Gas-powered lawn mower exchange programs cut air pollution

Lawn mower exchanges

Fight ozone pollution and get a bargain on a new electric lawn mower or trimmer? Sign us up, say residents around Salt Lake City, who are again flooding a Utah gas lawn mower exchange program with applications.

In just the first three days since the program kicked off March 5, 2019, about 1,200 residents of Davis, Salt Lake, Tooele, Utah and Weber counties already have entered their names in a drawing to get one of the bargain mowers and trimmers.

The lawn mower exhchage program, run by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality started in 2015 and “It’s been very successful,” said DEQ Public Information Officer Jared Mendenhall.

No wonder. It’s a very good bargain: Residents of the five counties turn in an old but working gas mower or trimmer and in exchange, get a new cordless electric version at a steep discount. The mower, which retails for $299, is just $99. The trimmer, which retails for $149, costs $49.

This year’s Lawn Mower Exchange Program has 1,259 electric lawn mowers and 972 electric lawn trimmers available. Residents of the five counties have until March 15 to enter their names. A random drawing will be held to select the winners, and the actual exchange will occur April 27. Visit for more details and to enter.

Funding for the Utah program came from Utah’s portion of a $120 million settlement that General Motors paid to end state lawsuits over faulty engine switches.

Utah’s exchange program was inspired by a similar one that had been done yearly in San Diego County.

The San Diego County version, called “Mowing down pollution,” has been around since 2000. The program was put on hiatus for 2019. “We are currently investigating ways to provide more access to equipment replacement than a one-day event allows,” said a representative of the sponsoring agency, the San Diego Air Pollution Control District.

Other gas mower exchange or rebate programs include one run by the five-county district around Orange County, which has a year-round discount program. Maricopa County, Ariz., also has a year-round electric mower rebate program for residents of Phoenix and surrounding cities. Denver plans to repeat its discount program in May 2019.

In every case, the exchange programs are operated by the government agency responsible for fighting air pollution, and pushing gas-powered mowers into retirement is part of their strategy. By reducing carbon and breathing out oxygen, lawns have environmental benefits and reduce air pollution. But those benefits are partially offset by the pollution created by mowing lawns with gas-powered mowers. One study found that the pollution emitted by one hour of operating a gas mower equaled that emitted by a car driving 93 miles. Getting gas mowers, especially old ones, off of lawns helps reduce pollution.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “didn’t regulate small engines like those in gas mowers until the late ’90s,” said Mendenhall. “And mowers and trimmers are things people hold on to for decades so we’re trying to get rid of them.”


Daniel Ray

Daniel Ray

Daniel Ray is's former editor in chief. He is an award-winning writer and editor who previously was editor in chief of the personal finance websites and, but with 30 years of gardening experience, he's well qualified to help consumers grow a different kind of green.