Originally published in Interiors & Sources

09/21/2012

Three Sustainable Options for Lawn Mowers

Alternative fuels reduce costs, maintenance, and emissions

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Have you extended your commitment to sustainability to your lawn care practices?

Commercial mowing accounts for 35% of the 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline used by mowers annually, according to the Clean Cities Guide to Alternative Fuel Commercial Lawn Equipment. While a 25-mpg car can consume up to 500 gallons driving 10,000 miles annually, a commercial lawn mower can easily burn 900-2,000 gallons in a growing season.

In lieu of a gas-powered mower, consider using propane, compressed natural gas, or biofuels to save on emissions or switching to an electric mower to lower fuel costs.

The Drawbacks of Gasoline
While gasoline mowers are the most common, they have a number of shortcomings. “The key disadvantages of gasoline are the handling of the fuel itself, the risk of spillage, evaporative losses and fuel spoilage over time, and disposal requirements,” says Mark Leitman, director of business development and marketing for the Propane Education & Research Council.

You may also live in a region where mowing hours are restricted by local emissions regulations. This can throw a wrench into maintenance schedules or push mowing back to hours that negatively impact your business.

“A number of cities have ozone alert days when there are air quality concerns,” explains Dennis Smith, national director for Clean Cities, an alternative fuel and transportation initiative under the Department of Energy. “Some jurisdictions won’t allow you to run large commercial equipment, such as mowers, during certain hours.”

Which One Is Right for You?
Do you know how much fuel your property requires annually and how many hours are devoted to mowing? To properly compare alternative mowers, you need to establish a baseline of your current operations.

Deciding which sustainable mower option will meet your facility’s needs ultimately boils down to ease of use. “It’s not a question of performance, as all mowers do the same job. It’s a matter of how convenient the fueling or recharging options are,” Smith explains.

Biodiesel is a renewable fuel that is derived from vegetable oils and animal fats. The domestic manufacturing process leaves behind only one byproduct, glycerin, a common additive in soaps. Much like ethanol for cars, biodiesel can be used without modifying an engine if it is combined with petroleum diesel. Ask your manufacturer if B20 (a common blend of 20% biodiesel and 80% regular diesel) is compatible with your mower model.


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