A global study recently determined that a million plant and animal species are at risk for extinction due to the environmental ravages of human activity. This comprehensive and disturbing report, presented by the United Nations, has many of us thinking about ways that we—as citizens and families—can change to conserve and restore our planet’s threatened biodiversity. But while most people know about the negative impact of fossil fuels, chemicals, plastics and pollution, many overlook one of the most obvious—and easiest to solve—insults to the environment: the one that’s right in our front (and back) yards.
That’s right: grass. It seems almost sacrilegious to question the typical yard, a source of annual struggle and pride that seems as American as baseball, barbeques and 4th of July. Every spring, we head to Home Depot for a trunk full of fertilizers, seeds, and pesticides and battle the elements until our yard looks as good as our neighbors’. And we never pause to wonder why, because that’s the way it’s always been. But what if our exhaustively maintained natural grass is exhausting the environment we love?
According to a recent article in Anarchimedia, lawns cover more than 40 million acres (up to 2%) of the continental United States, constituting our nation’s “largest and most useless irrigated crop.” Consuming thousands of gallons of water and tens of thousands of pounds of pesticides and herbicides each year, these “unnatural monocrops” contaminate water and poison insects, creating health risks for wildlife, pets and people. All this for an ornamental “crop” whose main purposes are to cover ground and look green. The article goes on to suggest sustainable alternatives like native plants or edible gardens, claiming that, with certain designs, “even highly productive vegetable gardens can produce food and use substantially less water than lawns.”
Another alternative is to replace labor-intensive lawns with synthetic grass or radically reduce your water consumption by surrounding a vegetable garden with artificial turf. One of the biggest benefits our customers cite after installation of a synthetic lawn or artificial turf playground is the peace of mind that comes from saving water and eliminating the use of hazardous pesticides and herbicides. As surprising as it seems that “fake” grass supports the environment far more than the alternative we think of as “natural,” it’s hard to argue with the impact of ending the water waste and pollutants we pour into our lawns.