Saving the earth, one lawn mower at a time

It turns out electric lawn mowers are better for the environment and would take some hassle from my schedule.

I have a small yard, with a lot of shade – depending on the weather, I only really need to mow every two to three weeks. When I bought the house, it seemed silly to buy a new lawn mower for such a small yard, so I accepted a hand-me-down instead. The hand-me-down has always been hard to start, and now no amount of cord pulling seems to help.

What could be wrong? Simple. It could be bad gas, old gas, water in the gas tank, sediment in the fuel filter or the bottom of the tank, a gummed up carburetor, not enough air, too much air, a dirty (or just dead) spark plug, a problem in the ignition system, or it could need an oil change. Of course I should have done more regular oil changes, changed the filters, and drained the gas before last winter.

Add to all that the time I spend pushing this loud, heavy thing around and this does not sound like an appropriate amount of effort for my tiny, wimpy lawn. Buying a new gas-powered mower will only alleviate the immediate problem, not the gas, oil, filter, etc., hassles.

And guess what? Gas-powered lawn mowers are horrible polluters! Apparently cutting for one hour is about the same as driving for 100 miles! I have a hippy-treehugger hybrid, so I can probably drive two hundred miles on that emissions budget. There have been moves to add pollution controls to small engines, but they are often blocked by industry lobbyists, or valiant crusaders against evil regulatory expansionism, depending on your point of view. I'm always interested in living more efficiently, so I think it's worth considering.

Let's add this up:

Things I like/don't mind:

  1. Being outside, even if it's cold.
  2. Walking
  3. Pushing things

Things I don't like:

  1. Adding maintenance of some device to my already busy schedule
  2. Polluting, apparently much more than I would have guessed
  3. Pulling and pulling and pulling and goddamn you why won't you start!

As I see it, I have three options:

  1. A manual push mower, just like grandpa used to have. Apparently modern reel mowers are not like grandpa's, since they are light and easy to use in many yards.
  2. A corded electric mower, just like that one neighbor used to have in the 80s. Corded mowers are apparently about as good as gas mowers with the drawback being the cord.
  3. A battery-powered mower. Although they don't last long enough for big lawns (not a problem for me), there are even robot models available.

I haven't had a chance to really look into manual reel mowers, but I did a little searching about electric mowers and came up with some ideas.

Anyone have first-hand experience with these, or other manual and electric mowers? I might even buy one just for the emissions savings, I'm that lame. But it sounds like any of the choices above would be more convenient, too. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

  1. Option 4 – Have a really great brother around to take care of your yard for you. That seemed to work pretty well for a while; what happened?

    Ryan M
    October 15th, 2006 at 10:06 pm
  2. That’s harsh, Ryan M.

    S. H. Skuld
    October 16th, 2006 at 9:07 pm
  3. Dude, you need a goat.

    October 17th, 2006 at 8:55 pm
  4. Have you thought about getting a used RL800? They can be had for about $500. I sell and repair the Robomower and Lawnbott mowers at I don’t actually carry the RL500 to RL800 units, but they work great. If you find one you are interested in email me and I will give you a list of questions to ask.

    December 10th, 2006 at 6:18 pm
  5. I have long been a big fan of the electric mower. Manual push mowers are just too much like hard work for my taste.

    December 12th, 2006 at 10:21 am
  6. These robotts are great. I bought one this past spring from Probotics .
    I ended up with a Robomower but originally had my eye on a Lawnbott. The folks at probotics actually talked me out of the Lawnbott because it was too much for my lawn and the less expensive Robomower would do the job fine. They ware right and I saved a few bucks. Anyway, now I can say that I too am saving the world!

    December 21st, 2006 at 9:53 am
  7. Been there, done that, etc…
    I lived in a townhouse and bought a reel-type push mower (supposed to be better, easier than grandpa’s, etc) and used it for about a year – it busted my ass; didn’t mow most of the weeds in the yard; left behind all of the clippings; and took about two and a half hours of my life everytime I needed to mow the lawn. Did I mention that it busted my ass? It cost about 100 dollars at homedepot/lowes/big-box hardware.
    Next, I bought a used electric lawnmower (corded) for about 35 dollars at an independent lawnmower repair place.
    It worked great!
    It required a couple of hundred feet of extension cord and a learning curve about how to mow the lawn without interacting adversely with the cord – but otherwise worked like a champ. I mowed with that lawn mower for about 5 years.
    Then I bought a single-family house on a cul-de-sac… My little electric mower just wouldn’t do. I thought about buying a riding mower – but didn’t care for the concept; the garage space requirements; or the idea of owning yet another vehicle. So I bought a robomower instead.
    After installing the wire and getting it set up, it has worked pretty well too. In a larger yard there are vagaries that need to be accounted for: zones (discrete areas to mow) need to be built; additional batteries need to be purchased; etc. but all in all it works fine. I mulches the grass; cuts everything in its path; is a blast to watch (and a neighborhood conversation topic) and is really quiet. The downside is that it cost a lot (about as much as a low-end riding mower). On the other hand, my lawn is always mowed and I’m not doing it.
    If you know what I mean.

    May 2nd, 2007 at 4:25 pm
  8. Because you’re yard is so small I’d go with a manual push mower. You can get a good new model for around $100 or so. It’s better for the environment; easier to maintain, and you get great exercise. Stay away from electric models. The freakin’ cord always gets in the way and it’s a pain to unravel. If you do get an electric model, I’ll bet you will run over the cord with your mower – in which case you may need to invest in a case of electrical tape.

    As for gas models, the Black and Decker is your best choice. They have a great reputation for good quality products at reasonable prices.

    If you opt for a manual push mower, make sure your yard is level (free from holes, divits, ditches, etc.) by putting extra topsoil and seed every autumn. This makes it easier to push and you’ll have a beautiful lawn, no matter how big or small your yard is.

    Joseph N.
    June 28th, 2007 at 12:49 am
  9. Hey Jason,
    You might check out some of the deals at for a less than retail buy. Personally, for a small yard I would go with a manual reel mower.

    March 29th, 2008 at 12:44 am
  10. I need to get a reel mower or electric mower, so I stop polluting with my old thing.

    July 5th, 2009 at 3:19 am

Post a Comment

(or leave a trackback to your blog)