No Mow May raises awareness
We will not really know whether we were able to increase the diversity and abundance of pollinators necessary for our plants to flourish this season by not mowing in May. This would make a good research thesis for some graduate student. But one of the main goals of the No Mow May movement is to get people thinking and talking about the maintenance of their yards from an environmental perspective. In that respect, Mayor Seren’s declaring Cleveland Heights a No Mow May community was a huge success.
Because of this movement, people around the country and here in the Heights have been made more aware of pollinator declines that will eventually lead to ecosystem collapse. Biodiversity loss is on the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2022 as one of the top three threats facing humans today.
Though not everyone will go all in with No Mow May, some perhaps will embrace the concept of moving away from a monoculture lawn supported by fertilizer and herbicides and instead have a diverse landscape which provides good bio-habitat. Also, people better understand the importance of letting the early spring wildflowers grow, which is important for the pollinators.
We should not only be concerned with what we grow in our yards, but with how we care for our yards. Especially, we need to re-think our use of gas-powered equipment.
Climate change is an important driver responsible for the decline of pollinator species and abundance. Gas mowers contribute to this. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the typical gas lawn mower adds 89 lbs. of carbon dioxide in a season. There were 30 million tons of pollutants added to the atmosphere in the U.S. by gas lawn equipment in 2018. A gas leaf blower puts out more hydrocarbons than a Ford F-150 truck.
There are a variety of non-gas alternatives to mowing and blowing lawns, from electric mowers and blowers to push mowers and brooms (the way everyone maintained their yards in the Heights prior to the 1950s).
These alternatives will eventually pay for themselves with the savings gained from not using gas yard equipment, and will greatly reduce carbon dioxide emissions even when considering the energy used to recharge the battery for electric equipment. Plus, the neighbors will be happier because our peaceful “quiet” neighborhoods will actually be peaceful and quiet, and the babies can nap.
Gerald Sgro is a longtime Cleveland Heights resident and a retired research biologist.