Guest editorial: The grass on our lawns always greener, but does it need to be?
Most of us don’t give too much thought to where our ideas of what a beautiful lawn looks like. For years, we’ve spent thousands of dollars annually on a concept that our lawns must have green grass and eye-appealing straight mower lines. Sadly, our lawns are having a negative impact on our environment. Our continued failure to address this, as well as the many other issues contributing to climate change, will result in a world stripped of a healthy ecosystem to hand over to future generations
According to NASA and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, grass is the most commonly irrigated plant in our country. Here are some cautious facts to set the ground:
• 59 million pounds of pesticides were put on lawns in 2012
• Annual spend of $2.5 billion on pesticides
• U.S. as a whole uses 7 billion gallons of water annually, 30% of that for outdoor use
• Average U.S. family uses 400 gallons of water per day, 30% of that for outdoor use
• Lawn maintenance via mowers and trimmers contributed 26.7 million tons of pollutants in the U.S. in 2011, according to the EPA
Our herbicide and pesticide use are extremely detrimental to the environment. These synthetic and petroleum-based chemicals run off into our water system, impacting not only human drinking water but the ecosystem of local wildlife. Some of this wildlife ends up on people’s dinner tables in the form of hunted game and industrial cattle. The World Health Organization has categorized glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Roundup, which is ubiquitously used in both residential and commercial maintenance.
The excessive use of water at any time is unnecessary, but particularly in low-snow years where this commodity becomes even more scarce. While our current conflicts are over oil, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that future wars are over necessary resources such as water.
Instead of perpetuating this chemical use and excessive water consumption, it’s time to transition to a new view of lawns. This is not something I’m proposing people tackle overnight in their yard. Rather, this is something that can be chipped away at each fall and spring.
Plant natives in your yard. This could be a combination of trees, shrubs and grasses. These have the benefits of thriving on minimal watering as well as supporting the much-needed pollinators such as bees and butterflies. You can find lists and helpful hints at Plant Native and Utah Native Plant Society homepages.
Carve out space for a large flower bed or kitchen garden. Grow some vegetables for use in your kitchen or create a thriving wildflower patch in your yard.
I’m sure by now some are contemplating their HOA regulations. These too can be changed overtime with conversations to change perceptions of what “right” looks like. There was a time when everyone thought lead paint was a great idea — perceptions and viewpoints can change over time when we have willing participants.
If you still insist on your green yard, there are numerous organic alternatives to keep your grass healthy and thriving.
Small changes can go a long way to bettering the community we all love and the outdoors we all enjoy. I hope to see more wild lawns in the future.
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