ANR, business groups urge switch to battery-powered lawnmowers

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(Host)  If you’re a homeowner, it’s just about time to wake the lawn mower from its winter slumbers and put it to work. 

But there’s an effort afoot to get you to forsake your gas mower for a less polluting machine made by a Vermont company.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Most people will mow their lawns this year – just as they have in past summers – with a gas powered mower.  If that’s you, Bob Mallen of Better Power Equipment in Waterbury has some tips for making sure your mower runs as efficiently as possible.

(Mallen) "With fuel today, the additives that are in fuels can really do a lot of nasty things to mowers.  You definitely want them tuned up, clean air filter, change the oil.  And then third and lastly, clean the machine, clean the deck and sharpen the blade."

(Zind) But no matter how well they run, gas mowers are big polluters. It’s estimated that in one hour of operation, a riding mower emits as much pollutants as 34 cars.  That’s why new emission standards for lawn equipment go into effect next year.

But there are alternatives to gas mowers.  Some people have switched to the modern version of the old push variety.  Others use electric mowers. 

And one Vermont company is in the business of making battery-powered push mowers. Tom Hughes is with Country Home Products in Vergennes, which makes the Neuton, which comes in two models.

(Hughes) "They’re both powered by renewable, rechargeable batteries, they just pop out of the machine…"

(Zind) The Neuton sounds more like a vacuum cleaner than a lawn mower.

(Sound of Neuton mower)

(Zind)  Since 2003, Country Home products has sold more than 200,000 of the Neutons. 

Hughes says the mower generates more torque than a gas machine – and the recyclable lead acid battery lasts about 45 minutes before it needs an overnight charge. 

The Neuton costs between $400 and $500, depending on the model.  But in an effort to convince more people to switch to these battery operated mowers, the manufacturer has joined a group of Vermont businesses and organizations, along with the Agency of Natural Resources, to offer $150 off the price in trade for your old gas mower.  The offer is available over the next several weeks at different locations around Vermont. 

Carey Hengstenberg of ANR says taking individual action to combat climate change is a matter of small steps – and this is just one of them.  

(Hengensten) "I think anything that creates awareness as to using an alternative fuel source is a good one."

(Zind) Hengstenberg says the state is putting $12,000 into the discount program. 

The money is part of a payout in a settlement reached over air pollution caused by Midwestern coal-fired power plants.

(Sound of mower)

For VPR News, I’m Steve Zind.   

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