing emissions—specifically in how we travel—that cause air pollution. There are also other ways to reduce emissions that create air pollution: Consider cleaner, low-emission technologies for maintaining your lawn. Visit EPA’s website for more information.

Bryce Bird is the Director of the Utah Division of Air Quality. When not at work, Bryce spends many summer evenings performing with the Utah National Guard’s 23rd Army Band at community concerts throughout the state.

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