The Confused Environmentalist

A Tale of Two Mowers
by Jennifer Weiss -- May 15th, 2012

My neighbor has a beautiful lawn. It is the envy of many domestic mowers in the neighborhood, and I would imagine some professional mowers as well. Because I know his family eats a strictly vegetarian and organic diet, I am pretty sure he uses no pesticides on his lawn. But what is more remarkable than that, he uses a push mower.  Yes, his lawn is beautiful and he uses a push mower.  No, we are not living in the 1950’s.

I first noticed the mower when I was sitting outside enjoying a beautiful Spring day. There was a nice breeze blowing and I could hear the birds singing.  I glanced over and saw my neighbor pushing his mower and there was … no sound. That’s not entirely correct – there were plenty of sounds.  Birds chirping, children laughing, the sound of the UPS delivery truck as it made its rounds through our neighborhood.  But there was no loud roar from a 7.25 ft-lb gross torque gas engine.  I do not actually know what that means, I looked it up.

My point is this.  His mower was noiseless because it had no engine.  And no engine means no carbon emissions. It also means no noise and apparently it leads to a beautiful lawn. I became very jealous and immediately told my husband about it when he came home from work. Which is how we ended up with a noiseless, engine-less, beautiful push mower of our own.  Our old mower was on its last leg and we decided to take the sustainable path – a push mower guaranteed to give us a lawn as beautiful (or more beautiful) than it was before.

Almost before my husband could take the mower out of the box to make its maiden voyage across our lawn, my two daughters wanted to help.  Because the mower has no engine, it is also very light.  So my 7- and 8-year old girls were able to easily push the mower around the yard, watching the grass clippings fly out and laughing with glee.  Yet another benefit of a push mower – extra helpers.

It wasn’t until my husband and I looked out at the newly mowed lawn, our two tired daughters at our side, that we realized the one downfall of our new machine.  It does not cut weeds. In between the lovely groomed grass were ugly spikes of crab grass. Towering above the grass blades and taunting us.

“That can’t be right,” I said to my husband, “we must have done something wrong.”  I raced inside to look up the online owners manual and it stated without apologies, “If grass over 6″ long or tall weeds are present, they may be knocked down by the mower’s front fork assembly. If this happens, either pull these long stragglers by hand or make a second mowing pass to try and cut them.

I looked at my two tired daughters.  They certainly would be no help in pulling the long stragglers by hand.  I looked at my husband.  Without giving it a second thought, he returned to the garage, took out the old gas-powered mower, started it up and noisily re-mowed the grass.  Problem taken care of … for now.

We now own two lawn mowers.  One is a environmentalist’s dream – except it won’t cut down the weeds.  The other will cut down everything in its path, but is loud and not environmentally friendly.  The right thing to do is pull up all the weeds by hand.  But that, I’m afraid, might take us awhile.  In the meantime, I’ll let my little workers rest and try it again next weekend. Anyone interested in a crab-grass pulling party?

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