7 emissions-free landscaping tools
Here's how to keep your lawn neat without trashing the Earth.
Wed, Jul 18 2012 at 6:20 AM
IT CAN TEXT: Yep, that's a lawn mower. This solar hybrid baby will even text you if it encounters an obstacle. (Photo: Husqvarna)
Given that conventional lawn mowers and other gas-powered landscaping tools hold the dubious distinction of being responsible for generating a staggering 5 percent of air pollution in the U.S., maintaining a well-groomed yard that’s up to HOA snuff (or your own Augusta National-esque standards) comes equipped with deep environmental consequences. In fact, according to EPA estimates, a new, gas-powered lawn mower operated for just one hour generates the same amount of air pollution — namely, smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides — as a car driven for 45 miles. Looking at carbon dioxide emissions alone, it’s estimated that a single gas mower produces 87 pounds of the greenhouse gas annually. And while Americans collectively burn an estimated 800 gallons of gasoline using lawn equipment each year, 17 million gallons of the fuel doesn’t even make it that far and is spilled during the refueling process — that’s more than the oil that was released into the environment during the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.
Although things have improved since the EPA introduced emissions standards for landscaping equipment in the mid-1990s, and tightened just last year, rendering that yard all neat 'n' tidy can still be a mighty dirty task. But things are getting progressively better as consumers continue to opt for the numerous electric alternatives that are out there for the taking. These plug-in and cordless, battery-operated models can make a huge impact. According to the EPA, if 1,000 gas-powered mowers were replaced with electric models, 9.8 tons of harmful VOCs would be eliminated each year — the equivalent of removing 230 cars from the nation’s highways. Old-school reel mowers are also making a comeback. These models allow eco-conscious landscapers to groom their small- to medium-sized lawns in a completely emissions free manner (keep in mind that electric models aren’t 100 percent perfect as they require juice to power up) and receive a fantastic aerobic workout in process. Can’t beat that.
We’ve rounded up seven top-notch pieces of outdoor landscaping and maintenance equipment ranging from lawn mowers to pressure washers to hedge trimmers that are available in emissions-free electric or non-electric models as well. If you’ve become tired of the fumes, the gas stink, the spills and the ungodly noise associated with gas-powered machines, than we think they’re worth a look (and keep an eye out for any available rebates in your area that reward you for switching from gas to electric). Or you could just hire a goat.
Earthwise 12” Cordless Grass Trimmer @ Target ($66.89)
Ideal for tackling those overgrown, hard-to-reach areas that have long eluded your lawn mower, this lean, mean, weed-whacking machine operates without the stinky fumes and deafening roar that’s associated with gas-powered trimmers and edgers. Operating at 8,500 RPMs, this model features an adjustable telescoping handle that can be adjusted to various heights and an adjustable head that can be positioned at three angles to tackle a variety of landscape manicuring tasks. Battery charger is included.
Greenworks 1,500 PSI 1.3 GPM Electric Pressure Washer @ Lowes ($99.98)
Whether beautifying the driveway or blasting a season’s worth of gunk and grime from the deck or patio, this petite yet powerful electric pressure washer with a 1.3 GPM axial pump can handle a variety of tasks with exhaust-free aplomb. We particularly like the wall-mounting storage feature that’s ideal for cluttered garages and garden sheds with limited floor space as well as the adjustable, quick-connect wand for easy, breezy nozzle switch-ups (0 degree, 25 degree, and 40 degree spray tips included). Plus, unlike massive, gas-powered pressure washers, you can also use this model indoors or in enclosed areas.
Brill Razorcut Push Mower @ Green Depot ($249.95, grass catcher, $48.95)
The Rolls-Royce of people-powered push mowers, this German-engineered model from industry old-timer Brill features five welded steel blades that can go an entire decade without requiring sharpening and an ergonomic foam rubber handle. An adjustable cutting height that ranges from .7 inches to 1.8 inches allows you to conquer lawns that are either overgrown or just in need of a quick touch-up (sorry Southerners but the Razorcut can’t tackle Bermuda, St. Augustine or Zoysia grass). Grass catcher sold separately.
Toro E-Cycler 20360 Cordless Electric Lawnmower @ Clean Air Gardening ($419.99)
Sure, cordless electric lawn mowers cost a bit more up front than those noisy, pollution-spewing four-stoke machines, but in our opinion it’s well worth it. This push model from industry leader Toro features a quick-charging 36-volt battery that runs long enough to mow 7,000 to 10,000 square feet of grass. Not too shabby at all, eh? Boasting a 20-inch cutting width and an adjustable cutting height of 1 to 4 inches, the Toro E-Cycler also features a 20-inch steel mulching deck and a rear grass catcher in the event that you want to add the clippings to your compost pile.
Husqvarna Automower Solar Hybrid @ a registered dealer near you ($2,995.95)
It makes perfect since that the Husqvarna Automower, the world’s first fully automatic solar hybrid lawn mower, features an anti-theft alarm and PIN code lock. Did you see the price tag? Ideal for those who want to sit back and relax instead of spending the weekend pushing a lawn mower, the emissions-free Automower can be set on a timer that helps establish a regular cutting schedule. An integrated solar panel on the top of the unit helps to extend battery life before this game-changing device needs to be recharged. And when it does need to be recharged, the Automower can find its own way back to the charging station with no human assistance required. And get this: The device texts you in the event that it runs into an obstacle or an “unscheduled event.” Now if only the Automower could pick up the dry cleaning, too.
Earthwise 16-inch Corded Electric Chainsaw @ People Powered Machines ($95.99)
Sure, this mighty (yet lightweight at 13 pounds) electric chain saw is corded — Leatherface would probably pass on this model — but that’s a small price to pay considering that you won’t have to deal with the frequent maintenance, gassy mishaps and bothersome pull-cord starting associated with conventional chain saws. Plus, it’s oh-so-quiet (very un-chainsaw-like, we know). Features of this 12-amp motored machine include a safety tip blade and protective blade cover, tool-less chain tension and automatic bar and chain oiling. And don’t forget your protective eyewear!
Greenworks 22-inch 18-Volt Electric Cordless Hedge Trimmer @ Home Depot ($79.97)
Pride yourself on having the most immaculately manicured hedges in town? Good for you! Score bonus points in the landscape department by grooming using a power tool that doesn’t emit noxious fumes or leak gas all over the place. Powered by an 18V Ni-Cad battery, this lightweight electric hedge trimmer features a 22-inch dual-action, rust-resistant blade that can cut branches up to 1/2 inch thick. Batteries and charger are included.