Economics Environment Gadgets green lawn-mowers robomower

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.