When cleaning up pollution gets personal, some folks have problems. We can rant about industry and the car-makers’ responsibility, but we have a personal stake here, too.

When cleaning up pollution gets personal, some folks have problems. We can rant about industry and the car-makers’ responsibility, but we have a personal stake here, too.

Beyond our vehicles, our lawn mowers are a primary polluter. You would not think such a small engine would be a big problem, but it is. Even the modern ones with pollution controls add to our carbon footprint. Some communities ban mowing on high-ozone summer days.

The EPA says 5 percent of American air pollution comes from gas mowers, especially two-cycle models that burn gas and oil.

One older mower in an hour emits the same pollution of eight cars driving 55 mph. Mowers drink 800 million gallons of gas a season, and we spill 17 million gallons while fueling. That’s bigger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil disaster in Alaska.

Modern mowers have pollution standards and are cleaner, but they still pollute. They accomplish this by de-tuning the engine and using fuel injection instead of a carburetor.

Primary problem

The No. 1 problem with these engines is dirt in the injectors, so be careful when fueling them. Dirt blockages cause a no start and a $75 trip to a repair shop to blow out the fuel jet.

Consumers do not replace products solely because they pollute. They wait until the light bulb burns out or the refrigerator quits. That makes sense and is not going to change. Your average lawn mower lasts more than 10 years, so any changes here will take a long time.

Still, you can fight this pollution in a very simple way by mowing less. The easiest way to mow less is to garden more. Replacing grass with gardens adds carbon-absorbing plants while cutting back on carbon-emitting exhaust.

That’s a win-win.

My back yard 20 years ago was about 8,000 square feet. I know because I fertilized it. With my intensive gardening, it’s now about a tenth of that.

I can mow it in 10 minutes.

Almost all of our new plants are perennials requiring almost no care. Eventually, I’m hoping my back yard will be nothing but grass paths between gardens. I may even replace the grass with crushed limestone.

A good solution

This makes so much sense. Established perennials rarely need expensive watering. The beds consume my compost, which I make from fall leaves and kitchen wastes. A big plus is I need a lot less lawn fertilizer, which is a water polluter.

We got busy on our front landscape and reduced the mowing by 30 percent. I never got compliments from walkers on my grass, but I do on our new plants.

The older I get, the less time I want to spend behind a mower. That has nothing to do with the environment. I’m searching for ways to save my back, and perennial gardens make a lot of sense. If we help to save the planet at the same time, so much for the better.

Send gardening questions to jim.hillibish@cantonrep.com