Although often overlooked, small-motor, gasoline-powered equipment is a significant contributor to climate change. According to the EPA, off-road gasoline-powered equipment, such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers, emit approximately 242 million tons of pollutants annually, just as much as cars and homes. Nationally, the equipment accounts for 17 percent of all VOC emissions, 12 percent of NOx emissions, 29 percent of CO emissions, 4 percent of CO2 emissions and 2-5 percent of particulates. The emissions impact local air quality and have a direct link to lymphoma, leukemia and other cancers.

According to the EPA, off-road gasoline-powered equipment, such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers, emit approximately 242 million tons of pollutants annually, just as much as cars and homes. Dan King photo

Gasoline-powered lawn care equipment harms our environment in other ways as well. The EPA estimates that more than 17 million gallons of gasoline is spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment, which pollutes and degrades soil. Gas-powered equipment also is extremely noisy, which is detrimental to the health of humans, pets and wildlife. As city staff and residents in South Portland explore ways to reduce our harmful impact on the environment, phasing out our gasoline-powered lawn care equipment is a significant step.

Coffee & Climate

This month, the Portland and South Portland Sustainability Offices are hosting Coffee & Climate: electric Small-motor Equipment Edition.

Join our offices and special guest Keith “Tater” Forest from Portland’s Parks and Rec department, on Friday, April 8 from 9 to 10 a.m. to learn more about electric lawn care equipment and how municipalities can transition parks maintenance equipment, such as mowers, blowers, and trimmers, to modern electric alternatives.

Coffee & Climate is a virtual monthly event dedicated to exploring sustainability topics and encouraging conversation between sustainability staff and residents. To sign up for the free event, visit


If it’s not broke, why go electric?

All of the negative effects of traditional gasoline-powered equipment are perks of their electric counterparts. In the context of climate, electric lawn care equipment reduces emissions substantially by reducing fuel consumption 1,400 to 1,900 gallons annually per mower. Switching to electric also reduces noise pollution, as electric lawn care equipment is notably quiet in comparison to gas-powered equivalents. Plus, since electric equipment doesn’t need gasoline or oil to operate, it does not pollute soil during use. The transition to electric equipment will benefit the quality and health of our community, pets, and overall environment.

Yes, gasoline-powered equipment seems tried and true, but is it worth the pollution? Newer electric lawn care equipment is more efficient, requires less maintenance than gasoline-powered appliances, and gets the job done. According to Consumer Reports, electric mowers are more reliable than their gas counterparts over a 10-year period. In addition, there is an element of convenience when switching to electric. Your lawn mower, for example, will no longer need oil changes or filter cleanings, making your lawn care equipment less complicated and costly.

And although electric systems are more costly upfront, if you are searching for new lawn care appliances, electric will pay off. The amount of money you save on maintenance, oil and other necessary costs are nonexistent when you have an electric appliance.

Learning about electric lawn care

The South Portland Sustainability Office took a field trip to the hardware store to learn more about the electric lawn care equipment on the market. We found there are various brands and price ranges for different equipment, ranging from leaf blowers and weed whackers to all electric riding lawn mowers.


Certain brands, such as Ego, have batteries compatible with all of their equipment, meaning you could operate your lawn mower, leaf blower and weed whacker with the same battery. Learning about and looking at the different models available, it is clear that this is an exciting time to invest in electric lawn care, as the world of electrics keeps getting bigger and better.

If you’re considering opting for electric lawn care, visit your local hardware store to learn more about their inventory and to find equipment that fits your needs and budget.

Our Sustainable City is a recurring column in the Sentry intended to provide residents with news and information about sustainability initiatives in South Portland. Follow the Sustainability Office on Instagram and Facebook @soposustainability.

Mia Ambroiggio is a Greater Portland Council of Governments Resilience Corps Fellow serving in the Sustainability Office. She can be reached at

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