Worried About Mass Extinction? Kill Your Lawn

A UN report released today reveals that 1 million species are threatened with extinction thanks to human actions (as in you). The most effective thing we can do is vote out politicians who hate the future, but that takes time and we need to act now. Immediately you can stop buying from water-destroying corporations like Nestle or, if you own a lawn, kill it. This might seem like an odd idea at first; however, once you stop and think about what a lawn is you will find that they are bad for the planet.

Seriously, if you want to stop the mass die off of species and you own land then make that land supportive of local species instead of a monument to human hubris.

A lawn filled with native plants provides habitat for animals, from insects to birds and everything in between. A lawn that’s used to produce food could feed your family, boost neighborhood-level community, and provide jobs (if you don’t have a green thumb). When you run the numbers, it turns that almost anything is better than a grass lawn — except pavement.

My lawn’s days as a grass-based environmental scourge are numbered. I have big plans for my outdoor area: Fruit trees, garden space, native plants. It’s small enough that this project should be manageable, even for a single parent with two small kids.

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The Oppression of Lawns

The concept of a lawn at a residence has a short, but rich, history. Basically, the rich had large estates and to demonstrate their wealth they had large swaths of land not used for cultivation. Today there are still people trying to show off their wealth by owning large lands of uselessness. Things seem to be changing though as people eschew their lawns – some people replace it with something good and others just don’t care about the class association.

Remember that lawns are something you can make a choice about: you can live in a place without the unnecessary space, in hot climates you can try xeriscaping, you can make your landscape green, or you can look into a long list of lawn alternatives.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the traditional American lawn has come in for some scrutiny in recent years. Some, like Baker, are abandoning regular lawn maintenance out of environmental concerns — lawns require fertilizer to grow and gas to mow, and they take up space that could otherwise be used for animal habitat.

Other folks are ditching their lawns because of the amount of water they soak up — 9 billion gallons of it per dayaccording to the EPA. Think of the miracle that is the modern water supply — pristine water pumped hundreds of miles, passed through shiny state-of-the-art filtration systemstreated with miracle chemicals that keep our teeth from falling out of our heads, and available on-demand at the twist of a knob. And then consider that we intentionally dump billions of gallons of that water out on the ground!

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Look at This Landscaping Called Xeriscaping

California is suffering a huge drought due to horrible water use policies and climate change. For some reason people love to have lawns where they naturally shouldn’t exist, this itself leads to massive water wastage and arguably microclimate issues. Thankfully, perhaps people are beginning to understand that their landscaping is a sad attempt to modify their built environment.
A better solution than an artificial environment is a natural one. Xeriscaping may be a good solution to reduce water waste. Check out how it can replace lawns with aesthetic and naturally pleasing solutions.

Til the Well Runs Dry: How Xeriscaping Helps Conserve Water

Alternatives to a Lawn

Lawns require a lot of maintenance and a lot of energy (think water, pumping that water, fertilizer, transporting that fertilizer, and so on) and if you have the space to grow a lawn you have space to do a lot of better things with plants. If you don’t have a garden, or even if you do, here are some really cool alternatives for growing a lawn.

Reducing the size of your lawn can benefit the environment while saving you time, energy and expense. And the result need not be a loss in aesthetic appeal.

Groundcover

These are plants which spread across the ground but do not grow tall, so no cutting is required. Areas planted in groundcover need little to no maintenance. Groundcovers are usually chosen for texture, density and how well they spread and choke out the weeds. They enhance the soil by acting as a mulch, and some groundcovers are nitrogen-fixing.

Clover

Clover is often planted by gardeners as a soil conditioner. It grows quickly and easily, chokes out weeds and is easily ‘turned in’ to the beds when planting time draws near. The deep root system reduces soil compaction. Clover is also a nitrogen-fixing plant, which enriches the soil with natural fertilizer.

More information and more examples can be found here.

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