Summerhill Impact

Summerhill Impact

April 26, 2012 08:30 ET

"Excuse me, neighbour, I don't appreciate your Second-hand Smoke"-putting an end to high-polluting lawnmowers

Annual lawnmower exchange program on until May 2, 2012

By Corey Diamond, Summerhill Impact

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 26, 2012) - Our social norms and interactions are a curious thing, and I've been interested in learning more about what society will "accept" and "not accept" in our social behaviour. If you haven't seen this video ( yet, you should. It shows Casey Neistat stealing his own bike in broad daylight in New York City. He uses a saw to cut through a lock, and you see people walking by without raising red flags, even sitting enjoying a coffee while a theft is clearly happening in front of them. The point he's trying to make is that until we all unite and make it socially unacceptable to steal bikes, bike theft will continue unabated.

This got me thinking about our social norms when it comes to our neighbourhood lives, and maintaining our perfect, pretty lawns. If you saw or heard one of your neighbours mowing their lawn with an old two-stroke gas lawnmower* - you know, the ones that belch out black smoke and sound like a diesel truck factory opened next door - would you be fine with ingesting all those dirty fumes while you're trying to enjoy your day? Would you tap them on the shoulder and ask them kindly to use a cleaner model, or turn it off?

We know that two-stroke gas lawnmowers are key mobile contributors to poor air quality and increased smog. We also know that this directly leads to asthma, lung disease, cardiovascular disease, allergies, and many other health problems. Even worse, we know that children and the elderly are more susceptible.

Armed with these stats, and worried about the impact of poor air quality on your family's health, I ask you again: would you have a conversation with your neighbour about the impact of his/her lawnmower on your health?

It's high time we started taking this stuff a little more seriously. It's time we made using high-polluting lawn equipment as socially unacceptable as smoking in public places. I remember a great ad from Pollution Probe in the '80's that showed the average height of a car tailpipe was the same as the average height of a child's stroller. The subversive picture was meant to highlight the link between poor air quality and child health. This emotional connection was used very well in the fight against second-hand smoke, acid rain and poor drinking water.

At Summerhill Impact, we're big believers in driving social change at the local level, and empowering people to take action in their own life. Not only are we advocating for everyone to make this an issue on their street, in their neighbourhoods, in their cities; we're also providing a simple way for people to retire old, high polluting lawn equipment. In partnership with The Home Depot Canada, and now in its 12th year, the Mow Down Pollution campaign will retire your old gas mower, and give you a rebate for a cleaner more efficient one. More than 50,000 people have already participated, and it's running again until Wednesday May 2, 2012. Come show your community you're serious about making this issue as socially unacceptable as possible.

For more details on Mow Down Pollution, visit

*Don't know what a two-stroke gas lawnmower is? Check out this simple explanation:

  • If you mix oil and gas together to run your lawnmower, it's a two-stroke engine
  • If your oil and gas is separate, it's a four-stroke (70% more efficient)
  • If you have an electric lawn mower, better still (90% more efficient)
  • If you have a push reel mower, you have zero emissions - congratulations

About Summerhill Impact:

Summerhill Impact is a national not-for-profit environmental organization that has designed and delivered many of Canada's most successful public engagement programs. We strive to make better environmental choices easy for consumers, allowing them to contribute to a sustained, positive, and measurable impact on the environment.

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