Mowing for greener pastures

Mowing for greener pastures

With rising fuel costs and a push for "greener" lawn care, gas-powered, two-stroke mowers are receiving increased scrutiny from consumers due to their noisy, smelly, air-polluting ways.

Perhaps the biggest reason people are shopping for alternative mowers is the fact that a single gas-powered mower spews more pollution into the environment than several dozen vehicles, says Reid Berger of Phoenix Organics.

"Two-cycle oil is an enormously toxic product with lots of off-gassing," says Berger. "It's not a really good product at all. We're seeing more and more interest in some of the greener alternatives."

Eco-friendly alternatives to gas-powered lawn mowers run the gamut from electric to manual models, each with specific advantages over gas and available locally. New-age solar and robotic models are likely to become more readily available in years to come.

Increasing in popularity in the Rogue Valley, electric models come cordless, corded or as a combination of cordless/corded for convenience. Priced between $200 and $500, electric mowers still require natural resources (for electricity) but air pollution is vastly decreased.

"They're probably best used for a modest sized lawn, but there's absolutely no off-gassing," says Reid.

Electric models are ideal for lawns a quarter acre or smaller. While less powerful than gas models, improved access and use can be gained, for corded models, by having a quality high gauge extension cord on hand. For cordless models, having a spare battery on hand can ensure enough mowing time to get the job done before recharging is necessary.

Downsides to electric mowers, says Gary Zoll of Zoll's Lawn and Garden Equipment, include reduced performance, lengthy battery charge (around 16 hours) and concerns with disposal of lead-acid batteries.

"The advantage to the electric is that there's far less maintenance involved and they are more eco-friendly, but they're generally very light duty and can only handle moderate (lawn) growth," Zoll says.

"The cordless kinds typically don't have a lot of battery life per charge, so there's a limited amount of time you can mow before you have to recharge, and the cost of replacement batteries is a little out of sight. We've seen them in the hundred dollar range," he adds.

Homeowners with smaller lawns can consider electric if mowing is done regularly, Zoll says, but homeowners with larger lawns, or non-flat parcels, should stick with gas, pending technology improvements.

A no-power alternative, push mowers offer a nice option for small lawns with uniform texture and thickness. While added elbow grease is required with manual mowers, priced between $80 and $300, the experience provides a nice workout and the impact to the environment is less than gas or electric mowers. Newer models, made of lightweight plastic and alloys, are far less cumbersome than their clunky ancestors.

If manual models have a downside, it's that twigs and other debris must be raked prior to mowing to prevent them from getting stuck in the mower.

Environmental awareness is changing people's purchasing patterns. While changes to standard gas-powered engines will come slowly, consumer demand for greener alternatives is improving the technology. Non-gas mowers are not for everyone, but gas-powered mowers shouldn't be seen as a requirement for most standard size lawns.

"I think people are consciously trying to leave less of a footprint"¦ for both cost savings and to be more green. We're seeing a very large progression towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle," says Reid.

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