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RISMEDIA, July 24, 2010—(MCT)—Mowing the lawn is a weekly chore for many this time of year. What you probably don’t realize is that your gas-powered mower is also contributing to bad air quality, right there in your own backyard. Until recently, gas-powered lawn mowers were not required to regulate emissions. The good news is that new regulations and a selection of greener alternatives can help you do your part to reduce air pollution so close to home.

Gas powered lawn equipment produces roughly 5% of the air pollution generated in America—that’s quite a lot for such a little engine. The exhaust sends tiny particles into the air creating conditions that are especially unhealthy for young children or anyone with a respiratory illness or disease. Fumes from the engine also contribute to the formation of ground level ozone and smog, another hazardous air pollutant. A study conducted at the University of Florida in 2005 found that gas-powered mowers cause as much as 1,500 times more carbon monoxide, 31 times more nitrogen oxides and nearly 20 times more carbon dioxide than mowers powered by electricity. New regulations will go into effect in the next two years that will reduce emissions from newly-built models, but gas powered mowers aren’t your only option.

Electric mowers also generate pollution but at drastically lower levels and not in your backyard. Electric mowers are more expensive than their gas-powered cousins, but they are a lot less expensive to operate and maintain. An electric mower will cost you about $5 a year to operate, which is the cost of electricity to power or charge the mower. If you opt for the more convenient cordless electric mower, you should know that the rechargeable battery contains lead and should never end up in a landfill. Fortunately, there are many resources available for recycling rechargeable batteries of all shapes and sizes.

For ease of operation, electric wins hands down. It starts with the push of a button and you never need to fill up the gas tank or replace the oil. Most come with a mulching feature and some models have the ability to add on accessories for trimming or edging. The electric mower is lighter than its gas-powered alternative and it’s much quieter too. But the biggest benefit is that you’ll be inhaling the sweet smell of freshly-cut grass instead of pollution-causing gas fumes.

Of course, a human-powered reel mower is the greenest option of all and is a practical solution if you have a small area to mow. Today there are many styles to choose from; some even include an attachment to catch grass clippings.

When it’s time to choose your next mower, do your part and select a model that won’t add to the air pollution problem near your home, your neighborhood or around the planet.

(c) 2010, The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.).

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.