Monday, May 9, 2022

The Green Grass of Home


To lawn or not to lawn: that is the question. Lovely, well-trimmed lawns are an expected feature of most suburban communities. In fact, some HOA’s have specific requirements on how each dwelling’s patch of green should be maintained. Most don’t even question the practice. It has become what we expect. 

On the other hand, it has become more and more apparent that household lawns are bad for the environment. Here’s a piece from the National Resource Defense Council addressing the issue:

More Sustainable (and Beautiful) Alternatives to a Grass Lawn

In a case of taking “the grass is always greener” a bit too literally, American homeowners have long strived to make their lawns brighter, lusher, and more velvety than their neighbors’. But all that competition has a devastating environmental impact. Every year across the country, lawns consume nearly 3 trillion gallons of water a year, 200 million gallons of gas (for all that mowing), and 70 million pounds of pesticides.

The article goes on to suggest alternative ideas that use fewer resources and contribute to less runoff. It’s a good jumping off point if you haven’t contemplated this already.

In Columbia/HoCo there’s been a good deal of advocacy around incorporating rain gardens as a part of home landscaping. But, until recently, I haven’t seem a whole lot of energy invested in challenging our lawn-centric culture. Until I read this piece from the Owen Brown Community Association’s Representative to the CA Watershed Advisory Committee: 

“New Rules Promote Groundcover in Place of Grass”, Ed Warner (OBCA ,April 25th)

Mr. Warner introduced me to the term xeriscaping. 

Xeriscaping is the use of plants such as ground cover to replace grass. Doing so helps reduce pollution from the mowing and fertilizing of grass, while also providing needed habitat for pollinators such as bees. 

I don’t know if xeriscaping is being promoted in all villages or only in Owen Brown. (I’m also not entirely sure how to pronounce it.) Is this something you are already familiar with? Can you see yourself switching up whatever lawn arrangement you have now with something more eco-friendly? Or, if you don’t have a lawn, what your opinion of these kinds of changes to the status quo?

Speaking of challenging the status quo, have you seen this local promotion for No-Mow May?

From Live Green Howard:

In the US, lawns are the single largest irrigated crop we grow! But, there are downsides to lawn care such as frequent maintenance (costing time and money), and environmental implications. Lawns provide little benefit to wildlife and when treated with pesticides, cause harm to bees and other invertebrates.

One way you can help is by mowing your lawn less, and taking part in #NoMowMay! Allowing the grass to grow for longer helps pollinators get the habitat and forage they need in this critical early part of the season. 

Learn more.

I think I should stress that this means you should mow less, rather than no mowing at all. We know what happens if you do that

As long as I can have my annual warm weather moment of going barefoot in the grass for a bit, I’ll be fine. I don’t need a lot of grass, and it doesn’t even need to be at my house. I just need to be able to slip off my shoes and socks and have that transformative sensory experience. 

So, what do you think? Are you on board for making some changes to your piece of the great outdoors? Have you already taken the leap? Do you think that there might be pushback from neighbors and/or community associations? Let me know.

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