Human-Powered Lawn Equipment

Push Reel Mowers

By John L., A2 CCL Member

Many people might wish to go completely manual when cutting their grass. That means getting a push reel mower. Besides being human powered and thus CO2 free, push mowers have many other advantages. They cost substantially less, are lightweight, and very quiet. And, of course, you’ll get a little more exercise with a push mower.

You can find them for sale used on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and often at thrift shops around town.

They require no maintenance other than a blade sharpening once a year/season. You can sharpen the blades by using a simple metal file, as various YouTube videos demonstrate. Some mowers even have a built-in sharpening mechanism that is quick and easy to use.

When cutting tall grass, some mowers work better than others. Check out these YouTube reviews, especially the Fiskars 362050 1001 which cuts grass that is up to 4 inches high.

If you are not fully ready to switch to using only a push reel, you might consider having both mowers, using the power mower in the spring when grass is longer, and then switching to a push mower in summer when the grass grows slower. Or use the push reel for part of your lawn and the power mower for the other part.

If you would like to try out a push reel mower before buying one, keep your eye out for a neighbor who may use one and ask to try it out for five minutes. Here in Ann Arbor, some of us would be happy to lend ours out for a few hours. They fit easily into a car trunk. I have one. Just ask! (

Finally, if you have teens or know some neighbor teens, show them how to use it instead of a powered mower. Simplicity rules!