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Mower Culture

My new electric lawnmower taught me about government, people and their tools, practical environmentalism, and the differences between rural and suburban living.

That sounds like a lot for a machine. But there�s a lot of time to think about such things while pushing a mower on a hot summer day.

For years I wanted to take a tiny step toward making the world better by getting an electric mulching mower. I would send fewer clippings to landfills and emit fewer pollutants. As one who works for electric co-ops, I�d also be supporting my product.

But my trusted Consumer Reports magazine warned of weakness in tall grass, and short battery life.

I love my electric lawnmower. Lesson #1: bring your own critical thinking to what you read. Grass too high? Set the wheels higher. Battery power? It takes 35 minutes to mow my lawn�a charge lasts 45 minutes. Problem solved.

Lesson #2: government can do good. When my gas-sipping Toro started causing more problems than it solved, I discovered the city of Louisville would give me $50 to buy an electric version. It gave me another $50 for turning my 2-cycler in to the recycling center. When I did that, I received a coupon for yet another $50 off any electric tool from my local hardware store.

The most revealing insight came when I babbled to people living in the country about my exciting purchase. They stared at me like I was a talking fish. They had nothing to say about a lawn that can be cut in 35 minutes. Their mowing involves an hour or two on a sit-down model.

Lesson #3: differences between rural and suburban lifestyles affect how we can interact with the environment.

Lesson #4: people get personal about their tools.

A neighbor said an electric worked fine for me because my lawn was free of obstructions.

I understood. I push this new, plastic model more carefully than my old metal monster that I ran fearlessly over rocks, roots, and downed branches. But I decided that�s OK. I�m not invading Afghanistan; I�m clipping tiny, soft plants.

I won�t say that to my neighbor, though. I wouldn�t convince him any more than he�d convince me.

Because I love my electric lawnmower.

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