I made the mistake of taking my walk midday today. This early morning got away from me; this evening threatens rain. So I decided to take a break and walk early afternoon (which I otherwise never do), in my wooded, verdant, suburban neighborhood. Big mistake. The signs were there early on. I had gone outside to my “porch office” (one of the perks of working from home, besides the commute and the discount commissary, is that I can daily choose the location of my office). This morning, it being bearably hot and bearably humid, I chose to sit outside. There it was: the insidious, incessant rumbling of that suburban dinosaur, the lawnmower. It was grazing somewhere on the street behind our house, polluting the air with noise (never mind the exorbitant gift of carbon dioxide) over acres of land. (Even as the over-wrought dinosaur across the street is doing now!)
When I went out for my walk, I decided to head in the other direction. No respite. Not one but two lawn companies were shepherding their noisy monsters across green carpets. There is no refuge. Last night, I went for a walk at 7:00 pm. There was a dispatch of grasstrimmers working away at the neighbors even then. The din of suburban summer is almost as constant and annoying as the rush of city traffic.
The sound of a lawnmower is rated at 90 dB, the same as shop tools, truck traffic and a subway. A busy street is only rated at 70-80 dB.
Can we imagine having no-mow times in neighborhoods? Can we imagine some households buying no-engine push mowers powered by humans and tending to the job themselves or hiring a neighborhood kid to do it? (Save money on the gym membership and it works all the muscle groups.) Can we imagine electric mowers that silently sail over the grass?
As we have reported here before, lawnmowers are one whopping source of discretionary carbon dioxide emissions. (Meaning, there are great alternatives and substitutes that we can use without degrading our standard of living.) The Union of Concerned Scientists tells us that: “One gas mower running for an hour emits the same amount of pollutants as eight new cars driving 55 mph for the same amount of time.” And “Traditional gas-powered lawn mowers are responsible for 5 percent of the nation’s air pollution.”
I recently had the privilege of attending a session with Paul Hawken (The Ecology of Commerce and Natural Capitalism author). He challenged us to dream big about what a green world would look like. And one of the dreams he offered was that it would be much, much quieter. It seems like a small thing to ask, but it leads to so many collateral benefits, that I now see it as a surrogate for so many beneficial changes.
Still, until we get there, could neighborhood associations please get together and at least declare several days or times a week as “no-mow” time zones?
It’s a thought.