Garden gadgets in tune with nature
People are swapping out their gas-guzzling lawnmowers for ecofriendly landscaping tools such as hybrid robotic lawnmowers and propane-powered trimmers and leaf blowers.
Tending to the lawn and being kind to nature have been at odds since the first power mower was manufactured in 1919.Skip to next paragraph
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From the sprawling fields of rural America to the manicured lawns of suburbia, our ceaseless weekend obsession has wreaked havoc on the environment.
The worst culprits are emissions and water waste. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, each year Americans clock in more than 3 billion hours using yard equipment, emitting as much hourly pollution as 11 cars with a push mower and 34 cars with a riding mower.
Our habits at the spigot can be just as careless. Collectively, we douse our lawns with more than 7 billion gallons of water in just one day. As much as half of that is wasted due to evaporation, wind, or runoff.
Things have gotten better. Many people have swapped gas-guzzling machines for electric ones and old-fashioned, motorless mowers are all the rage.
But here's a way to really keep up with the Joneses: A hybrid, robotic lawnmower and plants that twitter when they're thirsty.
This new technology allows you to be almost as green as your thumb.
Robots to the rescue
Say goodbye to toiling behind a hefty gas-guzzling mower. Say hello to your new best friend, the battery- and solar-powered robotic mower. This happy helper zips across the lawn, cutting work time, emissions, and, of course, the grass.
Husqvarna's Automower Solar Hybrid zigzags across the lawn within the boundaries of a wire that the user has staked in the ground. It maneuvers around obstacles with its lip sensor, which makes the robot reverse course when it nudges the oak tree or side of the house.
To protect people and animals from a robot attack, the blade stops the moment it senses a bump or if the mower is lifted.
The solar cells extend the battery life anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent, and when the mower has puttered out, the 22-pound device crawls back to its base to recharge for another cycle.
Other similar products include Kyodo America's LawnBott and Friendly Robotics' Robomow. Robotic mowers cost anywhere between $1,000 and $3,000.
Power up with propane
Get ahead of the game. Emissions from gasoline-powered devices such as trimmers and leaf blowers, which are currently unregulated, are significant, says the US Department of Energy. Electric alternatives exist, but to many, they don't make the cut because of battery limitations for some and lack of portability for those that are not cordless.
Lehr Inc. offers propane-powered lawn equipment such as the Eco Trimmer and the new Eco Blower, which will be made available just in time for the fall foliage. The company says its Eco Trimmer already meets new EPA regulation standards that will take effect in 2010 and 2011.
The Department of Energy says that replacing gasoline with propane in small engines like lawn equipment leads to "substantial" reductions in emissions, though the full impact has yet to be quantified in studies.