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Mowing, refueling less harmful in mornings, evenings

By Amanda Wheeler
Going Green in the Bluegrass

Summer means cookouts, road trips and mowing. But unfortunately, these activities also all cause the release of “volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere.
VOCs cannot be seen with the naked eye, but can often be smelled and are found in items around your house. They can be released by everyday activities you might not think about.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, some items that contain VOCs are paints, paint strippers and other solvents; aerosol sprays; pesticides; moth repellents; air fresheners; stored fuels and automotive products; and dry-cleaned clothing.
Different products emit varying amounts of VOCs and can cause different health effects. VOC exposure can cause headaches and irritation of the eyes, nose lungs and throat. Exposure to VOCs in higher levels can cause more extreme issues.
Make sure you use products that contain VOCs in a well-ventilated area. Try natural ways of getting rid of pests before you turn to pesticides. Follow all label precautions on products.
VOCs can also come from some things you might not realize. VOCs come from gas fumes, so when you are filling your tank for a road trip, driving you car, or mowing your grass, you are releasing VOCs. VOCs can also be released when you grill out.
VOCs create a much bigger environmental problem, too: ground-level ozone.
When it’s hot outside, VOCs mix with nitrogen oxides (NO2), causing ground-level ozone. According to the EPA, “NO2 primarily gets in the air from the burning of fuel. NO2 forms from emissions from cars, trucks and buses, power plants, and off-road equipment.”
While ozone does a great job protecting us when it’s high in the atmosphere, ozone down on the ground is a major pollutant.
You may be worried that there’s no way to avoid many of the activities I’ve mentioned that can release VOCs and cause ground-level ozone. But it turns out there is something simple you can do to minimize the amount of ozone you generate: Avoid VOC-generating activities during the heat of the day.
Sunlight and heat is needed for VOCs to cause ground-level ozone. If you wait until after 6 p.m. to fill up your gas tank, mow your grass and grill out, you can reduce the environmental impact of those activities.
Alternatively, you could also do things that release VOCs early in the morning before the sun is high in the sky. Obviously, you might not feel like grilling out right after you roll out of bed, but filling up your car on your way to work is pretty easy.
I was happy to learn that mowing later in the day is better for the planet, because it’s cooler then anyway, so the mowing is much easier.
If you’d like to learn more about VOCs, there is a really short and informative video on YouTube that teaches you what you can do to help make sure you aren’t contributing to air pollution: http://bit.ly/VOCsVid.