J500 Media and the Environment

Not In My Backyard: Keep Your Clippings to Yourself by jseverin

Giant piles of rotting garbage. Rows and rows of it strewn along in perfect piles. No, this isn’t a landfill but a city-owned lot in East Lawrence. In fact, this garbage is never meant to end up in the landfill. It’s composed mainly of lawn clippings, leaves, and the paper bags that we Lawrenciens set out on our curb every Monday after a gritty weekend of yard work. A few months later – after shredding, turning, and screening – it’s a rich, dark compost ready for us to pick up and take back to our homes to spread on gardens, flower beds, or even spread back over our lawns. Now that’s Mother Nature in action, right?

Not quite. As great as it is to keep the natural “dust to dust” cycle going, we’ve altered that cycle considerably, stirring in more fossil fuels than necessary to get the same result. This includes fossil fuels used to collect the yard waste (an extra route driven by trucks each week) and trips by residents to pick up their old waste in its new form.

Although setting out your yard waste for the weekly collection is a great idea, there are simpler ways to do Mother Nature a favor. You can start by mulching your grass and leaves right back on the yard they came from. Mulching, or grasscycling, is like adding free fertilizer to your lawn and helps you avoid the hassle of bagging.

While you are at it, you can cut out additional polluting emissions by using an electric or manual reel mower. Believe it or not, gas mowers like the one in your garage are responsible for as much as 5% of all ozone forming emissions and 17 millions gallons of spilt gasoline each year. Electric mowers, while still powered by a fossil fuel-fired energy plant, produce less carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. A reel mower gets rid of all of that because it’s powered by you. Those funny looking mowers you only see in cartoons may just be making a comeback.

The Reel Deal: Cut down on carbon emissions while cutting your grass with a reel mower. (Source: Wendy Gay, flickr.com)

I’m not suggesting that we should put an end to the city composting program. This is a great service that creates a carefully monitored product that couldn’t as easily be done in your own back yard. And, since the city started collecting yard waste separately from trash in 1993, we’ve diverted 33 to 35% of our waste from the landfill, amounting to nearly 18,000 tons in 2007.

But the first of those tried and true 3R’s of waste is “reduce”, and mulching or mowing with a reel mower reduces more than just waste. It reduces the need for fertilizer, cuts emissions, and saves the city money by reducing collection and processing time. So when it’s time to fire up the mower, consider keeping your “garbage” in your backyard and enjoy the benefits of a greener, cleaner lawn.


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