warming up to a global issue… can push reel mowers “save” the world?

pushreel mowers...

what is greener... the lawnmower or the grass?

i was mowing the grass this past saturday, which in and of itself isn’t anything special, though, i do use a push reel mower, which operates purely on physical exertion (no fossil fuels–just sweat).  to be honest, other than recycling paper/cans, plastic and glass, this is about the “greenest” thing i do.  in northern colorado, words like sustainable, organic, wind/solar powered, etc., are what all the cool kids are talking about, and i’d like to pretend that this lawnmowing thing is an extension of my personal stewardship of the earth, but its not.  it is something, though, right? and yes, i have a little pride about it.

a couple of neighbors have stopped by on walks to watch me mow or comment on the reel mower (as it must be the only one in the subdivision).  one of them said, incredulously, “wow – i’ve never seen one of those in action – they really do work?!”  i replied, “well, the cheddar cheese  in my fridge is sharper than the blades on this thing, so i have go over the yard about three times.  as long as you’re not a perfectionist, its okay.”

he chuckled and and affirmed me for keeping my yard in good shape, to which I replied, “thanks, just doing what I can to keep it… um… green.”  he laughed again as he was walking away, and without turning around he said, “that’s a good one… oh, that’s right – you guys moved here from seattle.”  i’m still not exactly sure what he meant by that (seattle = the “emerald city,” perhaps, or because of all the rain thing stay green year round, seattle is a hot bed of liberal, progressive, pinko-commie types…) so, i decided to leave it at that, and mowed over the long stretch of grass on the north side of the house for the third time.

as i was pushing my mower up & down the lawn saturday, my neighbor two houses over was out mowing as well.  With each breath of the fluorocarbons i was inhaling from his machine, the thought came to my mind of whether or not he had ever considered a push mower.

just then, i had a little daydream:  the sound of push reel mowers echoed across our subdivision–people actually able to mow their grass before 8am on a saturday without angering their neighbors who sleep in–the air much fresher for the kids, joggers and bikers, making their way around the bike paths, sidewalks and streets… it was a little “green” utopian vision.  then my mind played out the conversation he and i might have, where i tell him the virtues of the push reel system, the savings, the cleaner air, then show him how it works, etc.  in my daydream though, he waves me off, restarts his powermower, leaving me in a cloud of exhaust, glaring at me as though i were some eco-nazi knocking on his door at dinner time raising money for “people for the ethical treatment of air.”

Ford Expedition - 13 mpg

My former Colorado dream car...

as i noted earlier, i’m not a militant environmentalist in any way shape or form. in fact prior to moving out to co, i came within inches of buying a ford expedition – 4 wheel drive, big truck feeling suv, to carry lots of gear and kids around in, but at the end of the day, it was going to cost too much for gas, and therefore i did not. more of an economical than ecological decision.  i do hate breathing dirty air (smog, cigarette smoke, aerosol deoderant, hairspray, exhaust, etc.) and this was a big consideration for me in buying this mower, so as long as the environment is impacting my lungs i’m willing to do something about it.  i do care about the environment and at times will vote based on environmental issues, but the problem seems so huge, that the drop in the bucket that i can contribute seems so insigificantly minute.

have you tried to change anyone’s mind lately? tried to talk them into something that they don’t realize they need? or do you see a situation, decide someone needs what you have to tell them, and just think about telling them about it? in the case of the lawnmower situation, i do not even know this neighbor’s name. my wife knows his wife, our boys play w/their boy. we’ve exchanged a few “hi” and “how you doin’s” but we’ve never really spoken.  Neither of us have taken the time or created the space to have that conversation and we certainly haven’t gone out of our way to do so. 

is my wanting to “convert” him to a reel mower a need? is it the linchpin to reducing global warming (or cooling, or whatever)? or is it just something that i would prefer – part of my personal agenda to breathe easier?  if i were to tell him he “needed” the reel mower to help save the environment, not knowing what other things he was doing in his life to be “green” i would have no credibility – no leg to stand on, and i’d probably never have a chance to talk to him about anything else beyond that.  he’d think i’m this green eco-nazi, then he’d see me spraying chemicals on the weeds in my grass and think, “what a hypocrite…”  which is something i wouldn’t be able to deny.  so, i guess i’ll just have to keep mowing, and who knows, maybe one day he’ll be out mowing his yard, in a heap on the ground asphyxiating, i’ll run in, administer cpr, and he’ll ask me what i do to keep from asphyxiating myself when i mow… then i might have the chance to tell him.  i think i need to stop daydreaming….