The lawn mower as style statement

Can lawn mowers combine style with environmental qualities?

Courtesy of NEUTON Power Equipment

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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