Electrify This … Lawnmowers

Roll up your sleeves and grab a dirt shovel it’s yard work season for Canadians across the country.  As we are knee-deep in summer, there is no sound I love waking up to more than the roar of my neighbour’s gas-powered lawnmower on a Saturday morning. Just kidding.

Out of 13 million households across Canada, about 50% (6.5 million) own a lawnmower, with nearly 80% of those being gas-powered. Now let’s understand the scope and size of how many lawnmowers that actually is. It would be equal to a full capacity crowd of 121.5 Roger’s Centres.

As we move towards Net-Zero by 2050, governments want to reduce all of those emissions piped into the atmosphere through lawn care tools – including lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, brush cutters, and garden tractors. A step in the right direction could be “Approximately 20 000 fewer tonnes of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 58 000 fewer tonnes of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)” as stated in the Canadian Gazette vol 151, No 20, released October 4, 2017. It’s an ‘ok’ start, but is it enough?

If we have 5.2 million gas-powered lawnmowers, and (according to the Environmental Protection Agency) each lawnmower emits 89 pounds of CO2 per year, that’s a total of 209,922,548 kg or 0.2 Megatons. Roughly equivalent to 34,985 adult African elephants if you want to get technical about it.

Many people don’t realize that “one hour of using a gas lawnmower is the equivalent to driving a pickup truck up to 550 kilometres”. So what if we just banned gas-powered lawnmowers outright. Stopped importing them and only import the electric or hydrogen ones, if they decide to make them. What a novel idea. Why not make them in Canada and create some jobs?

The government should of course allow for rural land-owners to keep theirs if their property is too big for an electric cord or battery. But let’s stop using them across the country in all urban areas, and not over 15 years. Let’s do it in 15 months. Just as electric vehicle technology has advanced over the past decade, so has all-electric lawn equipment.

Yes,  around 0.2 megatons it’s small but with a failed target reduction year after year, we’ll take any win at this time. We can’t expect COVID to win the emissions race for us. These are necessary baby steps and we all have to do our part. Baby steps that are equivalent to roughly to 34,985 adult African elephants. Canada’s goal of reaching Net Zero depends on our ability to reduce emissions anywhere we can. So why don’t we start with our own homes?