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Drive through Lawrence on a weekend and that's the sound you might hear from the increasing number of people using manual reel mowers to cut their lawns.
Not only is the sound quieter than the traditional whirring and humming of gas-powered mowers, but reel mowers are an option for those looking to stay "green" and save green while taking care of their green.
The old-fashioned mowers don't create any air pollution and are cheaper to buy ($80 to $130 on average) and maintain than their gas- or electric-powered counterparts. The advantages of reel mowers are catching on with some Lawrence residents.
The Home Depot has seen increases in sales for reel mowers at its Lawrence store and nationally. "We didn't anticipate this much increase in demand," said Home Depot spokeswoman Jen King.
The increase is also carrying over to smaller, local stores, such as Cottin's Hardware, where sales for reel mowers are seven times higher this year than in 2007.
Those who opt for the old-fashioned grass cutters cite a variety of reasons.
Joe Douglas, who bought a reel mower last summer, enjoys the "peaceful sound." In addition, Douglas, who conserves gas by riding his bike to work, appreciates having another option for lessening his environmental footprint.
For Lawrence resident Randi Hacker, the benefits of reel mowers mesh with her "long-term commitment to the environment" and give her a chance to get some exercise. Hacker, who trades her neighbor homemade croutons for use of their reel mower, attributes the use of gas-powered mowers to Americans' desire for the easy way.
"Gas mowers reflect a lot about our society. We want the quick fix," said Hacker.
While using a gas-powered mower for an hour or so a week might not seem significant compared with usage of automobiles, their effect remains higher than their size might indicate.
The EPA estimates gas-powered mowers produce 5 percent of the nation's air pollution, with one hour of mowing releasing the same pollution as driving an automobile 350 miles. Looser emissions guidelines than automobiles and frequent gas spills associated with lawn mower usage (17 million gallons annually) account for the disproportionate environmental damage.
The down side
For all the benefits of reel mowers, the disadvantages are acknowledged by users and advocates. Natalya Lowther, who uses reel mowers on her area farm, also owns a riding mower for larger areas and thicker, longer grass that would be difficult to cut with a reel mower.
Cottin's Hardware co-owner Linda Cottin warns customers that reel mowers do not cut as cleanly and take more energy to push. Cottin said that in the past about a third of buyers returned the mowers, but that the store has had no returns this season.
Hacker said she thinks the extra effort and rougher cut are worth the trouble, especially in terms of concern for some of her yard's less-prestigious inhabitants.
"You go slower (using a reel mower)," she said, "giving the toads time to get out of the way."