A perfectly manicured, green turf grass or lawn has been a status symbol since the Industrial Revolution. Everyone could finally afford to have a lawn, not just wealthy estates. But at what costs? A manicured lawn requires a lot of money, chemicals, energy, and resources to maintain. Many of the lawn chemicals we apply have negative impacts on human and pet health, our waterways, wildlife and surrounding plants. Maybe it’s time to join turf grass anonymous and follow the 12 step program below, in exchange for a healthier world!
- Ignore the media and advertisements that say we need a perfect, manicured weed free lawn or the claims that lawns are environmentally friendly.
- Educate ourselves about the harmful effects of pesticides, especially on children, pets and wildlife. Pesticides include insecticides, herbicides (weed killers), and fungicides. Resources:
- Learn to live with a few lawn weeds. Many lawn weeds are beneficial to bees and butterflies, as explained in the article Why can’t weed be friends? In nature, diversity equates to health, so to try to grow a monoculture of lawn is against the laws of nature and requires chemical warfare to achieve.
- Understand the impact of fertilizers or nutrient pollution on our waterways and soils. Fertilizer run-off from our lawns enters our local rivers, which goes into the Mississippi, then the Gulf, and eventually the oceans, creating Dead Zones. Have your soils tested first to check if it even needs fertilizer. Don’t assume it does.
- Soil testing labs: http://extension.illinois.edu/soiltest/
- Fertilizer Pollution Fact Sheet http://www.mchenryswcd.org/pdfs/Nutrient%20Factsheet%205.1.pdf
- Learn to maintain your lawn organically. There are many organic lawn care resources, below are just a few. More organic lawn companies will be available, if you demand it.
- Start using a reel, electric or solar lawn mulching mower, electric leaf blowers, electric leaf vacuum, or hand rake.Gas powered mowers and blowers generate more noise and air pollution than a car. Mow higher. Allow lawn to go dormant during droughts. Conserving a precious resource like water during a drought is more important than a green lawn.
- Mowing emissions FAQ: http://www.peoplepoweredmachines.com/faq-environment.htm
- Most importantly, convert more areas of lawn to wildlife habitat gardens, and edible gardens. Not only will nature benefit, but we humans benefit, receiving ecosystem services for free and saving us millions of dollars. Ecosystem services http://www.teebweb.org/resources/ecosystem-services/.
- Hire a environmental landscape professional such as Good-Natured Landscapes to design a landscape with less lawn.
- Work with local officials to reduce lawn and encourage organic lawn care, especially at parks and schools.
- Healthy Park Campaign, Activist Toolkit: http://midwestpesticideaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/MPAC-The-Activists-Toolkit.pdf
- Talking to officials about organic lawn care http://www.beyondpesticides.org/pesticidefreelawns/training/
10. Be the inspiration, help others – put out yard signs, handouts, give yard tours and educate your neighbors. Never be brash when talking to others because most times folk just don’t know why or how to change. Compliment or thank a neighbor who has violets, dandelions or clover in their lawns.
- Talking to your neighbors about pesticides: http://midwestpesticideaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/MPAC-Talking-to-Your-Neighbors-About-Pesticides1.pdf
11 Keep learning while enjoying more birds, butterflies, cleaner water, less noise, and the satisfaction of knowing you are doing the right thing, even in the face of critisim. Change is slow and difficult sometime
12. Hope some day organic lawns with some weeds will become the norm, not the exception. More importantly, let’s hope there will be a lot less lawn and more habitat to benefit people, pets, wildlife, and waterways.
BTW: Turf Grass Anonymous is not a real organization, but just a term used here to get a point across in this article.