Greener Grass Mowers
Electric mowers can save money, reduce pollution
The typical lawn in a town covers one-fifth to one-third acre—hardly enough to require a gas-powered push mower, let alone a riding mower. Switching to an electric mower can save you money and cut pollution.
Most forms of electric generation pollute, so electric mowers aren’t pollution-free, unless they’re solar-powered. But they’re likely to pollute less than gas-powered mowers.
The downside is they’re practical only for small lawns and, unless they’re cordless, the user must manipulate both the mower and an electric cord. That can require near-acrobatic maneuvers.
Electric mowers are quieter than gas mowers, making them less of a hearing hazard. Electric mowers are affordable, with many corded models costing under $200. A Neuton cordless model with a 19-inch cut and enough battery capacity to mow a lawn of one-third acre costs under $500. Communities plagued by ozone pollution may offer rebates for buying electric lawn equipment.
To cut free of the grid entirely, consider solar-powered electric mowers, which offer both pristine environmental credentials and surprising affordability. A Solaris solar-powered mower with a 21-inch cut, for example, costs about $450. Photovoltaic panels for charging them can be attached to the mower or mounted on a garage roof.
Electric mowers use about $5 worth of electricity a year. They need no oil changes, spark plugs, air filtration, or tune-ups. The battery in a cordless mower needs replacing every five to seven years.
The reel deal
An old-fashioned reel mower will save more money and cut more pollution than any other option, and it will give you a good workout to boot.
You can buy a good reel mower for under $200, but using it takes a lot of muscle power, especially in grass that hasn’t been mowed for a while. A reel mower may also make an uneven cut that won’t please smooth-lawn purists.
Consider cutting down on your need to mow by replanting some areas with low-maintenance grasses or trees and shrubs.
Gas mowers are big polluters, but new EPA rules may help
Each year, Americans buy more than 5 million gas-powered mowers, burn 800 million gallons of gas mowing their lawns, and spill another 17 million gallons refueling lawn and garden equipment.
The small engines in these devices emit lots of carbon monoxide and fumes that result in lung-damaging ozone. One hour of mowing produces as much pollution as a new car driven 340 miles.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates small engines in boats and nonroad equipment such as mowers account for about one-fourth of all pollutants emitted by mobile sources. To reduce this threat, the EPA has tightened emissions standards for small gasoline engines.
These standards alone are expected to dramatically reduce air pollution.