Does today’s riding lawn mower have anything in common with the ancient Greek Sirens? Maybe so. Who, aside from professional lawn care folks, doesn’t think it’s kind of cool to ride around on these cute little mini-tractors? They’re relatively comfortable, require no physical exertion, and “work” gets done while riding - work that’s easier than any other lawn or garden chore I can think of.
If you’re like me, with a rider it’s easy to be lulled into deciding to trim up the yard more often than may actually be necessary, or to extend the mowed area. We love seeing those green expanses! And when riding is all it takes, it’s easy to keep lawns cleanly cropped. (Imagine how our priorities would change if we did all this trimming using old-fashion reel push mowers.) These beautiful green expanses are what we’ve come to expect. But they come at a price.
· According to the EPA one gas powered lawn mower produces the same amount of pollutants in one hour as 8 cars being driven for an hour.
· The EPA estimates that Americans burn more than 800 million gallons of gasoline a year cutting grass.
· While refueling lawn and garden equipment we spill more gas than the amount of oil that was spilled by the Exxon Valdez - over 17 million gallons each year.
· Lakes, like those in Madison, continually struggle with excessive algae growth partially as a result of lawn fertilizer run-off.
Perhaps the ease of those riders is a bit like a Siren song lulling us into frequent and expansive trips around the yard. As sweet as the sounds of the Sirens were to Odysseus’ ears, he knew he’d have to limit his exposure to them if he ever wanted to reach the security of home. Likewise, as beautiful as those cropped green expanses are to our eyes, we may be wise to consider the benefits of including more natural, unmowed areas as part of our landscape.
Wild flowers, prairie grasses, butterflies, birds and healthy lakes and streams are beautiful too. Without them we’ll not be sustainably secure on our only home. Here, where we’re forever…Earthbound.