Is It Time for the American Lawn to Go Away?

This photograph taken April 25, 2016, near Langley, Wash., shows a traditional lawn. (Dean Fosdick via AP)

by Arden Dier

When purchasing a home, Eric Holthaus looked for “the smallest lawn I could find.” It’ll mean less work, though not as it relates to mowing, since Holthaus plans to “rip out my grass lawn as soon as possible.” He suggests you do the same. “It’s time to culturally stigmatize the classic over-watered, over-fertilized, over-mowed American lawn” because “lawns are awful for the planet,” Holthaus writes in a Grist op-ed.

While he mentions certain lawn benefits—they reduce urban heat and trap small amounts of carbon dioxide—he sees more disadvantages in the water used to keep them green, the chemicals used to eliminate weeds, and the pollution from a lawnmower. It might seem a small issue when considering one lawn. But Curbed reports lawns cover 2% of the continental US—an area the size of Nebraska—and three times more land than corn.

Grass therefore tops corn as the largest irrigated crop, and maintaining it isn’t cheap. “Americans spend more than $36 billion every year on lawn care, four-and-a-half times more than the annual budget of the Environmental Protection Agency,” Holthaus writes. He plans to replace his grass with native plants—superior to turf grass in terms of environmental impact—and fruit trees. But “almost anything is better than a grass lawn.”

Certain cities, especially those affected by drought, are well aware, with residents offered incentives to replace grass with rock or native vegetation. This, according to Patrick Sisson at Curbed, is “fueling nationwide trends towards native plantings, drought-tolerant landscaping, and even raising more crops as a path to reducing emissions,” though “the vast monoculture of perfectly mowed front yards … isn’t going anywhere soon.”

Edited via Newser.

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Posted by on May 3, 2019. Filed under NEWS I FIND INTERESTING. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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4 Responses to Is It Time for the American Lawn to Go Away?

  1. Michael John Scott Reply

    May 3, 2019 at 9:32 am

    I use a battery operated Kobalt mower. No gas, stinky exhaust fumes, no loud noises. If intent on growing grass it’s a must.

  2. jess Reply

    May 3, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    I let my lawn die and put in a brand new landscape of drought tolerant stuff at the house along with a small patch of that artificial grass you do not need to do anything with in the back by the swimming pool. We seem to always be in a drought here in CA so it made sense.

  3. Bill Formby Reply

    May 4, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    Ah yes, letting the lawn go native. That might work in California, but here in the South you might need to keep a machete handy to chop your way out of a jungle. The back side of my little acre I let go native. But, I also left enough trees to keep out the sunlight so it keeps the undergrowth down. That small, one third acre is still filled small native bushes that are covered with thorns the size of railway spikes. But, that’s ok because I rarely go back there. If you ride some of the back roads of the South you might notice a wall of green, leafy plants that run beside the road. Some farmers brought it from Japan to control soil erosion because of its fast growth. Now one can see how easily get out of hand. A joke about planting Kudzu is that to plant it you simply drop a cutting of it and run. It will cover everything including houses old barns and even slow moving cows. It is a vine that grows so fast that to cut it back would take cutting it back 24/7/365. It isn’t any good for animal feed unless you are raising goats. Here in the south it is considered just as bad as allowing wild pigs roam freely. No thanks, I will keep my crabgrass filled lawn,

  4. Glenn Geist Reply

    May 6, 2019 at 10:50 am

    Ah the South. Somehow (I blame it on the North) people seem to be immune to the natural beauty and want to terraform it all until it looks like Texas or Kentucky or some other place and that means grass. I have to contend with a homeowner’s association that mandates grass lawns but that they be kept weed free and in a place where it won’t grow naturally, that’s expensive, frustration and ecologically unsound. What I grow is what you call crabgrass and it doesn’t want to grow and isn’t resistant to bugs and drought and too much rain and weeds. We deplete the water table while we’re getting several inches every day because of grass, so I can’t wash the car or water the lawn while it’s pouring out. Grass.

    With a state that gets too much rain, we’re always in a drought because all the water goes to golf courses or is dumped into the ocean to drain the wetlands. There’s no reason for any of it except the damn Yankees want this to look like the North. F the North.

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