Pushing your way to greener grass : environmentally-friendly reel mowers

I’m not an big fan of large, lush (water-guzzling) lawns, especially in areas that often experience drought, like here in Colorado. However, if you have a lawn or patch of grass (or even weeds), chances are you need a way to mow it occasionally lest your yard become the eye-sore of the neighborhood. We don’t have a very big yard here and just got done converting about two-thirds of the backyard into a playground mulchy play area for the kids (as well as some raised garden beds for me), so the amount of grass we have back there is minimal. We still have a lawn in our front yard, but again, it’s not very big and of course we need a way to mow both of them.

In the past we’ve (and when I say “we,” I mean Jody) cut our grass with a gas rotary lawn mower which has always been Jody’s responsibility. I’ve been opposed to cutting the grass for as long as I can remember because I have grass allergies and am not fond of the grass/dirt cloud created using a gas-powered mower. I also don’t like the gas fumes, the noise or the air pollution they create, so I’ve somehow managed to get out of mowing the lawn both as a child and as an adult – in other words pretty much all of my life. 😉

For Father’s Day this year, I decided to get Jody a manual push reel mower – the Scotts Classic Reel Mower. It seemed more practical for our yard now that we have even less grass than before and would be a good change for the environment. However, I suspected the gift might secretly be for me. I took the new mower for a spin in the backyard last week, which may have been my first time cutting the grass ever, and I liked it. I didn’t have to worry about a grass/dirt cloud, noise (my kids could happily stay outside while I did it), or fumes. My allergies weren’t affected by it at all.

What’s the difference between a reel mower and a rotary mower?
Using a reel mower is healthier for the grass. “A reel mower scissors-cuts the grass in its place as it lays. Grass blades are cut cleanly and precisely, with minimal disturbance to the plant. A rotary mower sucks all the grass up to vertical and then chops it off with the fast-moving blade, tearing and bruising the grass, and disturbing its natural growth pattern. This often causes the lawn to dry out and to brown.

The more healthy the grass, the thicker, greener and more beautiful. Reel mowers promote the health of the lawn by minimizing the impact on the grass plant and allowing it to maximize its own inherent properties. In other words, a reel mower helps the grass plant to help itself!”

How much air pollution does a power mower cause?
“Garden equipment engines emit high levels of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, producing up to 5% of the nation’s air pollution and a good deal more in many metropolitan areas like Los Angeles.

A conventional lawn mower pollutes as much in an hour as 40 late model cars (or as much as as much air pollution as driving a car for 100 miles).

A typical 3.5 horsepower gas mower, for instance, can emit the same amount of VOCs — key precursors to smog — in an hour as a new car driven 340 miles, say industry experts.

The replacement of every 500 gas mowers with non-motorized mowers would spare the air:

* 212 pounds of hydrocarbons
(smog ingredient)
* 1.7 pounds of nitrogen oxides
(smog ingredient)
* 5.6 pounds of irritating particles
* 1,724 pounds of carbon dioxide

To top it off, lawn and garden equipment users inadvertently add to the problem by spilling 17 million gallons of fuel each year while refilling their outdoor power equipment. That’s more petroleum than spilled by the Exxon Valdez in the Gulf of Alaska.”

Wondering which manual reel mower is right for you?
Check out this handy chart comparing push reel mowers.

Looking for an alternative to a lawn?
Read more about xeriscaping, which is landscaping or gardening that minimizes outdoor water use while maintaining soil integrity and building aesthetics. Xeriscaping typically includes emphasis on native plantings, mulching, and no or limited drip/subsurface irrigation.

This Sunday I mowed the front yard and I enjoyed it too. See that lovely unwashed hair smile on my face? ;P The more I get into gardening and doing things outside, the more I realize that I really enjoy pretty much all aspects of yard work. I know the reel mower was meant to be a present for Jody, but now that I’m the one mowing the grass and he no longer has to worry about it, it really is a gift to him (and a gift to the Earth too). Now if only I could get my neighbors to quit smoking while I’m out there cutting the grass, I’d be a happy camper.

25 thoughts on “Pushing your way to greener grass : environmentally-friendly reel mowers”

  1. Hooray!!!!

    One of the most agitating sounds on earth is the sound of gas-powered lawn equipment. I especially hate leaf blowers.

    Gas-powered lawn equipment don’t have emissions control that cars do. There is no catalytic converter or muffler. You have air and noise pollution.

  2. Our neighbors think we are crazy 🙂 We have a push mower and we love it. We do not have a vast lawn either but enough that the hill that our house is on is a work out!

    I get the stares, being 9 months pregnant push mowing the lawn, but I love it.

  3. As I type, my dear hubby is out in the back mowing our postage stamp with a reel mower.
    I have to be honest and say that I talked him into it and he was not thrilled, but lately he seems to actually like mowing!
    He says the work out is enough to feel but not enough to hurt and that he doesn’t miss the noise and mess of our old rotary mower.
    YAY for quiet cutting and a “greener” lawn!

  4. Go you! I love that it is a gift to Jody to mow the lawn for him — I do that as a special treat for my hubby too!

    We’ve loved our rotary mower the last few years. I am a little apprehensive about our new house/yard as the grass area is much bigger, but that is all the more motivation to put in some gardens and take out some of the grass!

  5. Love it, Amy! We have had a push reel mower for a couple of years now and it is just wonderful.

    Although I am trying, I must admit I have not yet been bitten by the outdoor (gardening, mowing, etc) bug. :o)

    Keep on crunchin’!

  6. Cool! 🙂

    We love our push mower. It is just more fun to use. A definite challenge on our hillside clover and grass. I usually mow the lawn myself since I love doing it.

  7. We have a reel mower and I love it. I have a three year old and I can mow the lawn with her right there and I don’t have to worry about picking anything up with the lawnmower and having it fly out and hurt her. And I don’t have to start the lawnmower again every time I have to stop and chase an ant out of the sandbox, tie her shoe or whatever else.

  8. We have a reel mower and I LOVE it. I was the same as you: hadn’t ever mowed until we bought it. Now, I’m happy to mow and Alan does the weed-eating. 🙂

  9. My husband and I asked for and received a reel mower for our wedding, and it’s amazing! I swear it’s actually easier to push than the electric. Our back yard is actually quite large and we weren’t sure that we’d really be able to handle it with the reel, but my hubby can cut it in under 15 minutes. And it reaches the spots where the electric couldn’t because our extension cord wasn’t long enough!

    Can’t say enough great things about reel mowers, I wish everyone realized how easy they really are.

  10. I’m glad I’m not the only one that uses one of these! My dad just laughed and laughed when I showed it to him. But then he tried it, and now he’s hooked too! I can use it to work on different areas of the yard each day while my kids play outside. Then their dad isn’t tied up all Saturday morning and can play with them instead.

  11. We looked in to a reel mower but our yard didn’t fit in with the types they say are good for them so we got an electric which is a good choice if reel mowers don’t work for your yard.

    My husband doesn’t feel as bad after using it without the fumes, great to not have to buy gas, it’s super quite, etc… We love it. I know it’s not as green as a reel mower but it’s a hell of a lot better than gas haha.

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