Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It’s not easy bein’ green.

Let me start this post by saying that I tried. But as I have recently discovered, I am just not cut out to be as environmentally responsible as I'd like to say I am. Let me go back a bit.

Since I am trying to lose weight, I've decided that it would be good for me to get out and mow the lawn this summer. For the last couple of years, my father-in-law has performed these honors, as lawn care is something he enjoys. But in the spirit of getting in some shape other than round, I'll be assuming lawn duties this year. This means that we needed a lawn mower. I read recently that mowing a lawn for one hour with a conventional gas-powered lawn mower causes more air pollution than driving from Kansas City to Columbia, MO. With this in mind, coupled with the fact that our yard is not very big, I researched electric lawn mowers.

Most reviewers spoke very highly of their experiences with electric mowers. One reviewer after another on epinions and Amazon gave their electric mower four or five stars. Their electric mowers, they said, were light-weight, much quieter than conventional mowers, and could cut through even the most dense of grassy patches. The only drawback, cited by all of them, was the power cord, and most reviewers glossed over this negative, as if it were really a minor inconvenience that could be addressed with little effort. In my mind, I am picturing my lawn like a room in my house, and the mower as a vacuum cleaner. A corded mower would be just like vacuuming, only outside. How easy is that?

On Sunday, we went to Lowe's and picked out our new mower. I was really excited - I would get some exercise AND be doing something nice for the environment. Once home, we unpacked the mower and it was ready to go in just a couple of minutes. I plugged in my 100-foot extension cord and proceeded to tackle my yard. The mower was a breeze to start and the motor hummed along at a respectable volume. This is going to be great, I thought. Easy, quiet, light-weight - just like all the reviews said it would be.

And then the cord came unplugged from the mower. No problem, I thought, I'll just plug it back in and keep going. It came unplugged again. So I plugged it back in again. At this point, I'm slightly annoyed, but I'm fairly confident I can devise a system to keep weight off the cord by looping around the handle.

I mow up one row, and as I am preparing to come back, I notice the cord laying in the middle of the path I need to take. I grab the cord and attempt to flip it over the mower to the other side, like I would do with the vacuum cord. Only this cord, being that it is 100 feet long and heavier, just kind of flops back down in the same place. I try to flip it again, and this time, it comes unplugged from the mower again. I'm beginning to think that maybe the cord is going to be a bit more of a challenge than I originally thought. But challenges are meant to be overcome, and I, convinced that I am smarter than the average bear, was solid in my conviction that I could master this whole cord thing, for the sake of Mother Earth.

I press on. Up a row, start to turn to go back, cord comes unplugged. I plug back in, try to flip the cord out of my way, cord comes unplugged and cord is still in the way. I plug back in and keep going, repeating this sequence of events until my back yard is almost entirely mowed. Then I notice two things. One, how in the hell do I maneuver this corded contraption around the two trees at the end of my yard without wrapping the cord around them? But the second thing I notice is more troubling - instead of the neat, straight mower lines I wanted in my yard, I have these wavy, zig-zag patterns. In the course of all the unplugging and flipping and replugging, it was impossible to cut in a straight line. In short, my yard looked like ass.

By now, I've had it with this mower. I'm standing at the end of my yard, hot, sweaty, exhausted, grass-covered. I want to go inside and take a shower and get this mower out of my life. Instead, I have to wind up 100 feet of cord and drag the damn thing into the garage, which makes me cuss it even more. I haul it in, I hose it off, and I pack it as best as I can back into its box. Back to Lowe's you go, little environmentally-friendly machine. I mourn a bit at my inability to adjust to the corded lifestyle.

So, as much as I hate to say it, the corded mower is not for me. I don't have the patience or willpower or whatever it is that other people with corded mowers have that makes them continue to sing their praises. Get a cordless electric mower, you say. Unfortunately, I don't have $450 to spend on a lawn mower. My mower budget cuts out somewhere around $250.

I caved and bought a conventional push-mower last night at Sears. So long, ozone layer.

So there you have it. I tried. I really, really tried to like the electric mower and I'm disappointed in myself that I can't singlehandedly save the environment. But I also know my limitations. If I had kept the corded mower, I wouldn't have used it at all and my father-in-law would be getting all of my lawn-related exercise. But I recycle some, and I have a few compact florescent bulbs in my house, and I don't gas up during the hottest part of the day. I don't shop at Wal-Mart, I don't eat fast food, and I've never seen a Fast and the Furious movie. I'm trying, dammit.


  1. I knew exactly where you were going with this post after you said "I researched electric lawn mowers" I literally said "OH No!"

    You can get cheap (on frills mowers) from sears that are guaranteed to start with in 2 pulls.

    The straight lines will come with experience.

    One thing to watch out for is the dreaded "farmers tan".
    Good Luck too ya!

  2. Ha - thanks for the reminder about the farmer's tan. My mother already reminded me to wear plenty of sunscreen, but I need to remind myself to take off my watch!