My Lawn is Greener Than Yours

16Aug08

Lawn Mower
I recently reduced my carbon footprint.

Did I buy a Prius? No. I could never afford the sticker price.

Did I inflate my tires to the proper pressure? The answer is a flat no.

Did I install a clothesline in my back yard? Sure – strung between my two windmills.

Did I buy a bunch of those squiggly light bulbs? No way. Did you know that those things contain mercury and if you break one they have to send a hazmat team to tear down your house? It’s true. I read it on Wikipedia.

So how did I save the polar bears?

I bought a lawn mower. Not a riding mower, although I’m told those things get great highway gas mileage. And I didn’t buy a gas or electric model either.

No, I went out and bought an old fashioned, hand-powered push lawn mower, also known as a “reel” or “cylinder” mower. How green is that?

The reel mower was the original form of mechanical mower for lawns, and the mechanism has changed little over the years. A horizontal cutting blade is carried close to the grass, at the desired height of cut. Over this is a fast spinning reel of blades. Each blade in the reel forms a helix around the reel axis, and the set of spinning blades describes a cylinder. The spinning blades force the grass past the cutting bar.

So, what prompted my decision to save the planet?

Well, earlier this summer, my previous lawn mower, an electric model, died. So I left it out on the sidewalk in front of my house and the next time I looked, it was gone. I can only assume it went to lawn mower heaven.

Inconvenient truth be told, my lawn mower purchase decision had little to do with preserving the polar ice cap. I was simply tired of dragging a 50-foot power cord around while I cut the grass. And I have an irrational phobia about storing gasoline on my property for a gas-powered mower.

Don’t tell Al Gore, but the real factor pushing my decision to buy a hand mower was the fact that my lawn is approximately the size of two and-a-half postage stamps. (For those under 30, postage stamps were roughly 1”x1” pieces of paper with glue on the back issued by the US Postal Service and affixed to paper correspondence.) In other words, the size of my lawn doesn’t require a tremendous amount of horse power to control its growth.

Another important consideration in my decision was price. My new hand-powered mower was roughly one-third the price of a good electric or gas powered machine. In these economic times, conserving the green in my wallet is my first priority.

In that latter respect, I’m not alone. According to something I read on the Internet (so it must be true), the chilly economy has cooled the environmental movement to some degree, as more people see the cost of being green as a luxury they can’t afford.

Some surveys have shown that in the current economy people are shopping less at upscale organic food retailers like Whole Foods and Wild Oats in an effort to save on groceries. Why pay a premium for that free-range chicken at Whole Foods when Market Basket has Perdue on sale? Why invest long term in those fancy compact fluorescent light bulbs, when purchasing old-fashioned incandescents produces needed savings right now?

On the flip side, we also see reports of increased seed sales as people grow more of their own fruits and veggies. The term “staycation” has gained popularity as families can less afford to travel and opt to stay home instead. They are driving less, heating and air-conditioning their homes sparingly, and drinking less bottled water.

So while the economy may be rendering the more trendy aspects of being green less appealing, in the long run the downturn may do more than anything to save the planet.

In the meantime, who do I see to collect my carbon credit?

[Mark Sardella is a columnist for the Wakefield Daily Item – Wakefield, MA. This column originally appeared in the August 14, 2008 Daily Item.]

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2 Responses to “My Lawn is Greener Than Yours”

  1. So it IS greener on your side of the fence. Good for you. I would urge you to rethink those squiggly bulbs. Our house came with fluroscent bulbs in the kitchen in a recessed ceiling. We have never broken one of those, probably because we have little occasion to handle one. They last forever, it seems.

    After we installed double paned windows, new roof with hip roof vents, and new heat pump AC/heater, we thought there was nothing else to do–within our budget. But we began to replace bulbs with the squigglies. Believe it or not our electric usage continued to drop. It could only be attributed to the bulbs. They burn so much cooler that the AC works less hard and they last and last. Like you, we originally performed this “green” act for practical reasons. Our incandescent bulbs lasted only a few weeks. We were so tired of replacing one after the other. Now? We just sit back and enjoy. We have even found a 300 W squiggly to read by. So be practial as you were with your lawn mower. If it helps green the earth, so what?


  1. 1 Dealer for Greenworks 25092 18-Inch 24-Volt Cordless Electric Self Propelled Lawn Mower Bag/Mulch Clearance | Shopping Discount Lawn Mowers

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