The homeowner who wants a lawn (a conventional lawn, that is; not the lawn-like alternatives described in a recent post) has two basic choices: a motorized mower, or an unmotorized mower. How do these options stack up? Let’s look at a few categories.
Cost. Unmotorized mowers – also called push mowers or reel mowers – cost less upfront than a motorized (or “rotary”) mower. Menards, a popular Midwest hardware store, offers push mowers for as little as $71. A gas-powered mower at the same store will set you back over $100. Push mowers also have a lower cost of ownership: you never need to put gas in them and, being simpler machines, they are less expensive to maintain.
Noise. Rotary mowers are loud enough to cause hearing damage with repeated exposure. Certainly they are loud enough to disturb the neighbors. Reel mowers are virtually silent.
Safety. Tens of thousands of Americans every year seriously injure themselves while using – or just being near – motorized mowers. It’s virtually impossible to hurt yourself with a push mower.
Health benefits. Using a reel mower burns approximately 340 calories per hour – similar to alternately walking and jogging, or to riding a bicycle at a leisurely pace. Operating a power mower burns less than 300 calories per hour, while driving a ride-on mower burns barely 100 calories per hour.
Environmental friendliness. The EPA estimates that Americans collectively spill over 17 million gallons of fuel each year in the course of refilling their lawn equipment. (The Exxon Valdez spilled “only” 10.8 million gallons.) Unmotorized mowers don’t contribute to this problem. In addition, push mowers produce no emissions and are less likely to accidentally dismember small animals that may be taking refuge in the grass.
Effectiveness. As explained in a recent post, motorized mowers tear the tops off of grass blades, causing severe damage to the plants and leaving them in an unhealthy state. Push mowers, in contrast, actually cut the grass, leaving a clean edge that makes it easier for the plants to recover.
Speed. When it comes to actually mowing the grass, motorized mowers are generally faster. But think of all the ways you save time with a push mower: You never have to buy gas for it. You never have to drain its tank for the winter. You never have to fight with it to get it to start. And you can use it at any time of day, since no one will hear you.
Whether you care about wildlife, your wallet, or your waistline, there are lots of reasons to trade in a motorized mower for one that runs just on people power.