What impact does your lawn have on our Earth?


It’s summertime, and households across the nation are tuning up their lawn mowers and dusting off their weed whackers to take care of that patch of grass surrounding their house. But those lawn mowers: they create carbon emissions. And how about the weed killers and fertilizers you put on your lawn? Well, they have chemicals that seep into the ground water. So, exactly how much impact does your lawn have on our earth? So, we can talk about four or five different categories of environmental impact. You can talk about carbon emissions, you can talk about air emissions. Obviously, a lawn like this consumes water: not just from the sky, but from irrigation. Talk about nutrients we would apply to a yard like this to keep it looking healthy as well as natural or otherwise weed control. So, in the carbon emissions area, we’re talking about these different types of lawn mowers; how do you compare those different lawn mowers? So, there are three broad types. You can think about a lawn mower that runs on gas, one that runs on electricity, or one that runs on human power. Gas is the big loser, environmentally. A yard like this, we’re looking at about just under a quarter acre or so. That’s going to be about 400 pounds of CO2 emissions, roughly, from gas When you go to electric, it’s going to cut that roughly in half. And if you have a push mower without an electric or any kind of motor assist, that’s going to be, obviously, no carbon –except what you exhale, I guess So, the chemical weed controls methods, what’s your take on that? Organic is better. The question is: these yards are so hooked on drugs that you can’t just apply anything. You talk about the fact that lawns are very unnatural. This, actually, is mostly Kentucky blue grass and, last time I checked, we aren’t in Kentucky. So, it actually takes work in terms of irrigation. It takes work in terms of nutrient application. And nutrient pollution is actually a big deal. There’s a retention pond just a couple of doors down here It retains some of the water during storms. What you’ll see is that will actually turn quite yucky in a matter of a month from now. From where people apply nutrients to their yard. It’ll become a greenish algae muck. Now, that’s a local issue; you see nutrient pollution in lakes, in oceans even. What about the water consumption? How much water are we putting into our lawns? This lawn, we’re able to get away with about a hundred gallons a day. When we start throttling back from there, which we might do on occasion it’ll start to turn brown, but if you’ve lived here for long enough — we’ve been here for about ten years — I know how brown it can get before it won’t come back. What about those BIG areas of grass? Golf Courses? Yes, what kind of impact? Some of the numbers just kind of blow your mind. An average golf course in the U.S. might use over 300,000 gallons That’s like a thousand to ten thousand homes. At residential rates, you’d be looking at like $1500 a day. It’s not just about the water consumption; the water has to come from somewhere. You pump, then it gets treated, it’s pumped back. So, there’s a lot of energy involved in supplying that water as well. We say that lawns are unnatural, so what are some alternatives that we can do to a lawn that would be a more sustainable solution? You can talk about matching the plant species and even matching the grass, if you’re going to have grass to your soil type and to the microclimate that exists around the house. If you were to do it over and it was within the association bylaws, you’ve got real options. Lawns are a part of American culture and they’re probably not going anywhere. But sustainability is all about personal choices. Your lawn mower use, water consumption, and chemicals all have an environmental impact. It’s really all about finding the right balance.

Comments 8

  • I was surprised that no mention was made of the environmental impact on the grass itself – It absorbs CO2, reducing the 'carbon footprint'. And the soil filters the water that goes through it – most of which should come through rain, which is free.

  • I thought the exposure of "property association" regulations prohibiting native Earth freindly planting is key problem to organized housing collectives. The Algae blooms described in the ponds could be built upon as food for aquatic life with the addition of additional O2. This Green Algae is being researchered for biofuels as well.

  • Green lawns look nice. Lets not forfeit beauty at the expense of honoring the environmental gods.

  • Unmentioned was the additional carbon cost of a lawn service.  If you have a guy driving around with a truck bringing lawn mowers around to your house, that's even more emissions.

  • this is good

  • hi hi hi hi hi hi

  • I just let nature water my lawn whenever it pleases, and it’s as dead as dust

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