By Sean James
Lawns are an undeniably large part of our landscape. Homeowners go to great lengths to keep their yards well manicured and healthy, investing a lot of time and money into lawn care. However, in this age of environmental awareness, it’s important to consider growing grass with the least possible impact. Even if you don’t consider yourself an environmentalist, the financial benefits and reduced workload are worthwhile benefits.
The downside of lawn care
Traditional turf-care methods are not very environmentally sustainable. Gas-powered lawn mowers have no pollution controls; mowing the lawn for one hour is roughly equivalent to driving 60 km (37 miles) in a car. Fertilizers and pesticides, which are used to create that elusive perfectly green and weed-free lawn, runoff in heavy rains into the rivers and lakes, causing unchecked algae growth. Nitrogen in these fertilizers can even seep into groundwater, making it harmful to drink. While many chemical pesticides have been banned in jurisdictions across Canada, there are still products being used today that could be used less frequently, to minimize environmental impact.
Additionally, though it is better for infiltrating rainwater than a material like asphalt, turf is not nearly as effective as gardens. This is important, since a sustainable landscape infiltrates as much water as possible into the soil, as opposed to allowing it to run off into storm sewers. Furthermore, most homeowners bag up every leaf that falls on the lawn and put it out to the curb to be picked up, transported, mulched, turned and transported back as compost—each portion of the journey relies on a diesel- or gas-powered vehicle to be completed.
Clearly, there are a lot of negatives associated with lawn care and turf maintenance. So how can we be as positive as possible when we grow grass and still get a beautiful yard? The solutions may be a lot simpler than you think.
This article is part 1 of 8 from our blog series “Keeping it Green: Beautiful turf can be sustainable, too“.