Buds on the trees, spring-training baseball, and April showers all mean one thing: In a few weeks you are going to crank up the mower and cut your grass. While gasoline mowers get the job done, they emit a disproportionate amount of air pollution (compared to cars) due to their two-stroke engines and lack of catalytic converters (that will change due to new EPA rules set to take effect in 2010 and 2011). Why should you care about gasoline emissions? The EPA states:
Small engines used in power equipment emit a variety of pollutants. These include hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen (NOx), which lead to the production of groundlevel ozone, the principal component of smog. zone can impair human lung functions and inhibit plant growth. In addition, NOx contributes to the production of acid rain. These engines also produce carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless and poisonous gas which results from incomplete fuel combustion. Infants and people with heart disease or respiratory problems are especially sensitive to carbon monoxide poisoning.
According to EPA estimates, in many large urban areas, pre-1997 lawn and garden equipment accounts for as much as 5 percent of the total man-made hydrocarbons that contribute to ozone formation.
Not only that, but gasoline mowers are loud and annoying to your neighbors. Imagine the poor Jones' sitting on their porch trying to enjoy a nice glass of ice-tea and quietly read the paper while your VROOOMING up and down your lawn trying to make it look like the infield on opening day. OK, fine, you hate the Jones', but you probably hate their noisy lawn mower too!
Thankfully we can cut air/noise pollution and our yards at the same time with several options:
- Human-powered push reel mowers (you need the exercise and silence)
- Electric mowers (quieter but less powerful than gasoline)
- Propane mowers (less polluting than gasoline, no spills, more powerful than electric)
Push Reel Mowers
Obviously the quietist and environmentally friendliest because they require power only from you. I've never used one but I've always wanted to own one. This site seems to have a bunch of information. I'm guessing that you have to cut your grass frequently with a push mower, but we all need to get outside more anyway. If you have a small yard and you like seeing your neighbors, this is the way to go. Also, you have zero costs for fuel (other than the burrito for lunch) and minimal uptake.
If a push mower just wont work for you but you still don't want to use gasoline you can try an electric mower. HowStuffWorks has a nice article on electric mowers(although their main purpose is to sell you one). Electric mowers are quieter than their fossil fueled bretheren but not near as powerful. Like push mowers, you have to make sure your grass doesn't get too high or the blades wont be powerful enough to cut through the grass.
If you really want to ensure no fossil fuel goes into powering your electric mower (through the coal powered electric grid) than you can listen to Guy Marsden and make a solar powered electric mower. Mother Earth News has a great article on Electric Mowers which they close with:
Cordless, battery-powered lawn mowers are quiet and work great for small to medium-sized lawns, require less maintenance and cause less airborne pollution than gas-powered mowers. Electric mowers still are at a disadvantage on larger lawns, however, because they are not self-propelled and can have trouble handling heavy or wet grass. Upfront cost is considerably more than a gas-powered mower, but cordless, battery-powered mowers should save you money over time, thanks to lower energy and maintenance costs.
The March 2010 issue of Popular Science has a great piece on propane mowers. You cook with propane in your grill, why not cut your grass with it. While still a fossil fuel, it is better for the environment than gasoline. The Pop Sci article states:
Propane fuels your camp stove and patio grill because it burns efficiently and is easy to store safely. Now the same canisters are making lawn mowers more eco- and user-friendly, too. The propane-powered Eco Mower spews 26 percent less greenhouse gases and 60 percent less carbon monoxide than a gasoline model, plus you can replace its fuel conveniently and inexpensively.
If you have a big yard and your grass grows fast than a propane mower may be your best bet. They even have a riding mower option so you can cruise around your yard in eco-style (and maybe even toss back an organic beer while you're at it)!
There are several options out there that will enable you to maintain your lawn while helping your family breathe easier and have a more peaceful summertime. Why not think about making the switch and cut gasoline out of another area in your life.