(NaturalNews) Americans love their lawns and grass is one of the most obvious signs that you're in an American neighborhood. Of course, as Heather Havey points out in her Natural News article The Modern Lawn Contributes to Climate Change, lawns are a significant factor in our climate and pollution.
For many, however, tearing up or plowing our lawns and starting over just isn't likely to happen. So we should consider our lawns themselves and how we can maximize their benefits and minimize or eliminate their pollution factor.
Consider the grass itself. A lawn is a large, living ecosystem of plants, bugs, microscopic organisms, and more. A truly healthy lawn can clean the air around it, add to the oxygen supply, and be beautiful. Our lawns are often one of our most steady sources of exercise and outdoor activities in today's modern life too.
The Machines Reducing our lawn's negative impacts on the planet can be done easily through all aspects of lawn care. First, consider the machines used to mow and maintain the grass. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 54 million Americans mow their lawns every weekend. That's over 800 million gallons of gasoline to power lawn mowers, trimmers, etc.
Most of those machines are basically unregulated for emissions and the EPA says that the average lawn mower in one year produces the same pollution as 43 new cars driven 12,000 miles each. This doesn't even count the 17 million gallons of fuel and oil spilled into ground water supplies every year when fueling or doing maintenance on those lawn machines.
That makes the first (and largest) step towards making your lawn truly green obvious: eliminate the gasoline-powered machines.
Electrics are the perfect solution for mowing, but a push mower is even better. Electrics can still pollute merely because of where the electricity comes from. They also require more materials on the back-end to build them.
Today's push mower, far from the 1950s reel mowers many envision, are much more efficient and easier to use. The heavy, "mow it ten times to get it even" machines have been replaced by light weight, easy to use, one-pass mowers. These are extremely efficient and generally don't require more effort than a standard gas or electric mower.
Edgers, trimmers, and so forth are all available as human-powered alternatives as well.
The Fertilizers The other big impact our lawns have on the environment is the way they're cared for to keep them healthy. Fertilizers are available in three types for the lawn: synthetic chemicals, organics, and mulch.
Looking at the negative aspects first, let's compare the three.
Synthetics: leaching and ground water pollution
Organics: slow acting
Mulch: slow acting, sometimes "dirty"
Now for the positive aspects of each.
Synthetics: fast and easy
Organics: longer-lasting and more beneficial
Mulch: longest-lasting, most ecologically beneficial
Synthetic fertilizers are easy to use and offer a fast solution, but they leach nutrients (in the long run) and if misapplied, can actually kill your lawn. They are also detrimental to the worms and many of the bugs that are of great benefit to your lawn's health and the chemicals can end up in the ground water. Finally, they are very water soluble, so chemical fertilizers often "leech" away nutrients when watered or rained upon.
Organic fertilizers take longer to show benefit, but are healthy for the longer term and help to build soil, encourage a stronger ecosystem within it, and will not harm children or pets. When comparing synthetic to organic fertilizers, think of them as you would an energy drink.
The synthetic fertilizer is the big-boost energy drink you see in the cooler at the convenience store. It's a bright-colored can that offers a promise of huge amounts of energy. The organics are the plain, rather boring-looking orange juice bottle on the next shelf. While the energy drink will give you an almost-immediate shot, you will have to come down (crash) later. Orange juice is good for the longer term, maybe not giving you instant energy, but giving you good energy for the longer haul. And without a crash.
Mulches, of course, are the even longer long-term version of organics. They're the vegetarian burrito on the next shelf over from the OJ. Most lawn care experts recommend that you leave grass clippings on the lawn at least once a year. With a push mower, you can mow the lawn, then "mow" over the clippings to mulch them as finely as possible.
Happy Lawn Overall, it's possible to go completely green with your lawn (literally and figuratively). Your lawn, rather than being a drain on the ecosystem, can become a contributor to it!
Aaron Turpen is a professional writer living in Wyoming in the USA. His blogs cover organic/sustainable living and environmental considerations (AaronsEnvironMental.com) and the science debunking mainstream medical and proving alternatives (HiddenHealthScience.com).