It's true that April showers bring mayflowers. But first, there's the lawn.
Spring has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere — and with it, the warm weather ritual of trotting out the mower and getting that yard under control. We all want to present a decent-looking lawn to guests and neighbors. Unfortunately, that raises some questions for wannabe green gardeners.
In environmental terms, lawnmowers are absolutely filthy. According to the California Environmental Protection Agency, running an average mower for one hour produces about as much air pollution as 40 late model cars. In the same hour, that mower would emit as much pollution as an automobile driven 650 miles.
Skyrocketing fuel prices alone are enough reason to reconsider gasoline-powered lawn tools. We've rounded up examples of the world's three most eco-friendly (and gasoline-free) lawnmowers. If you're thinking about replacing your smoke-belching lawn beast, here are a few ideas to help make your lawn deep-down green.
Remington Cordless PowerMower
The Remington Cordless PowerMower is a good example of a plug-in replacement for today's gasoline-powered rotary models. Once a fairly exotic item, electric mowers are now stocked by most full-service lawncare and home improvement stores. Their performance and feature sets are similar to conventional models.
We've chosen this particular mower for its beefy 60-volt battery, which Remington claims will provide a full hour's operation under average use. The PowerMower features a modest 17-inch cutting deck — presumably to keep the mower's workload down to a reasonable level. The unit should be suitable for most surburban yards. If yours is unusually large, extra batteries are available. Charge time is about 10 hours, so having an extra cell on standby is probably a good idea.
Remington has designed the PowerMower to be lightweight and quiet. It retails for $449.99. This class of mower is the closest electrical equivalent to the familiar gas-powered machine. The big difference, of course, is that it's emission-free — and will only use about $5 worth of electricity a year. It won't be long before that's the price of a single gallon of gasoline.
Brill Razorcut 38 Push Reel Mower
Yes: push. With your muscles.
Until the late 1960s or so, power mowers were considered a luxury. Kids spent their summers hustling pocket money by doing the real work of cutting lawns, and push mowers were the only game in town. The mowers were inexpensive, durable — and heavy. They were also pollution-free.
The Brill Razorcut 38 Push Reel Mower is a big improvement over the monster in Ozzie and Harriet's garage. It's lighter — about 17 pounds — and features tempered and welded steel baldes which should stay sharp for five to eight years. That's about four times longer than a traditional push mower. The Razorcut uses sealed bearings, so it won't need oiling. Parts are enameled or powder coated. It could last as long as you do.
Don't be mistaken: a push mower is work. They're a struggle in tall grass, so you'll mow more frequently. And while the Razorcut's 38-inch cutting deck sounds plush, the preferred push mowing method is to overlap your previous pass by half. Your lawn will appreciate the effort, though: most yard experts think reel mowers, with their scissor-like cut, are gentler on the grass.
They're certainly gentler on the environment. The Brill Razorcut burns nothing but belly fat. Suggested retail is $249, shipping included. A grass catcher is an extra $35.
Green tech needn't mean high tech. The scythe has been around in various forms since humans became interested in agriculture.
It wasn't until well after the Industrial Revolution that the scythe began taking a back seat to machinery. There's no topping the scythe's efficiency: The average worker could clear an acre of wheat a day. All without fossil fuel or draft animals.
The two blades pictured here appear at Scytheconnection.com. They're a Canadian website that serves as a clearinghouse for all things scythe, from supplies to instructional DVDs. These people are serious about the beauty of steel in the hands of someone who knows how to use it.
Scythe blades come in different weights and sizes, depending on the job. The pair pictured here would make short work of yards too dense for even the most muscular gas-fired mower. Blades range from $60 to $80, with snaths (the handle) priced at about $80. You'll need a wetstone and some odds and ends, too.
Wielding a scythe is more a matter of technique than strength. Not convinced? Watch the barefoot 14-year-old girl in this video show how our ancestors got things done.
This article originally appeared on Lighter Footstep in May 2008.