Gas Lawn Mowers

Lawn mowers have been getting attention off and on for being serious smog culprits.

What I wish some people would discuss in these is the possibility of using a manual, non-powered mower, especially for smaller yards. Alternatives to conventional grasses, like Pennsylvania sedge (or another sedge species) or buffalo grass, also need less mowing yet still provide a nice traditional yard. Depending on considerations like local codes and how picky your neighbors are, more radical solutions could also involve turning part of your yard into a naturalized woodland or meadow area. It provides more visual interest from both flowers and also various birds and butterflies that you may attract. Once established, mowing, watering and pesticides are minimized.

Comments 13

  1. Mark La Roi wrote:

    I added lots of flowers and plants to greatly reduce the area that needs to be mowed. Add plenty of plants that bloom in the spring but keep good foliage, and others that bloom along with the progressing season and after it establishes it really takes a lot of the work out of it.

    Plus you get humming birds!

    Posted 24 Apr 2006 at 4:21 pm
  2. Jerry wrote:

    Yeah, I’m putting in cardinal flowers, butterfly weed, and other hummingbird/butterfly friendly plants as well. Carnegie Mellon U.’s campus has some native plantings, and I could spend hours watching the bees and other insects feeding on the flowers. I look forward to doing so in my own home!

    Posted 24 Apr 2006 at 8:42 pm
  3. Squat wrote:

    another option is to get grazing animals to keep the grass level down. i’m not sure if it’s cheaper than cost and maintanance on a mower, but it’s worth looking into. the other plus is that if you have x-amount of land and x-amount of animals(varies by county i think) you could qualify as a farmstead and pay lower land taxes. :)

    Posted 25 Apr 2006 at 11:04 am
  4. Tom Smith wrote:

    Another option for non-polluting lawn care is the use of an electric mower.

    Posted 26 Apr 2006 at 3:14 pm
  5. Jerry wrote:

    True, though the electricity was still probably from coal. It’d still probably lead to a net gain for the atmosphere, however, and it’s easier these days to nail the big power companies rather than try to get lawncare companies to be more responsible.

    Posted 26 Apr 2006 at 5:54 pm
  6. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    I don’t get this. Our family drives about 10-12k mi/year and thus utilizes about say 500 gal of gas per year. I use about 5-6 gal/year of gas to mow my lawn. Now even if the lawnmower is much dirtier (per unit volume gasoline burned) than my car, which it probably is, how much dirtier could it possibly be to be more than utterly buried in the noise compared to what I burn in my car? I mean it seems my car is producing far, far more pollution than me mowing my lawn, even if mowing my lawn meant simply lighting 8 gal gas on fire and watching it burn and getting no useful btus out of it. (And of course the amount of gasoline I burn in my car probably pales in comparison to the amount of gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and electric power consumed in the manufacture and shipping of everything else I buy.)

    In other words, it seems that the amount of pollution (and/or fossil fuel consumption) saved by push mowing my lawn (or alternatively planting rocks) is about the amount that would be saved by living 200 meters closer to work or choosing to vacation in state versus the next state or buying the 5-speed manual versus the automatic. And it is certainly far less than would be saved by choosing to work from home or buy the compact versus the SUV. Not that it is nothing, of course… but in terms of being environmentally friendly, green lawnmowing pales in comparison to more critical lifestyle/consumption choices.

    And thank you Jerry for pointing out that only rarely is electricity emission free, and it never comes without some cost to the environment, tho’ it is usually a bit less than burning your own portable liquid power.

    Posted 26 Apr 2006 at 11:33 pm
  7. Lightwave wrote:

    There are also other aspects that make most of the alternatives to gas lawn-mowing impossible. Most of these reasons, to me, seem to be market driven.

    Frankly push lawnmowers are not cost effective. There’s a reason you don’t see landscaping companies using them. Even at minimum wage, the time saved by using some type of powered lawnmower is worth far more than the cost of the equipment and fuel, even at european fuel rates. The situation of lost productivity becomes even worse if the mowing is done by a homeowner who would otherwise make more than minimum wage. The physical ability of individuals to use and lot size is a whole separate matter.

    Electric lawnmowers certainly have their place, but only work when one is mowing their own lawn (as its very dificult for contractors to get authorization for electric outlets), and when one’s lawn is very small and flat. Any lot larger than a quarter acre typically is too large to be handled by a homeowner with an electric mower. Add to this that many individuals may not have the physical capability to use anything but a self-propelled mower, and the electric becomes even less useful. That said, they are *very* cost effective and low emission, even when including power-plant output.

    Alternative ground coverings are also challenging. Flowers are nice, but your kids can’t play ball on top of them. Some other alternatives aren’t as good at preventing errosion, and few are as nice on the feet (or as accepting of feet). Add to that the cost-effectiveness and relitive ease of planting and maintaining grass, and you have the perfect ground covering for the majority of homeowners.

    Finally, many suburbanites and city residents have to grapple with ordinacnes and covenants regarding ground covering. These can add costly fines for not using grass, or even not cutting your grass as frequently.

    The bottom line is that until there is a well understood, well marketed, and low cost alternative to grass, we’ll always have lawns to mow. Ellectric and manual lawn mowers just don’t work in most situations.

    The best avenue, in my opinion, is to promote research in to small scale, portable, clean fuel sources (perhaps using hydrogen or fuel-cells). Getting the cost of these technologies down to the level of consumer acceptance in lawn-mowers may take decades without a concerted effort, but IMHO is more likely to effect a change in emissions.

    Posted 27 Apr 2006 at 10:04 am
  8. Squat wrote:

    well, if it has to be grass, no goats, and development community friendly, just mow less. :)
    try planting zoysia grass. it needs to be mowed (they say) only as little as 3 times a year. not only that but the thick root mat it creates chokes off weeds so there is no herbicide runoff from weed and feed type fertalizers.

    try here for more info.

    Posted 27 Apr 2006 at 11:35 am
  9. Funky Dung wrote:

    Stay away from zoysia grass. My parents have it and it sucks. It’s stiff, pointy, and not much fun to walk in with bare feet. The 3x/year is boloney. It’s a pain to mow because of its thickness (especially when wet). It’s brown for half the year. IMHO, it’s not worth having.

    Posted 28 Apr 2006 at 10:50 am
  10. Squat wrote:

    we may be getting some this year, i’ll let you know how mine is when it comes in. 😉

    Posted 28 Apr 2006 at 12:23 pm
  11. Jerry wrote:

    Lightwave, I agree that market barriers may impede use of push mowers, particular for lawncare companies. For those of us with smaller lots and who do our own mowing, or have a kid who can do it, it makes sense. They’re cheaper, don’t use gas, don’t make an unholy racket, etc. It is not a universal solution, but it can help, which is why I wanted to put it on the table.

    This is also why I suggested lower maintenance solutions like sedges or meadows, which may reduce the amount of land that is mowed. I’ve seen some mighty big lots that don’t seem to get much use–giving some of it back to nature or at least to native plants would reduce maintenance and so forth, as I enumerated above.

    Another alternative to the push mower, though you’d have to be really careful to keep this one away from the kids, is a scythe. :)

    Posted 29 Apr 2006 at 10:45 am
  12. Jerry wrote:

    A scythe, again, is not for everyone, but I can see how it could be very fast, and may be good for hacking back growth that is too tall even for power lawnmowers.

    Posted 29 Apr 2006 at 10:47 am
  13. Lightwave wrote:

    I just bought a gas mower on Sunday. As it turns out, it has an emmission control system. Apparently they’re required on all mowers in the US (and some states have additional requirements). I should have thought to buy a scythe!

    Posted 01 May 2006 at 10:51 am

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