Summer is finally here. It is so nice to have a good cup of coffee out on the deck on a sunny Saturday morning, to enjoy the garden and listen to the birds. Then the peace and calm is completely shattered, as your neighbour’s lawnmower roars to life. He starts to make his passes back and forth just beyond the fence, while wearing hearing protection, because a lawn mower registers at 95 decibels, which is 10 decibels over what is safe for human ears. You give up and go back inside, until it is your turn to get out and cut your own lawn.
I am a horticulturist, so I use a lot of noisy equipment when I work in my garden or in someone else’s. I use lawnmowers, chainsaws, weed trimmers and leaf blowers in the regular course of a day. They are terribly noisy machines. They spew horrible hot exhausts when they are not breaking down, just when I need them most. They are powered by internal combustion engines that use gasoline as a fuel. Since they are such small engines they are nowhere near as efficient as a car engine. In fact they produce the same amount of smog in one hour as eleven cars would in the same time. They have no catalytic converters, useless mufflers, and have oil mixed in the gasoline to make the engines keep running. Each weekend, about 60 million North Americans mow their lawns, using 3.5 billion litres of gas per year, which produces tons of air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and nitrogen oxide. They also produce up to 5 per cent of our air pollution concentrated mostly in our metropolitan areas.
My chainsaw is a noisy beast. It has a far louder roar than the lawn mower. It is up around 105 decibels, and I have to wear ear plugs and ear protectors just to keep from going deaf while using it. My weed trimmer and leaf blower are just as bad; when I work out in the yard, I know that people can hear me over a kilometre away. Needless to say, I am very self-conscious when I use them and I try hard not to disturb the peace too much.
Now all of these problems have disappeared, thanks to the battery revolution. I have now replaced all of my garden equipment with battery-operated machines. I have used a handheld battery-operated drill for years, so much so that it almost feels like an extension of my arm. The battery charge on it does very well for replacing a drill’s electric cord, but replacing an internal combustion engine with a battery seemed to be a stretch. Well, it looks like they have finally done it, and now you can replace them all with a new battery-powered version. This spring is the first time that I am operating in my green garden with green equipment. No more fuel cans, no more downtime for cranky engines, and no more ear plugs. When the battery finally gives up after an hour of work, I just put it back into the recharger and grab a fresh battery. Let’s hope that they quickly replace the old gas engines everywhere, so that we can all enjoy our coffee in peace, while breathing fresh, clean air.
Jeff Scott is a former councillor for the City of Kingston (Countryside District), and has contributed editorial content local publications for a number of years. He continues to live, work and write in the Countryside district of Kingston, and runs his own blog, The Countryside View. Visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/jeffscottthecountrysideview to read more of Jeff’s content.