3 Reasons To Reconsider Your Traditional Grass Lawn
Your Grass Lawn Isn’t As Eco-Friendly As You Think
To many, the American Dream is to own a house in a friendly community with a front and backyard. Spending time with your knees and hands in the dirt planting, weeding, and cutting is as American as apple pie. We respect traditions, and the solid green space of a traditional yard does accentuate the detail of a home, but are grass lawns really worth the environmental and physical toll?
Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “grass absorbs CO2, so why would having a grass lawn be bad for the planet?” You’re correct, grass does absorb carbon, but it also comes with a hefty carbon price of growing and maintaining it. As you’ll read below, there are many reasons why grass yards aren’t as eco-friendly as they look.
Grass lawns are misleading. At a glance, they look like green spaces that help purify the air, but it’s in the maintenance that lawns reveal their polluting ways. According to the EPA, “gas mowers represent 5% of U.S. air pollution.” Though there are electric and manual mowers on the market, most people use an old, gas-guzzling mower. Wait, it gets more disturbing. The EPA also estimates that 17 million gallons of gas are spilled each year when people are refueling their mowers.
From leaf blowers to string trimmers, a lawn requires a lot of gasoline and energy. Save money and breath easier with a lawn alternative that doesn’t require mowing.
A Farmers Market On Your Front Lawn
We need to get back to seeing a yard for what it’s worth. Land is valuable, and we are losing more and more wild and habitable areas to agriculture and development. According to WWF, “Agriculture is a major land use. Around 50% of the world’s habitable land has already been converted to farming land.”
No matter where you live, or how much sunshine your lawn receives, there are always edible plants you can grow. From tomatoes and peppers in a sunny lawn to chard and Brussels sprouts in a shaded yard, you can produce food, save money, and help the environment. With the collective knowledge of permaculture and urban gardening (there are many great books, podcasts, and online resources) you can grow more food than you would expect on a lawn, no matter the size.
Gardening can be an excellent way to build community. For example, many neighborhoods that practice permaculture and urban/suburban farming will share food, knowledge, and gardening tools. If you’re growing the tomatoes and carrots and your neighbor is growing the lettuce, have a harvest party and invite the whole street to taste the food. If every home on the street is growing food, you’ll always have a reason to converse and be interested in what your neighbors are doing. Grow an abundance of food? Donate it to a local charity.
Just remember, using petroleum-based fertilizers and chemical pesticides defeats the purpose of gardening for a healthy planet. We suggest using organic soil and mulch (check out our Trusted Partner Kellogg Gardening Supply) or homemade compost. There are many organic and permaculture techniques for keeping pests at bay without relying on chemicals.
Grass lawns use a lot of water. According to the Washington Post, grass lawns use up to 9 billion gallons of water per day. If you live in the West where water conservation is paramount, then you might want to consider a more water-friendly lawn. Removing your lawn and replacing it with trees and drought-resistant (make sure they are native) plants will save water and money. We suggest you opt for this option, with mulch instead of rocks or gravel, as opposed to replacing it with artificial turf. Artificial turf still requires a lot of water to be cleaned, as the plastic traps bacteria and germs.
If you don’t live in a water-deficient part of the country, consider growing a pollinator garden. Plants that attract pollinators – bees, butterflies, birds, bats – are often affordable and pretty to look at. Ask a local botanist which plants are best for your area. Read about our recent school pollinator garden build and help support our #GreenMySchool program here.
You can also turn your yard into a meadow garden full of stunning flowers and native grasses.
We hope these alternative to a grass lawn have inspired you to make the most out of your home’s green spaces. If you go for a grass lawn alternative, keep track of what works, what doesn’t work, and what you learn along the way.
Written by EMA Community Manager Jay Jasinski. For ideas, edits, suggestions, etc. please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org