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Clean Alternatives to Everyday Machines: The Gas Powered Lawn Mower VS. The Push Reel Mower

Which is better for you and your lawn–the traditional gas-powered lawnmower or the human-powered push reel mower?

Pros and Cons of the traditional gas-powered lawnmower


* Consistently cuts everything growing in your lawn, be it grass, weeds, vines, etc…

* Easy to push for long periods of time (ie large lawns)


* Air pollution. According to the EPA the average gas-powered lawn mower emits as much pollution per hour as 11 automobiles do during that same time span. Why? The lawn mower engine is a two-cycle engine which pumps out over 90 times more pollution per gallon of gas than any car or truck.

* Noise pollution.

* Recurring gas costs. In case you were unaware–we’re over $4/gallon!

* Maintenance costs.

Pros and Cons of the human-powered push reel mower


* Only pollution during mowing is the CO2 that you exhale.

* Quiet.

* The new models have sharp blades and will outperform and outlast the reel mowers your parents pushed around as kids.

* Inexpensive.

* Better exercise considering you aren’t inhaling engine exhaust while mowing.


* Does not cut all tall grasses and weeds. After using one for 3 years now. I’d say (as I’ve said to my neighbors) it cuts at about a 93% success rate.

* Not reasonable for large lawns.

The (Unexpected) Outcome

And the winner is…

…The electric lawn mower!!!

If we consider all the variables; pollution, cutting ability, size of lawn, level of ease to own and operate, this non-contestant has to be the winner (sorry John Henry). As much as I love my push reel mower (which is still the most environmentally friendly mower available), I understand that if I had a larger lawn it may not be the best choice–although, it would still be my choice, but I’m a fanatic. The electric lawnmower is quiet, easy to start, easy to maintain, and costs approximately $5/year for electricity. And I haven’t used one, but I’ve read that the mowing skills rival that of the gas-powered mower.

For what it’s worth, the loser is…

…the riding lawn mower.

The bigger brother of the gas-powered mower sells well in a society full of folks who drive a few blocks to and from various stores each day instead of actually walking or biking.


It has a cup holder…

…but I’m thinking of adding one to my push reel mower anyway.

Stay tuned next week for the battle of The Washing Machine vs. a trio of human-powered rivals. You may be surprised when No Impact Man shares his thoughts on this one…

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Written By

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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