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  • Gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment accounts for more than four percent of our urban air pollution. It also affects climate change. If you've ever been woken up on Sunday morning by a zealous lawn-mowing neighbor, you know it causes noise pollution.
  • The average gas mower emits over 9000 times more hydrocarbons than an electric mower.
  • Emissions from gas-powered lawn and garden equipment react with water in the atmosphere to form acid rain, which pollutes rivers, streams and lakes when it falls to earth.
  • Push mowers generate virtually no environmental impacts when they're used; an electric mower, which uses about $3 in electricity each year, can save you 73% in total energy costs.
  • Electric mowers also reduce mowing noise by 50% to 75%. Push mowers are even quieter.
  • Electric and manual leaf blowers and hedge trimmers offer similar benefits over their gasoline counterparts.

(source: Green Seal; US EPA, Alliant Energy)


Dollars & Sense Options

  • If you opt for an electric lawn mower, you can choose between a corded model, or a cordless one with a battery. A battery model is better for smaller lawns than larger ones, as the life of the battery may not last as long as it takes to mow a large lawn. You'll also have to recycle the battery when it's reached the end of its life.

    •  Other cordless power tools include weedwhackers, hedge trimmers, and grass shears.

    •  Manual tools available include rakes, brooms, pruning shears, shovels and push mowers.

    •  If you choose a push mower, try the grass catcher before you buy. It should be easy to remove, empty, and replace. You may need to mow more frequently, since many push mowers can't handle grass taller than 3 inches; check the cutting height adjuster for ease of operation.

If you use gasoline powered equipment, the Edison Electric Institute recommends the following:

•  Perform routine maintenance as recommended in the owner's manual. Change the motor oil, clean or replace air filters, and get periodic tune-ups to reduce air pollution and improve energy efficiency.

•  Use the proper fuel/oil mixture (as indicated in the owner's manual) for equipment with two-stroke engines. An improper mixture will decrease efficiency and increase pollution. (Four-stroke engines do not use a fuel-oil mixture.)

•  Maintain sharp blades on cutting tools so you spend less time running the motor.

•  Clean the underside of your lawn mower's deck to reduce resistance and maximize efficiency.

•  Avoid spilling gasoline , which contributes to air pollution when the gasoline evaporates. Use a funnel to pour gas into the tank, and be sure not to overfill.

•  If you buy new gasoline-powered equipment, choose models with a four-stroke engine. Two-stroke engines use more energy and create more pollution.

For Your Shopping List

  • You can buy a wide variety of tools at any Lowe's, Home Depot or Target, as well as your nearest gardening center, so I'm not going to review all the options here. I did want to point out a couple of interesting items that may not yet have caught your eye.

  • Ergonomic Tools, so you can "Garden with Ease" - including pruners, trowels and saws.

  • Oxo Good Grips Garden Tools for extra cushioning when you're digging in hard soil.

  • Monster garden brooms, cultivator hoes, spading forks and all kinds of other wild tools you never thought of!

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In My Yard

We're pretty good about powering our lawn and garden tools with our own sweat and grunts, but we're not perfect. We had to abandon our push lawn mower a few years back in favor of an electric mower because it was just too much work to keep the push mower's blades sharp enough to do the job. Somehow, they seemed prone to rust and get dull, and we didn't have time for the upkeep. Besides, as righteous as it made us feel to push that dull little mower back and forth across the lawn all summer long, we finally had to acknowledge that mowing actually means "cutting," not rolling the grass down flat under the blades, which was the effect we were having with our dutiful but dudly mower. We trim our hedges with clippers, not an electric buzz saw. Most of the time we cut branches and small trees with an axe or hand saw. We do keep a gas-powered chain saw on hand for the few times a year when a storm blows through and knocks one of the mulberries or oaks down. But I've drawn the line at leaf blowers. Raking leaves in the fall is a family ritual. Somehow, it wouldn't be the same if the four of us were all out in the yard with noisy leaf blowers instead of dueling rakes and the conversation that inevitably arises when we're working together to make our leaf pile the biggest one in the neighborhood.

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What Else?

Healthy Lawn, Healthy Environment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers solid suggestions for maintaining your lawn and landscape with a minimum of power tools.

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Your Garden links...

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