A standard gas powered lawn mower emits on average nearly ninety pounds of carbon dioxide and over fifty pounds of other pollutants into our air every year according to the USA EPA. Emissions aside, there's all the other environmental nastiness associated with oil exploration, extraction and refining to provide the gas to power these machines.
Short of getting rid of your lawn altogether or common greening lawn care practices, a couple of other options for lowering your lawn mowing environmental impact are electric mowers and reel mowers.
Electric mowers are a great option if your house is supplied with green power, otherwise you may just be powering the mower with another fecal fossil fuel - coal.
If you're looking for an even greener option, a manual reel mower could be ideal. Why waste money and travel related emissions going to the gym when you can work those muscles and be productive at the same time - in a sense, it's exercising for the environment!
I first used a reel mower was in the late 90's and that model was from the 70's. It was certainly quiet, but incredibly heavy and awkward to use. My concise association with the contraption gave me a new found appreciation for gardeners of past.
But it also probably explains why lawns were so much smaller back then.
Times have changed and reel mowers have certainly come a long way. They needed to do deal with the expanses of grass areas around homes these days. Here's a analogy of old vs. new models in terms of looks.
Aside from the slick, modern lines; reel mowers are often far less heavy. Some are under twenty pounds for a model similar to the basic old style; a third of the weight of the one I battled with years ago. I'm told even the heavier modern ones with the extra features are a cinch to push given their design.
Manual reel mowers don't need much in the way of maintenance and unlike reel mowers of old; the blades don't require sharpening anywhere near as often. I've spoken to a couple of people who swear by them, but they recommend that they are really only suited to a flat lawn - a bumpy, sloping back yard will provide probably a little too much of a workout and less than heavenly cutting results.
A few people have acknowledged it takes a few mowing sessions to get the grass "primed" for the mower and that if you have long grass, it's probably best to chop it down first with a gas powered mower before making the switch to a reel mower for good.
Anticipate to mow a little more often - once the grass gets away from you, it will be a battle with a reel mower. As mentioned, perhaps instead of seeing it as an additional dreaded chore, if you have a regular exercise regimen replace an aspect of it with a regular reel mower workout.
Before taking the plunge and forking out the cash for a reel mower, try borrowing or hiring a mower for the day to give it a lawn test and determine if it's right for you. When choosing a reel mower, it's also important to ask for expert advice as unlike gas powered mowers, you'll need to select one suited to your lawn as different models are designed for specific situations and grass types.
I finally bought a reel mower recently. A Flymo H40 (Husqvarna). It cost around $150 + $40 for the catcher.
The mower + catcher weighs in at under 10kg - approximately 22 pounds. Unlike the original whopper I used years ago; there is a fair bit of plastic on this one; including the wheels unfortunately. The rear roller is also plastic, as are the adjustment screws. Aside from that, everything else is metal.
I wasn't entirely convinced it would do the job. The little patch of grass out the front of my place isn't really "lawn". It's kikuyu and rather patchy, so the surface is quite lopsided. Out of the box the mower didn't do too well, but after I fiddled with the cutter bar adjustment, I was pleasantly perplexed at how well it performed. Once I train the grass, it should do even better. Aside from being able to adjust the cutter bar, the H40 offers 4 height modification.
I didn't find it all that much diverse to pushing a normal mower, although I had to run over the same strip several times. In short, I'm a novice. It was so nice to be able to cut the grass without the whole town also being aware of the fact - the quiet operation is a huge plus.
Have you had experience with a modern reel mower? Can you share some advice on model selection and usage? Please add your comments below.