With spring about to be sprung and winter (AKA that disarmingly mild season that threw much of the country, save for the Pacific Northwest, for a loop this year) on its way out, many folks are starting to resurrect their lawn and garden cleanup tools from storage and head outdoors to assess the damage.
Generally, yard cleanup tends to be a rather joyless task, particularly when it comes to raking and leaf removal. Using gas-powered tools such as leaf blowers in lieu of manual tools can take the time consuming, lower back pain-related sting out of the process, but with a price: two-stroke engine leaf blowers generate as much air pollution — a nasty mix of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and particulate materials — as driving a car for 100 miles. Or, look at this way: in one hour, a single gas-powered leaf blower can produce as much smog as 17 cars according to the American Lung Association. And then there’s the “whoops I spilled some gas on the grass” factor and the not-so-small issue of noise pollution — leaf blowers are loud … like permanent hearing damage, front-row-at-an-Anthrax-concert-without-earplugs kind of loud. At a range of 50 feet, most gas-powered leaf blowers still measure a potentially dangerous 70 to 75 decibels.
Enter The Big Push, a simple-to-use yard cleanup tool meant to replace pain-in-the-butt, old-school rakes and pesky, highly polluting leaf blowers. Made from lightweight plastic, The Big Push glides over the ground for easy raking and then flips over so that you can push the leaves neatly into piles for cleanup. Little fuss, little muss, and no noise, spilt gas, or air pollution. Sends like a godsend, right?
Here’s the thing: The Big Push, the creation of Doug Renfro of Knoxville-based multimedia production company Radiant Media, is in the prototype stage and has yet to be produced for the mass-market. Currently, it’s one of about 4,000 entries in more than 20 categories in Walmart’s Get On The Shelf design competition where inventors and innovators of all stripes are vying to get their products developed so that they can eventually be sold on Walmart.com and even physical Walmart stores.
Renfro’s aha moment came to him when, some years ago, he found himself staring out a window in his home, wondering what could be done about the giant pile of leaves covering his driveway without resorting to back-breaking, time-consuming manual labor or gas-powered devices. Thus began what Renfro described over a phone chat as a “five-year odyssey to get from there to here” as he further developed the product and took a patent out on the design. Of course, The Big Push doesn’t just describe what the tool itself does but describes Renfro’s tireless drive to make his invention a commercially available reality.
Want to help Renfro push The Big Push even further? Head on over to the product’s landing page over at Get On The Shelf website and vote for it via text or through Facebook. The public voting period is open through April 3. From there, the 10 products with the most votes will enter a second voting round. After round two ends on April 24, a grand prize winner and two first place winners will be announced.
In addition to showing the Big Push some voting love, if you feel so inclined, take a moment to check out the other Get On The Shelf entrants. There's some pretty interesting (and some questionable) competition in both the "green products" and "outdoor home" categories ranging from Zip-Loc bag cleaners to bag-less trash cans to card tables with built-in solar panels



Also on MNN: How to have a great lawn

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Push it real good: Prototype lawn tool entered in online invention contest
Several years in the making, Doug Renfro's The Big Push — a yard cleanup tool meant as an alternative to both old-fashioned rakes and noisy, highly polluting