Is Mowing The Garden Increasing Your Carbon Footprint?

Is mowing the lawn increasing your carbon footprint? Last Saturday morning, the weather was fabulous. I decided to savour the morning tranquillity, sitting down on my time-weathered garden bench to enjoy my first coffee of the day.

I had just relaxed when the metallic snarl of my neighbour’s lawnmower ripped the fabric of the morning to shreds, the sound ebbing and flowing as Jim slowly walked it up and down his garden.

As if on cue, my other neighbour started his strimmer, the two implements vying loudly for audio supremacy. The farmer across the road, obviously feeling he was missing out, decided to use his petrol-driven chainsaw.

It was quieter living under the approach to Heathrow airport!

I started thinking about our British obsession with gardens and lawns in particular.

Everything that had disturbed my morning coffee had been petrol driven.

I wondered what the environmental impact of tending our gardens was.

So, I did some research, and this is what I discovered:

There are about 15 million grass lawns in the United Kingdom, and we Brits spend an average of £54 million on lawn feed each year and a further £127 million on lawn mowers!

That’s not including the spending on domestic strimmers, leaf blowers and chainsaws!

Local councils are not getting it right either

Grass verges, hedges, trees, school playing fields, public parks and open spaces. They all need looking after, and that’s where your local council comes in.

Recently, a Freedom of Information Act request was made to all 408 councils across the UK to establish how public green spaces are maintained.

Of the 262 responses received, it seems that jointly, the councils owned and operated 22,479 power tools (leaf blowers, mowers, chainsaws, strimmers etc.).

Is Mowing The Garden Increasing Your Carbon Footprint?
A Petrol-Powered Hedge Trimmer.  Image Courtesy Fapir17 under CC SA

Your local councils are wasting your Council tax buying almost 600,000 litres of fuel per year – about £1,182,000 at current prices.

To fulfil their legal obligations to maintain the spaces for which they are responsible, they are damaging the very environment they are attempting to protect.

Some of these issues are not of course the Councils’ fault:

Unlike the automotive industry, horticultural machines have no legally enforceable emission limits.

Also, professional users of these types of equipment choose their tools based on their perceptions of performance and power, so petrol-driven tools seem to be the first choice.

Therefore, it is unsurprising that two-stroke petrol engines power 89% of the tools! Two-stroke petrol engines mix lubricating oil with the petrol, which is then burnt when the engine is running.

The hot gases exhausted by the engine contain not only soot and particulates but also unburnt lubricating oil. This forms a sticky mess on the tool itself and anything it touches.
They are also notoriously noisy – and very polluting.

A leaf blower emits proportionately more pollutants than the maximum allowed for a modern vehicle!

Health risks from the use of horticultural machines

Using petrol-driven horticultural machinery raises several personal health risks. Bad if you only mow a small garden once a week, but dangerous if you work for the council mowing every day!

  • Pushing a mower emitting blue-grey smoke will result in breathing a cocktail of toxic gases and micro-particulates.
  • Using a petrol-powered brush cutter emits four times as many Nitrous Oxides as a Ford Fiesta!
  • Additionally, petrol engines vibrate at frequencies that can lead the operator to suffer from Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome. This is a painful condition affecting blood vessels, nerves and joints. It is preventable, but once acquired is permanent. The UK’s Health and Safety Executive estimate that 2 million people are at risk of HAVS.
  • Another health implication of using gasoline-powered machines is that of noise.
    In 2018, a study conducted by EGO revealed that petrol-powered chainsaws are 20 decibels louder than battery-powered equivalents. The same applies to mowers, with a petrol version emitting 12 decibels more noise than a similar battery-powered type. (Hearing loss occurs at sound levels of 85dB and above.)
Is Mowing The Garden Increasing Your Carbon Footprint?
Noisy and dirty! Image Chuck Kardus Public Domain

Are there any eco-friendly mowing options?

Better choices are available, and modern battery technology means that suitably powerful battery-operated garden machinery is available.

Whilst electrical power is currently expensive, the advantages of zero emissions, far lower sound levels and less vibration make battery-powered alternatives increasingly attractive.

So, maybe it’s time to decommission that old petrol-driven mower. Take the old gas-powered strimmer down to the recycle centre.

  • You can challenge your local council to stop using petrol-powered equipment for mowing green spaces.
  • Invest in a battery-powered machine.
  • If possible, swap it for a manual push mower.

Or just do what I did…

  • Extend No-Mow May into June and even July.

Go Well!


Daily Mail 03/08/2013 – Quentin Letts Diary

Challenge 2025

[1] A Decibels is the unit of sound measurement. It is logarithmic, hence 20dB is 100 times as loud.

12dB is an increase of just over twice as loud. : Note that Mark Charlwood & GreenLivingUK have no links with EGO garden machinery, and make no money from mentioning them. The name is only used to support some of the facts that they published following their own research.

Mark Charlwood - Writer, Journalist and Voice Actor

A highly qualified aviation professional who is able to write cogent and professional articles on a wide variety of subjects. Able to write interesting engaging features and articles concerning sustainability, alternative energy, AI, The Internet of Things, Biotech and ecological technology.

View all posts by Mark Charlwood - Writer, Journalist and Voice Actor →
%d bloggers like this: