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An Eco-Friendly Lawn Mower

An Eco-Friendly Lawn Mower

Full disclosure: I own a Push Reel mower. I am a downright dirty earth-loving station wagon-driving, no wait, I mean bike-riding urban homesteading vegan. It’s true. So I’m biased.

But sometimes bias can be the basis of exploration. Like when your own confusion – in this case “Wait, why would anyone want to do that ever?” – leads to new and enlightening discoveries. Discoveries like “Oh, well I guess that makes some sense.” (See, I’m actually an open-minded nut job!)

Before we get into the Push Reel versus Rotary Mower debate, let’s define our terms. A Push Reel mower is manually operated, by which I mean you use your body and your own energetic calories to propel it forward and spin the blades. A Rotary Mower, on the other hand, uses gasoline or electricity to power the engine. You still push, but it’s much easier work and the actual spinning of the blades is provided by the engine.

Also, for the purpose of this article, we’re talking about a home gardener/lawn keeper situation, and NOT commercial landscaping businesses or larger-scale grounds keeping.

So let’s do a bit of side-by-side comparison.


Using a Reel Mower has zero negative environmental impact. They use no energy, they create no pollution, and they don’t burn any fossil fuel. A Reel mower has no carbon footprint.

A Rotary Mower, on the other hand, uses gasoline or else uses electricity, which originate from fossil fuels. C’mon though, let’s be real. It’s no question. From the eco-friendly perspective, the Reel Mower takes the prize, hands down.


A Reel Mower works by “scissoring” the grass, trapping each blade between the knife edge and a cutting edge, to create a clean snip.

Rotary Mowers chop at grass with helicopter-like blades which use a sucking and tearing action.  This brute force can leave the grass with damaged, brown tips.

So, when it comes to optimal performance, the Reel Mower wins again. They simply provide a superior cut – which is why golf courses use Reel Mowers pulled by tractors!


Reel Mowers only work when the blades are sharp. This means they need to be cleaned and sharpened on a regular basis. The reel itself may also need to be adjusted every so often. As well, Reel Mowers only provide a superior cut when they’re used regularly. If the grass gets too long, Reel Mowers become virtually ineffective.

Rotary Mowers do not require sharpening nearly as often. They do require energetic input (either gas or electricity), but the overall maintenance is pretty minimal. They are also the better choice for longer lawns.

Rotary Mowers are definitely the more low-maintenance of the two choices, making them the winner this time around. Especially if you plan to go longer in between mowings.

In Conclusion

Well, I was open-minded as I could be, but in this case I’d have to say that Reel Mowers really take the cake. They win in environmental impact and, perhaps most importantly, in performance. Rotary Mowers are easier to maintain, but not by much. So in the end, the no-fossil-fuel device actually comes out victorious.

I love it when that happens.

Read more: Conservation, Home, Household Hints, Lawns & Gardens, Nature

Sayward Rebhal wrote this for She is a DIY remodeler near Los Angeles.

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+ add your own
12:44AM PDT on Jul 20, 2013

An even more eco-friendly mower that also makes a great buddy is a goat.

10:47PM PDT on Jul 17, 2013

Thanks. It's not always so effective though

10:41AM PDT on Jul 17, 2013

great, if you are healthy

7:29AM PDT on Jul 17, 2013

Thankfully, we never have to mow our crushed granite 'lawn' here in the desert.

7:27AM PDT on Jul 17, 2013

If I had a lawn, I'd have an eco-friendly one!

8:17PM PDT on Jul 16, 2013

Thanks for posting

1:43PM PDT on Jul 16, 2013

I much prefer the whizz of a rotary lawnmower to the noise pollution of the other kinds.

9:37AM PDT on Jul 15, 2013

I tried one years ago, thought I was going to die, pushing was really hard, and the blades just didn't cut. Can't remember where I got it. I remember as a child my brother cutting our grass, and it did work then. Not sure if the push/pull mowers were made better then, but I guess so!

9:20AM PDT on Jul 15, 2013

If I had a lawn, I would get a reel mower, since it's quiet enough I can mow any time it's convenient (or cool). Though, if my lawn were small enough to use a reel mower, I might till all of it under and plant a vegetable garden instead. Grass is kind of daft.

6:37AM PDT on Jul 15, 2013

I have one of these, but haven't had much success with it so far. It is entirely possible that this is because I had let the grass grow too tall before trying it.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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