by David Hopman, ASLA, PLA
One of the best parts of my morning routine is to take a brisk-paced walk with my wife through our leafy suburban neighborhood in Arlington, Texas. It is a great chance to catch up on events, enjoy the changeable weather patterns in North Texas, greet and (occasionally) get caught up with our neighbors, enjoy the mature vegetation, and get the blood moving before a busy day. The neighborhood has very low non-arterial traffic flow that allows people and cars to comfortably coexist on the asphalt streets that are without sidewalks. However, at several points along our route, it invariably happens—the rise of the machines! Our morning reverie is interrupted with deafening sounds and billows of pollution and dust from gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment (GPLGE).
These “machines in the garden” are ever with us, as was recently confirmed by a visit to Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island near Seattle. Bloedel is one of my favorite places to return to and I always take the opportunity when I am in Seattle. Unfortunately, my aesthetic reverie at Bloedel was impacted by power equipment during my visit this summer and then became one of the incitements for this post.
As landscape architects, we are often responsible for designing the landscapes that are maintained by these environmentally and aesthetically abusive machines. Many people have written over the years about lower-maintenance alternatives to lawns and hedges, but adoption has been painfully slow. There is also surprisingly little emphasis on the effects of GPLGE on environmental quality by ASLA and by regulators. In Texas, the primary regulator for emissions is The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Their website has many suggestions for improving air and water quality. Drilling down to Voluntary Tips for Citizens and Businesses to improve air quality will eventually lead to a webpage devoted to lawn and garden care. On this page there are tips for harvesting and saving water, organic gardening, native plants, using trees to save energy, using less pesticides and herbicides, etc. GPLGE is very conspicuously absent.