Goodbye lawn beautiful. And good riddance.

By / 3rd April, 2009 / Environment / No Comments

The great American fashion for home landscape beauty is out of date. It’s as wrong for the times as the energy inefficient, two acre McMansions we build on a one acre lot.

Why? Because the acres of green, treeless lawns that we admire are anything but "green." They are dangerous and they waste precious resources. You may not agree, but we think it’s time for a greener "beauty" standard to come to home landscaping.

Here’s three reasons why we should give up our addiction to green, treeless lawns.

First, lawns promote toxicity. Too often lawns are kept green and weed free by toxic chemicals. There are better alternatives, yet annually we spend $22 billion for the poisonous options.

Reason two to give up on the "green standard" relates to the amount of water we draw from our aquifers for lawn maintenance. Lawns take water in amounts that we can no longer afford to squander. There isn’t enough water anyway, and regions like the American Southwest are in trouble for lack of the vital blue resource.

Thirdly, we need more not fewer trees . Yet to create a new lawn, we destroy trees, paying homage to an antiquated home landscaping beauty standard.

So what what’s the answer? We call for a return to mother nature’s original landscape design–be it the wooded lot look, or natural wetlands or the desert terrain, depending on what is native to each local’s ecology. Let’s take a deeper look at why we think so.

Let’s talk toxicity.
We get more than we bargain for, for the $22 billion a year we spend on toxic pesticides. Besides a green lawn, we may also get:

. increases in asthma, cancer, learning disabilities, nerve and immune system damage, liver or kidney damage , birth defects and a disruption of the endocrine system.

. potential health issues for infants, children, the elderly and pregnant women who are chemical sensitive’s, not to mention problems for pets and wildlife.

. toxic runoff from chemical fertilizers and pesticides that pollutes streams, lakes and threatens drinking water.

Question: Is this nervous hysteria or a real issue?
Answer: The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a study of 9,282 people nationwide, found pesticides in 100% of the people who had both blood and urine tested. The average person carried 13 of 23 pesticides tested.

So what about lawns and water they take? Forget diamonds and silver and think "blue, liquid gold"–especially if you live in the Southwest. Sure 70% of the earth’s surface is covered with water, but only 3% is fresh water of which 2% is frozen, leaving 1% for human uses.

A bi-product of industrialization is that we’re using water faster than ever. In the 1900’s, water usage increased six-fold over the previous century, growing at twice the rate of population growth. A century ago Americans used under 10 gallons of water a day. We average more than 145 gallons now.

Part of the jump in water demand is because developed nations like US and population gorilla China eat higher up on the food chain. Our average meals take more water to produce. Example: to grow an apple requires about 16 gallons of water. A loaf of bread takes 150 gallons. How much do you think it takes for a pound of beef? Answer: 3,000 gallons. Fact: the new middle class Chinese, like Americans, are eating more and more meat.

So we need to employ every available tactic to reduce water consumption–to save this critical resource for necessities. Green vegetables are a necessity. Green lawns are not.

Solution: recreate your home landscaping and bring back the look nature gave it–that is, what was native-to-your-own-locale, and wasn’t not a lawn. Let mother nature design the look and she’ll even water it for you.

If you can’t part with a traditional lawn, (and we believe that in the not too distant future we won’t have a choice), conserve lawn water now:

. Cut no more than 1/3 of the height of the grass at each mowing. Taller grass (3-1/2" in height) provides more shade and less evaporation occurs.

. Don’t over-water. Watering thoroughly but infrequently increases soil moisture and reduces weeds.

. Water early in the morning.

. Use soak lines instead of irrigation heads and you reduce water use by 60%.

. Water once a week (if it hasn’t rained). Did you know that most people use twice the amount of water needed to water a lawn.

And finally, we come to the issue of lawns and trees. Consider the trees we destroy to create the wide-open lot a green lawn requires. Aren’t we doing the opposite of what we should do to be green? About half of the forests that once covered the Earth are gone. Annually, we lose more of the rain forests, and clear more lots, removing millions of acres of the trees that limit greenhouse gas emissions. So why, if we are concerned about global warming, don’t we plant rather than yank?

Consider what we’d gain by altering our landscaping fashion. Imagine homes nestled in their native habitat. The look can be stunning. Look at Fallingwater and what Frank Lloyd Wright created long before green was the new buzz.

The day of green lawns should end. Because they aren’t "green" at all.

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