The lawn mower as style statement

Can lawn mowers combine style with environmental qualities?

Would cutting the grass be more enjoyable if your lawn mower had the lines of a sleek race car? Sure it would. I'm firmly convinced that many riding lawn mowers are sold not because the buyers have such a large lawn that they need one but because they're fun to ride.

Now comes a lawn mower that's showing up in museum exhibits. Shades of Andy Warhol.

And -- this being 2008 -- naturally it makes a green statement as well.

The NEUTON mower is part of the "Smart Home: Green + Wired" at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (through Jan. 4, 2009). It's also on display at the US Botanic Garden's "One Planet -- Ours!" exhibition through Oct. 13 of this year.

I showed the picture of the mower to Eoin O'Carroll, who manages the Monitor's Environment site and writes the bright green blog. He was helping me with a Photoshop question about the image (he's a whiz at PS and I'm not), so I asked what he thought of the mower's appearance.

He wrinkled his nose at the pastel green of the housing. True, the color is soothing -- and I suspect it was chosen to highlight what the company calls the mower's "environmentally sound operation" -- but it's a bit too feminine, in my opinion, for a machine that's so closely identified with guys.

Or maybe the hue is just insipid. It doesn't make a statement. British racing green would be a big improvement, in my book.

But that's just the skin-deep shell. Dig deeper and you find a mower that runs on a battery (using 10 cents of electricity per charge, the company says) and is only half as noisy as gas-powered mowers. (Wouldn't the neighbors love that?)

Both of which matter much more than the color of the housing, of course.

I haven't seen either NEUTON in person yet (there are 14- and 19-inch-wide models) -- and, as an urban gardener -- I don't have a lawn to mow.

But I'm intrigued. A "green" lawn mower that doubles as objet d'art? Maybe its time has arrived.

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