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Gas vs Electric

Forwarded on behalf of Scott Butner.  Please respond directly to Scott or p2tech@great-lakes.net

Tomas -

This is a classic Lifecycle Analysis question, and while I don't have any
reliable data at my fingertips, I suspect that it has been addressed more than
once in the LCA literature.   A good place to locate such data might be to post
the question to the ECDM (Environmentally Conscious Design and Manufacturing)
list server at ECDM@pdomain.uwindsor.ca  (listserv@pdomain.uwindsor.ca to

That said, one of the sad truths of LCA methodology is that the answer to such
questions is nearly always "it depends."  In this case, it depends heavily on
some of the factors you mentioned in your e-mail, including source of power,
configuration of the mower (and I would add, the age and condition of the mower
-- as with autos, this can have an order of magnitude impact on the amount of
emissions per square foot cut).

It will also depend on what you value, from an environmental perspective.
Having owned both gas and electric mowers, I can say that noise from an electric
is qualitatively and quantitatively different from a gas mower, and if noise
impact is considered among environmental aspects of concern (as well it might
be) then this could yield a significantly different "answer" than if it were

Finally, it depends on the locale.   Operating a gas mower in an ozone
non-attainment area, for example, is arguably a much different issue than
operating the same mower in the rural Northwest, even though the release of
materials to the environment may be exactly the same. 

You've hit on one solution (and barriers to its implementation) -- e.g., the
push mower.   A second alternative (and the one we're gradually implementing in
my household) is to replace the lawn entirely (or at least partially) with
alternative ground covers.  Here, there are all sorts of options ranging from
some of the "rougher" grasses like Buffalo grass (which has the extra advantage
of requiring much less water than something like Kentucky Blue Grass) to rock,
bark or other covers. 

If I stumble across a worthwhile Lawnmower LCA I will send it your way.  But in
the mean time, you probably will find what you need at the ECDM list.

Scott Butner (scott.butner@pnl.gov)
Senior Research Scientist, Environmental Technology Division
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
MS K6-04
PO Box 999, Richland, WA  99352
(509)-372-4946 voice/(509)-372-4995 fax


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Thomas Vinson [mailto:TVINSON@tnrcc.state.tx.us]
> Sent: Wednesday, January 09, 2002 9:14 AM
> To: P2Tech@great-lakes.net
> Subject: Gas or Electric
> Which do you think is better for the environment overall.  A
> gas mower, or an electric mower. 
> While I believe it is electric, a colleague of mine believes
> that the loss in efficiency due to transfer means that the
> electric utility company has to burn more fuel to power the
> mower.  This loss in efficiency could offset the benefit of
> having a controlled emission.
> I suppose it also depends on the fuel at the plant, and
> wether the mower has a catalytic converter. 
> We both agree a push mower is a great alternative, though
> neither of us will actually get out and use it.   Push mowers
> also have a "waist" minimization effect.
> Tomas Vinson
> www.srwm.org
> Fax: 512/239-3165
> Phone: 512/239-3182
> Engineering Specialist
> TNRCC - Pollution Prevention
> MC112
> PO Box 13087
> Austin, Tx 78711-3087
> tvinson@tnrcc.state.tx.us

Jini Cook
List Manager
217.244-6553     jcook@wmrc.uiuc.edu