In recent decades, there has been an anti-lawn movement; stemming from the desire to wake up Americans to the reality that keeping up with the Jones’s, truly isn’t a satisfactory way of living.
So, what is wrong with lawns, anyway? Aside, from being water and energy intensive, lawns are usually sprayed with a cocktail of herbicides and pesticides, in order to, maintain that rolling carpet appeal – year round. Ironically, most grass grown in the United States is not native to our country, resulting in habitat destruction nationwide.
Lawns in front of American homes are a ubiquitous element. For over a century, it has represented a lot more than domesticated turf; symbolizing wealth, conformity and class. Annually Americans spend approximately 40 billion dollars on their lawns, on an area which spans about fifty thousand square miles; estimated to be about the size of New York State.
As most lawns are laden with these toxins, they are not simply effecting the lawn in which it is defused in, but in reality, an entire eco system – an effect so large it is virtually impossible to quantify the ramifications.
Herbicides and pesticides are petroleum based products, making them naturally toxic produce, apply and discard. In addition, the wide array of chemicals in these products have been known to cause cancer, effect the central nervous system, cause deformities in fetuses, harm pets, children and adults, as well as cause death.
One of the most common popular herbicides sold today is 2,4-dichlorephenoxyacetic or 2,4-D, as it is more commonly known, is one of the key ingredients in Agent Orange. After having seen the ongoing destruction that it has caused human life and the eco system in Vietnam, how is such a product still on the shelves, and worst, on our lawns where our children and our pets play.
These products are designed to enforce plants to artificially bloom out of season that results in the plant building a natural protection from these chemicals, eventually creating a resistance, therefore requiring more potent chemicals.
These chemicals, in turn, are a detriment to all plant, insect and animal life in its perimeter; killing what is beneficial to local regions, through nitrogen fixing, maintaining biodiversity or pollinating.
When herbicides and/or pesticides are released into the environment they seep into the ground, immediately effecting our ground water and our aquifers – directly effecting our drinking water. New York City residents do not have lawns, yet drink chemical laden water. In 2002 thirty-seven pesticides were traced in waterways leading to the Croton River Watershed – a clear indication of serious contamination.
After irrigating or after a rain, all these chemicals are washed into the storm drains and straight into our oceans. For cities whose drains end up at treatment plant, these chemicals are not broken down and still end up in our oceans, rivers and streams.
These excess nutrient based products cause areas in our aquatic systems that result in algae blooms, which deprive our bodies of water of oxygen, creating dead zones – areas where no life can thrive. Dead zones have become a recurring problem in the Gulf Coast, off the coast of Texas, where all plant and aquatic life in that region ceases to exist. This is a serious problem that is drastically effecting our fishing industries, and in turn our food supply.
On a more philosophical level, lawns represent constraint, enforced conformity and repression. Lawns represent monocultures – the antitheses of what our country embodies – diversity. Mowing a lawn physically prevents the opportunity of sexual reproduction in the plant kingdom.
So, if not lawns, then what? There are several alternatives to the old American lawn, some options may require more work than others, ultimately, it depends on your desire and aesthetic. One probable and logical solution is eliminating the lawn completely and designing a food forest. It is estimated that a standard yard can yield several hundred pounds of fruits and vegetables per year. Don’t have an inclination to be self sufficient and grow your own food? Consider creating a natural habitat with local flora and fauna that does not require the usual copious amounts of pesticides, herbicides, water and energy.
Another option is the idea of a Freedom Lawn. It is a concept that emerged in the early ’90’s, that allows nature to take her course, naturally. It consists of seed grass and a variety of other grass-like elements that occur only in their natural state. It is more water and energy tolerant and may require less mowing since it probably looks best with a cushion. When mowed, it is preferred to be done with a push-mower.
Just imagine the elimination of all those gas guzzling, noise polluting nature repressing tools – how lovely life would be!