By George Harvey
My first job was tending grass in a local cemetery. I used hand clippers to make the grass around the headstones look nice. I was sixteen years old, and for that reason was not allowed near lawn mowers. The cemetery management considered them too dangerous for anyone under eighteen years old to be around.
The problem. The health hazards of gasoline-powered lawnmowers are well known to the operator and to the atmosphere with the amount of emissions that they put out. Operators are exposed to fumes from the combustion of inefficient engines, as well as damage to one’s hearing from the levels of noise from the machines.
We could go on at length about the environmental problems of small internal combustion machines, which contribute significant amounts of pollution to the atmosphere. While it has proven difficult to quantify the damage fully, a simple fact provides an understanding of the scale. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of gasoline and oil spilled just filling these engines is about 17 million gallons per year. This is more than was lost by the Exxon Valdez. And according to the government of Massachusetts, “One quart of motor oil can pollute 250,000 gallons of water, and one gallon of gasoline can pollute 750,000 gallons of water!” (http://bit.ly/oil-pollutes-water)
It happens that the 750,000 gallons of water is about what goes over Niagara Falls (both falls combined) in one second, when it is at full flow. The amount of water we can pollute with the gasoline spilled while filling lawnmower engines would keep Niagara Falls at full flow for about 196 days each year.
You can think about this environmental damage in two ways. First, you could see that it is spread out over the entire country, so no one really notices. Alternatively, you could see that it is spread out over the entire country, so the damage is poisoning the environment everywhere. And guess what? The first person poisoned is usually yourself, and the first water or soil you pollute is usually your own.
The Solution. Fortunately we have some good solutions. They range from simple and inexpensive to high-tech. Some are great sources of exercise. Others are so easy, that they don’t even need you!
At the simple end, we can easily find pusher-style reel mowers, which have been around almost as long as lawns have. They are inexpensive, with most models costing well below $150, and some are as low as $70. They are a perfect solution for anyone with a small lawn, and in fact, the only person I have ever known who lived in Manhattan and had a lawn used one of these. The lawn was about ten by twenty feet, and mowing was a weekly chore lasting about ten minutes, most of which was getting the mower out and putting it away.
Another solution is to plant some ground cover. Any form of ivy that does not climb is a candidate, as are a number of other plants. Historically, chamomile and thyme have been candidates. A person who really enjoys playing croquet or badminton, or just sitting on a lawn chair on the lawn, can keep a portion of the lawn as grass and mow it with a reel-type lawn mower.
Electric lawn mowers are a blessing I appreciated the first time I tried one. They come in different forms. The least expensive ones are usually plug-in models, and though it takes a little planning to mow a lawn without running over the electric line, it is much easier than some people might imagine. A few of these models cost less than $100.
A popular alternative today is a battery-powered push mower, which can cost upwards of $250. Electric riding lawn mowers have been sold in the past, but they are costly and very hard to find. There is a good commercial one that we recommend, called the Mean Green Mower. They do have one out that has solar panels above the operator and costs $10,910. www.meangreenproducts.com
Our editor, Nancy Rae Mallery, who is known for being frugal, efficient, environmentally conscious, and very much in favor of simple living, has a clear favorite. It is the robotic electric mower. The lowest cost models of these can occasionally be found at prices below $900. The advantages are rather astonishing. Once the machine is set up, it knows where to mow and when. It plugs itself in at its outlet, and goes about its business with almost no management. After much research, the Robomow, which usually costs upwards of $1,250, is clearly her choice. The RS630 has a wider cutting path of 22 inches, compared to cuts of less than ten inches for other brands. It is the strongest robotic mower for small and medium lawn out there. Robomow also has a history going back 20 years. She says, “I haven’t mowed my lawn all year, and yet it is always pristine. I love my Robomow and I think this is the overall best choice for those of us who want to have a nice lawn and most of all, an optimal choice in favor of our planet.” www.Robomow.com. Tell them ‘Green Energy Times’ sent you!