For some, cutting grass is a pain; for others, it’s therapeutic. Personally, I used to love it (it guaranteed me a weekly allowance) aside from the fumes, gas-stink, noise, and strained arm from trying to start the darn things. Whatever your personal feelings towards the art of lawn mowing, one thing’s for certain: Using a fuel-leaking, smog-blowing, gas-powered mow machine is one of the more flagrant eco-sins you can commit in the world of landscaping.
According to the big brains over at the Union of Concerned Scientists, operating a gas-powered mower for one hour spews the same amount of air pollutants — carbon monoxide and smog-forming hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides — into the atmosphere as eight new cars traveling at 55 miles per hour.
The EPA’s dirt on lawnmowers is no cleaner. The organization (this past September, they tightened emission standards for lawnmowers) estimates that the 54 million lawn-manicuring Americans pushing gas-powered mowers on a weekly basis are responsible for around 5 percent of the nation’s air pollution. Air pollution aside, the EPA also claims that all that sloppy funneling of gas into lawnmowers results in 17 million gallons of spilt gasoline each year.
The obvious alternative to loud n’ leaky gas mowers are cordless or non-cordless electric models. They generally cost more up front but in terms of environmental savings they save a bundle (one eco-caveat is that they do require a bit of fossil fuel-draining juice to power-up). And then there are people-powered push, or reel, mowers. They give the closest grass-shave out there, provide a genuine workout, and will reduce your carbon footprint by 80 pounds a year. But those with weeds, take heed: Push mowers are best used on small, weed-less lawns.
RM200 RoboMower Lawnmower @ Sears ($1,399.99)
If Rosie from the Jetsons could cut grass… This battery operated, remote controlled mower is pricey (it comes with a theft deterring alarm system) but will mow up to 2,700 square feet of yard by itself. You just have to push start, sit back and relax. For those who don’t like mowing, the Robomower is priceless. It comes with a rain sensor, a one blade mulching system, and of course, zero emissions.
Neuton 14” Cordless Mower @ Amazon.com ($359)
Okay, unlike the Robomower, you have to manually operate the cordless/electric Neuton. But that’s the beauty of moving the lawn – it’s exercise. The battery-powered, zero-emission Neuton doesn’t require a big yank to start, just the push of a button. No fumes, little noise, no gassy mess. A single charge will power the Neuton for an hour.
Black & Decker 18” Lawnhog Electric Mulching Mower @ Target ($199)
Mow and manicure fume-free with this simple, affordable, non-cordless electric lawnmower from Black & Decker.
Earthwise 20” Cordless Electric Lawnmower @ Clean Air Gardening ($399)
This cordless/electric mower from Earthwise comes with all the bells and whistles: A mulching chamber, a side vent, a discharge chute, a comfortable handle, adjustable cutting-length settings, and a removable battery that can be charged in or out of the mower; the battery is good for around 45 minutes of mowing per charge.
Brill Razorcut 38 Push Reel Mower @ Clean Air Gardening ($249)
This new lightweight model — “The Mercedes of reel lawnmowers” — from Brill is all about precision (want your lawn to look like a golf course?) and not having to mess around with gas engines or batteries. The five-blade cutting system is effective, quiet, and requires little maintenance. Like other reel mowers, the Brill Razorcut doesn’t handle weeds well and should be used regularly unless you have biceps of steel.
Sunlawn LMM40 Manual Push Reel EcoMower @ EcoMowers ($139)
This lean, clean grass-cutting machine is easy to maneuver and feature Sunlawn's patented five blade, flame-hardened, non-contact, cutting system. An optional grass catcher is available. It's the reel deal.