Abby Tripp Heverin
April 6, 2011
Gas-powered lawn mower

Courtesy iStockphoto/Thinkstock

With rising fuel prices, using a gas-powered lawn mower costs a little extra green this season. From an environmental perspective, it’s also a decidedly un-green activity, with EPA data showing that one gas mower sends 87 pounds of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and 54 pounds of other pollutants into the air each year. It adds up: Lawn mowers (and the 800 million gallons of gasoline we purchase each year to fuel them) contribute 5 percent of our nation’s total air pollution.

This spring, however, residents of one Iowa county got the opportunity to swap their gas-powered lawn mowers for something a little greener. With the help of Polk County’s Lawn Mower Exchange Program, 35 Iowans traded in their old lawn mowers for vouchers that allowed them to purchase Neuton battery-powered mowers at a significant discount.

The program was co-sponsored by Polk County’s Air Quality Division, Neuton, Metro Waste Authority and Midwest Recovery.

The program arose out of Polk County leaders’ desire to involve citizens in a county-wide effort to reduce the amount of ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter, explains Jeremy Becker, Air Quality Division manager. However, it was a series of partnerships that brought the idea of a lawn mower exchange to fruition.

“The Polk County Air Quality Division … received a $2,500 environmental stewardship and cost-effective waste management grant from Metro Waste Authority to help establish the … program,” Becker says. Midwest Recovery, an appliance recycling firm, then volunteered to recycle the gas-powered lawn mowers exchanged as part of the program at no cost. Neuton, which has partnered with several other state, county and municipal agencies to sponsor exchange programs throughout the U.S., offered “a significant discount on the mowers, advertising materials, coupons, tracking and approval, I.T. support, and free shipping.”

The program was so successful that funding was exhausted in just 16 days. According to Becker, the program will continue unfunded, with Midwest Recovery continuing to recycle old mowers and the Air Quality Division distributing coupons to participants for a smaller discount on the Neuton mowers. The county is already applying for additional grant funding for 2012, with plans to fund 100 exchanges next spring.


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