April 14, 2009–Today’s Way: According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), every weekend about 54-million Americans fire up their lawn equipment to mow their lawns, using 800 million gallons of gas per year and producing tons of air pollutants. Garden equipment engines, which until recently have had unregulated emissions (even today, only in some states), emit high levels of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, and are responsible for producing up to 5% of the nation’s air pollution, and more in high density areas.  Astoundingly, just one hour of mowing is the equivalent of driving 350 miles in terms of volatile organic compounds.  To put it in perspective, over the life of its use, one single traditional gas powered lawn mower produces as much air pollution as 43 new cars each being driven 12,000 miles.  Even more distressing are the incidental impacts that gas mowers have on our environment:  Over 17 million gallons of gas are spilled each year by ordinary folks refueling their lawn and garden equipment —more oil than was spilled by the Exxon Valdez.

What can we do?  Most people would be surprised to learn how technology has improved upon the good old fashioned reel or push mower, with blades that require no sharpening, lighter weight, compact models that are easier than ever to, well, push, with features like mulching or attached bags to catch clippings.  If you have a lawn area typical of most neighborhoods or subdivisions, there is truly little need for a gas powered mower, while a human-powered mower takes about the same amount of time and physical effort as a gas-powered push mower to do the job–without having to fuss with shoulder-dislocating pull-starts, confounded spark plugs or expensive fuel refills, not to mention noxious fumes and obnoxious noise.

There’s a wonderfully helpful chart comparing modern push reel mowers available from peoplepoweredmachines.com.