By Kirsten Coates
Lately I have been obsessed with lawns, and I don’t mean in a good way. Having recently learned that the average petrol lawn mower produces more carbon emissions hour by hour than a car made me dig a little deeper into the facts. Ride on petrol mowers can produce up to 11 times more emissions than a new car, depending on the size and age of the lawn mower.
Living in suburban Australia means weekends of listening to the thrum of the petrol lawn mower. Living in rural Australia means witnessing small landowners riding huge machines around and around their properties creating evenly cut grass over acres of park-like settings.
But what are the benefits of keeping acres of grass neatly mown? Many would argue that long grass close to homes and other buildings is a fire hazard, and this cannot be denied. Snakes lurking close to houses is also a concern if you have pets and young children. And mown lawn is clearly an aesthetic that some people love and admire. And it can’t be ignored that some people just actually enjoy mowing!
But what about the down sides? Many people don’t consider that their lawn is actually a little ecosystem. It supports billions of microbes, worms, insects, lizards and a variety of pollinators. When we dump litres of fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides on the lawn all these good, ecologically friendly creatures are at risk, which in turn effects the biodiversity of the surrounding area. Not to mention the water usage to keep a lawn green! A mown lawn suppresses native grasses and associated habitat.
Mowing causes harm not only to the lawn but to the person on the other end of the mower. Breathing in the volatile organic compounds emitted by petrol engines, in any quantity, is bad for your health. Doing it for hours on end, every weekend, is very, very bad for your health.
So what can you do? One answer is to just stop mowing (or mowing such huge areas) and let nature take its course. ‘Rewilding’ your lawn can be a beautiful thing as beneficial insects and native grasses take over, increasing biodiversity.
Failing that you can do a “low mow”; mow less, mow a smaller area. Buy a battery-operated mower if you can afford it or an old fashioned motorless push mower if you want to build those biceps!