Tuesday, 24 August 2010

People-powered lawn mowers ~

I would love to own an electric car.  Every time I get into my car I feel guilty - for the depletion of fossil fuels, and for adding to pollution levels, which would probably be needless if a little more of a collective investment went into the production of electric powered cars, or a public transport system that worked adequately.  Electric cars are available here, but are beyond my price range.  Hopefully they will become affordable before too much longer.  In the meantime I can't afford one, but I decided it was high time I made more of a commitment to reducing petrol consumption by buying a hand mower.  That,  I decided, I had to afford.  I got one today!

A muscular machine...    :-)

Of course there are lots of good reasons to buy a hand mower, other than petrol consumption: one of the most compelling of these being that running a hand mower costs nothing, and getting it started is as simple as getting me started - behind it.  No petrol, no noise, no struggling with pull-starting cords, or careful looping about of power cables - I just wheel it out, point it where I want to go and start moving.  Good upper body exercise - no costly gym equipment or subscription needed; I work up a good sweat - no sauna needed, not that I'm likely to pursue any of those options, but still it's true!  It's good aerobic exercise, which saves me the consideration of where to go for a walk, and I can enjoy the fresh air which stays fresh, free of petrol exhaust, no ear muffs are required, and so on and so on.  Finally, the only carbon emissions are from me exhaling, which is pretty near zero as these things are counted!

Don't I sound smug?  I am smug.  In fact I'm delighted with my purchase, not one of your light-weight modern pieces of tin foil, but a good solid second-hand one, made at least a couple of decades ago when things were made properly, built to last.  "So you think this will last me a few years?" I quizzed the salesman.  He assured me it was likely to outlast me.  "Thanks a lot!"  I retorted, somewhat taken aback.  That was a promise indeed - I didn't think I looked all that worn myself, but it was a vote of confidence in the machine which was what was important.

He lifted it into the car for me and off I went.  Got home, and raced around the lawns with it.  Okay, that's an exaggeration, but got around them anyway, and in reasonably good time.  Yes, it took longer than the power mower, and it will take me a while to get the hang of how best to deal with some awkward edges, but it gave the lawns a very nice trim, tidy and even.

I'd been meaning to get a hand mower for years, and had been able to put it off since we came to live here due to the generosity of our landlord who has let us use his motor mower free of charge, petrol included.  Although I have appreciated that very much, I've always felt guilty about it, guilty because it's a modestly sized flat section and nothing awkward about it or the grass.  There was absolutely no reason to use a power mower when a hand mower is all that could possibly be required. 

A good quality hand mower, properly sharpened and set, should do most lawns.  When I was a girl I used to mow our hillside lawns which were much more extensive than these ones, and think nothing of it.  Although the purchase has left me rather lighter in the pocket than I expected, I'm very pleased, and happy to recommend it, finally being able to do so with a clear conscience. 

Now, about that electric car...  Hmm, maybe a bicycle will have to be ahead of that on the list.

Later note: Matthew Walker contributed these comments about electric cars via e-mail:
"The problem with the electric cars is where the electricity comes from. A hybrid is definitely an improvement over petrol as the battery is charged from wasted energy. However with an electric car it all depends on the power plant. If it’s a coal plant then coal is even more polluting than petrol! I guess in NZ most electricity is clean, but I can’t help wondering if coal plants get fired up as demand increases. It’s a complicated issue and there’s never a straightforward answer."
Good point, Matthew, I hadn't thought of that!

For overseas readers: Most power in New Zealand comes from hydroelectric schemes with coal and gas-fired Huntly being the big exception.  Moving away from dependence on fossil fuels is going to require many small but determined steps.  However, for those who have relatively easy care lawns there need be no such conflict! 


Penelope said...

Good one, Leigh. And I wonder if you'd like one of these babies: http://hacknmod.com/hack/one-wheel-electric-scooter-is-better-than-segway/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+hacknmod%2FqjUG+%28Hack+N+Mod%29&utm_content=Google+International

First find your centre of gravity.

Leigh said...

Good gracious,what a wild and crazy machine. I wonder where the other half is? I'm sure I'd be a complete menace on one of those. I'd be happy to watch you have a go though, from a safe distance! :-)