Tip #2: Use hand tools instead of power equipment.
- As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the carbon footprint of gas-powered lawn mowers is surprisingly large. In fact, according to an article in the March 2009 National Geographic magazine, "The average gasoline-powered push mower ... puts out as much pollution per hour as eleven cars—a riding mower as much as 34 cars."
- Using electric tools instead? Well, don't forget that the electricity still has to come from somewhere, and that "somewhere" is often dirty coal power plants. Those electric tools aren't always all that convenient either - last week, I watched the guy across the lake mowing his lawn with an electric push mower attached to a lo-o-o-ng extension cord. I can just imagine the conversation with his wife that led to that moment. "I don't care if the lawn mower isn't charged up, Bob. You said you'd mow the lawn this afternoon, and I want it mowed!"
The mower itself is really pretty easy to push. As easy as a self-propelled gas or electric mower? Well, of course not. But it rolls along pretty smoothly. After a few test runs, we determined that the mower does a great job cutting regular old grass. It does not do so well with the tougher weeds that seem to spring up to six inches tall overnight.
In the end, after doing some research, we also decided to invest in the Black & Decker Automatic Feed String Trimmer and Edger, even though it required electricity. If you have to choose power tools, electric tools in general will provide a lower carbon footprint (although I can never really get those dirty coal plants out of my mind...). Still, in fairness, we did try a hand-edger tool first, and it just didn't seem to get the job done.
Level of Difficulty: Well, there's no doubt you get a little more exercise when using a classic push reel lawn mower. But, if you drastically reduce the size of your lawn, it's definitely do-able. In fact, it takes only about 15 minutes to mow, trim, and edge the little bit of grass we have left. Would it be faster with a power mower? I doubt it, though it might take a little less man power. But, we definitely saved money with this option. The reel mower cost only about $100, and we don't have to buy gas for it - the only maintenance is having the blades sharpened every few years.
So, on that difficulty scale of 1 - 5 (5 being the hardest), I'm going to rank this one about a 2, assuming you've reduced the size of your lawn. Although it's a little more difficult to push the mower, it's really not that hard at all, and you save the hassle of getting gas to fill the thing. Plus, it's nearly silent to operate, so you can mow the lawn at any time without worrying about disturbing the neighbors.
I should mention, though, that you may take a little ribbing from your neighbors. "Hey, Cleaver!" one neighbor down the street calls out every single time we mow the lawn. But we're willing to take a little guff to make My Florida Backyard just a little bit greener.
P.S. I didn't mention other power tools for maintaining your yard, such as leaf blowers. Suffice it to say that doing the work by hand will always be a little more difficult, but it can (and really should) be done that way. When I was a kid growing up in Ohio, we raked the leaves from an acre of trees by hand every fall, and we did it as a family activity. Did I love doing it? Probably not. But rakes are cheap, and we didn't have much money. Now, here in Florida, a leaf blower is pretty much inexcusable, given the lack of "fall foliage". Come on, people. Get out the rake, if you must. Or better yet, plant gardens under your trees and let the leaves fall where they may, providing free and excellent self-mulching.