This week’s blog is a little different from most of mine. Usually I am discussing diminishing resources, or some novel way that is actually feasible for helping us remain sustainable. This week’s solution is a bit off the wall, and to be perfectly honest, I am not sure implementing this would actually accomplish much. I did do my research though and found a few surprising facts.
Have you ever wondered what the carbon footprint of your yard was? I am not talking about the grass itself, which is theoretically a carbon sink as grass is a plant, but I am talking about the up keep and the grooming so many of put towards our lawns. Cutting it, using fertilizer, some even water it. All of this is pretty unsustainable. I understand not everyone uses fertilizer and not everyone one waters their lawns, but pretty much every family mows their lawn throughout the warm summer months.
I never realized this, but mowing your grass is extremely bad for the environment if you use a self-propelled push mower. If using the average engine powered mower, cutting the grass for one hour is equivalent to driving a car for 200 miles! I have quite a large yard (I’m from a more rural area that isn’t quite farm country) so we have riding mower, I can’t imagine the type of pollutants it puts out.
So one question we must ask is what can we do? There are a few alternatives that exist, and a few that aren’t quite too bad. If you have a small yard, a good old reel mower might do the trick. I actually have one in my shed that we use for small areas and little trim ups. Besides, it certainly gives you more exercise! There are electric lawn mowers out there, but many are corded making them impractical for larger yards. There are mowers that run on batteries, but most only last about an hour. Some, if you search hard enough, run on propane or natural gas. I was able to find one hybrid lawn mower, that works like the Chevy Volt. The Raven MPV-710 uses batteries, but has a small generator on board that kicks in when the batteries die. Unlike a standard electric lawn mower, this riding mower can last twelve hours on a five gallon fill up.
The other question we need to ask is why are lawn mowers so bad for the environment? Both a power lawn mower and a car use engines right, aren’t they the same? No, they aren’t. A lawn mower engine is a two-stroke engine, while a car is a four-stroke engine. A two-stroke engine, is an engine that completes its power cycle in two strokes. First the piston moves down, bringing in fuel, while expelling exhaust. The piston then moves up, compressing the fuel and igniting. On its way back down, the fuel is sucked in, and the exhaust is expelled, you can see the cycle. In a fours stroke engine, the piston moves up and down twice in one engine cycle. It starts off the same way, moving down and bringing fuel in. Then the piston moves up compressing the fuel, the fuel is ignited and the piston is pressed down. On the way back up, the exhaust is expelled. Now the piston is in the top position, ready to draw in fuel again. A two stroke burns both gas and oil (this is why you sometime see blueish smoke when you start a lawnmower or a chainsaw), and don’t burn it as fully, resulting in greater emissions. So why are they used? A two stroke engine provides more power, while being lighter, perfect for yard equipment.
While it is often something we don’t think about, everything we do that uses some sort of machine pollutes. Sometimes the pollution comes from where we would least expect it.