Keep your lawn clean AND green with these 3 more sustainable mowing options…
We all love our beautiful lawns, but unfortunately, most lawns aren’t really as “green” as they appear. Most American lawns are quite resource-intensive, requiring mowing, fertilizing, and lots and lots of water. If you strive to maintain a “weed-free” lawn, lawns also become essentially “monocultures” of grass, reducing habitat for wildlife and food sources for important pollinators.
Gas-powered mowers, small as they may be, are estimated to contribute up to 5% of air pollution in the U.S. (not including leaf blowers and related tools, which may spew even more exhaust into the environment). In fact, according to this article, using a gas-powered lawnmower for just one hour generates as much air pollution as driving 350 miles!
Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to make your lawn more sustainable, including avoiding chemical-based herbicides and fertilizers, encouraging diversity in your lawn – including clovers and yes, even some of those dreaded dandelions – and using swales to naturally direct rainwater to your lawn.
Another great way to cut down on your lawn’s impact on the environment is to choose a greener mowing method. There are several options here, depending on your landscape terrain, the size of your lawn, and your available time and energy. Some of these methods have a number of other benefits as well besides reducing carbon emissions. Here are 2 of the most sustainable mowing options, according to Earth911:
1.) A Push-Reel Lawn Mower
These mowers are human-powered and turn a spiral of several blades that rotate when pushed, cutting the grass.
Pros: These mowers don’t use fuel and generate no exhaust. They are quiet to operate, so you won’t annoy the neighbors if you are an early bird in the yard.
Push lawn mowers are lightweight compared to gas-powered units, making them easier to lift and maneuver. They are simple, cheaper, and don’t need to be powered up. When properly maintained, they can last a long time.
Better yet, a push mower is also a good form of exercise.
Cons: Push mowers don’t always cut every blade of grass, and most aren’t suitable for very tall grass. Many push-reel manufacturers recommend taking two passes at the lawn, which is more time consuming, especially for larger lawns. (Although, you could always modify yours into a riding version, as pictured here!) 🙂
The blade needs to be sharpened, requiring occasional maintenance. As the name implies, some physical exertion is required, making them a poor match for people with physical limitations or large lawns.
2. A Scythe
A scythe is a curved blade attached to a long handle that is commonly used to cut grass, wheat, and other crops. Scythes were used extensively in Europe and North America until the beginning of the 20th century. They can be used successfully on sloped landscapes and have been experiencing a revival recently in certain places. The ideal time to mow is early in the morning when the lawn is covered with dew. The blade needs to be sharpened regularly and then honed with a wet stone.
Pros: Scythes are suitable for hilly and rocky terrain, and they can cut very tall grass that isn’t suitable for gas or push mowers.
Some people find it quite gratifying to use a scythe — even meditative. The scythe is human-powered, so it requires no fuel is required and it generates no emissions.
Like the push mower, the user gets a workout, which is a pro or con depending on your perspective.
Cons: Mowing with a scythe requires physical exertion and there is a learning curve involved in getting started. Proper technique is essential, yet this is not a widespread skill. The blade needs to be kept sharp to cut properly.
These are the two cleanest and most eco-friendly ways to mow your lawn, but if you either can’t or don’t want to put in the physical effort required to use either of these two methods, you may want to look into getting an electric lawnmower. These are both quieter and lighter than gas models, and they do not produce direct emissions, so they do constitute a more sustainable mowing method. However, they still require some form of electricity – whether you choose a corded model, or a rechargeable battery-powered one.