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Clean Alternatives to Everyday Machines: Introduction

It started with a long discussion betweeen my wife and me. We each thought it’d be fun to get a scooter, but worried that, for us–a 1 car, 2 bike family–we would actually be doing more environmental damage by getting a scooter. Meaning, unlike many who get a scooter to use instead of their car (wise choice), we’d end up using our scooter instead of our bikes (un-wise choice). Being our primary mode of transport, the bikes would likely fall victim to the newer, sexier, faster scooter.

This got me on the thought process that I wished more people would first give a bike a try for their short trips, instead of viewing the scooter as their only alternative to combat gas prices. Of course it’s more work–but more work can be more rewarding. Which got me to thinking that there are plenty of tools that have traded elbow grease for electricity–yet we have benefitted little. Which turned me on to this mini-series…

Just as John Henry fought the steam hammer to show that human power cannot be undone by the industrial revolution. I am hoping to open a few eyes to the alternatives that are possible when we replace one of our everyday machines with the same machine sans motor/electricity/etc.

In the interest of full disclosure John Henry did beat the steam hammer but he also dropped dead in the process.

That said, I will be realistic with my comparisons–I don’t want anybody to drop dead of exhaustion. I’m sure I’ll find, in some cases, the modern invention to be more beneficial to the manual powered version it replaced.

I am of the same mindset as Wendell Berry, when he said:

a new contraption should be adopted only if it is cheaper, smaller, and locally made; uses less energy; does not disrupt anything good that already exists (including family and community relationships); does not infringe on the rights of other species (plants and animals alike); and does not harm the interests of the next seven generations…

That is the premise of this blog–we at Cleantechnica point out such “contraptions”. However, in the case of progress–when we’ve gone too far–it is often best to kick it old-technica. Because, in many cases the cleanest solutions are the oldest.

So, beginning next Tuesday (and lasting roughly 1 month) I will give an unbiased comparison as I weigh the pros and cons of popular machines most people use, with their human powered counterparts.

Stay tuned for the first match-up:

June 24th, 2008–The Motorized Lawnmower vs. The Push Reel Mower!!!

image credits: Postal Museum and

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is an Environmental/Political cartoonist for Planetsave, Elephant Journal, Wend Magazine, Twilight Earth, Ecopolitology, EcoSnobberySucks, and more... Joe also does a kids enviro-toon called Hank D and the Bee on EcoChildsPlay and NaturalPapa. Joe lives in University City, Missouri and spends his free time with his beautiful wife, enthusiastic daughter, and curious toddler of the same name. He also enjoys writing, drawing, painting, walking, biking, skateboarding, gardening, reading, listening to music, playing sports, and watching plays (especially the plays his wife's site-specific theatre company, Onsite Theatre puts on).   Visit Joe's online cartoon gallery at


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