Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Stop Ruining My Nap!.... I Mean the World

It seems to me that we have a very large problem with lawn care. Absurd amounts of water keeping golf courses green in Arizona (Sierra), or use of fertilizers in cities where the run off pollutes the water (Biello). But what about the everyday maintenance machine, that we have mechanized, which contribute to the consumption of petroleum products, and produce CO2? Maybe I am a little extra sensitive to the use of gasoline powered tools to do yard work right now because I have just been woken up from one of my few opportunities at a nap by a man walking around with a reverse vacuum cleaner strapped to his back doing the same work a broom does, and from what I can tell with about the same efficiency. The push lawn mower is not fairing much better since it only travels as fast and the man is walking, which seems like would not be affected if the man was pushing a mechanical mower. The only difference it seems is that the latter two would not be producing any CO2, or noise! According to “Gas Mowers Belch Pollution” the EPA reported that mowers are responsible for 5% of the nation’s air pollution, and Americans burned 800 million gallons of gasoline each year keeping their yards trimmed.

Mechanical mowers (known as reel mowers) are simple (by comparison), lightweight, and comparable in price (“Push”) and have a 0 carbon footprint (“Push”), although I am sure they are not counting the energy required to build the mower. However, with the much simpler construction, I would guess that even this is lower than conventional mowers. Some even have rechargeable to batteries to aid when the grass is a little too long (People).

It is also reported in both “Gas Mowers Belch Pollution”, and “Cleaner Air: Gas Mower Pollution Facts” that gas powered mowers have a second serious problem. Apparently mowers are a little clumsy with their fuel, where the two articles cite the EPA as stating “17 million gallons of fuel… are spilled each year refueling lawn equipment” (People). 17 million gallons is “more fuel than all the oil leaked by the Exxon Valdez off the coast of Alaska in 1989” (Snider).

There are not any reported city crews that are using electric lawn equipment yet, mainly because the electric equipment is not yet powerful enough to handle that much work, however there are companies emerging that use electric equipment (Snider). Clean Air Lawn Care, in Boulder Colorado, is such a company, charging their equipment overnight or on the solar panels that company truck’s support (Snider).

This seems like it could be a relatively easy transition which would make a significant difference, in cities especially. The technology is already available, in the form of reel mowers, and only requires the public to stop being lazy. Not to mention, if there were more companies like Clean Air Lawn Care, then I might have been able to squeak my nap in between classes and work. I know it would make me happier, and better rested.


Biello, David. “Fertilizer Runoff Overwhelms Stream and Rivers – Creating Vast ‘Dead Zones’”. Scientific America. Accessed 6 May 2009. streams

People Powered Machines. “Cleaner Air: Gas Mower Pollution Facts”. Accessed 6 May 2009.

“Push Reel Mowers”. Clean Air Gardening. Accessed 6 May 2009.

Sierra, Christian. “Par for the Course”. Tuscon Weekly. Accessed 6 May 2009

Snider, Laura. “Gas Lawn Mowers Belch Pollution”. Scripps Interactive Newspaper Group. Accessed 6 May 2009.

1 comment:

Stuart said...

This is a very hypocritical blog entry. How many more naps are you going to need when you mow your 1 acre lawn with a non-fuel powered mower? You want to bad mouth America for being lazy gas guzzling mowers and here you are disturbed from your nap by someone actually working hard in the heat. Knowing America there is no way you are going to convience this nation to completely switch to mechanical mowers to lower gasoline consumption and noise.

Let's handle this situation differently. If you do some investigation you will actually see that the EPA has passed new emission standards for small engines to be fully implemented by 2010. This will be an effective solution, because the EPA knows it is not logical to eliminate fuel-powered mowers. These new standards are estimated to eliminate 600,000 tons of hydrocarbons, 130,000 tons of NOx, and 1.5 million tons of CO. This is significant considering that current spark-ignition engines release as much as 25% of their gas unburned in their exhaust. Then with your questionable data stating that "17 million gallons of fuel...are spilled each year refueling lawn equipment", what are you skipping over with that ellipsis (3 periods in a row)? Whatever you may be skipping over to prove an invalid point, there is still a resonable solution. Have you ever stopped napping and fill a push mower with gasoline? It isn't the easiest thing, so maybe with customer feedback and some engineering insight these mower companies can develop a better design to lower this 17 million gallons of gasoline spilled each year. The bottom line is don't make these radical suggestions of eliminating fuel-powered mowers for your personal benefit. You lose creditability with claims like this, much like radical republicans and democrats. Let's think of solutions that everyone can accept. Let me know if you have any luck telling these lawn services they can no longer use gasoline...