Do We Need Lawns?

Americans have prided themselves on having a fresh cut, lush, green lawn to the point that it’s part of our culture.

Image result for hank hill fresh lawnSorry Hank, I’m not really a fan of propane or propane accessories, either. 


Dads traditionally mowed the lawn every weekend, kids would play in the sprinklers, and remember those little flags parents would pop in the soil to let neighbors with dogs or children know they had just sprayed pesticides or weed killer all over their property?


Image result for toxic lawn flag

Photo Courtesy:

“Adorable” little flags that were like, “Hey, this is poisonous today, but come back tomorrow and you can bring your slip n’ slide.” Yayyyyy.

Image result for slip and slide dangerous gif


But what is the point of a lawn? Really? To have something that looks nice?

Yeah, I’m over that. 

Lawns are basically just a bragging right and a sign of affluence. But in reality, maintaining a lawn is environmentally costly in three significant ways:

Why are lawns “bad?” 

1.) To maintain a lawn, fresh water must be used to ensure the grass can thrive. This is often achieved by sprinkler systems, which are not very effective. A lot of water is lost to evaporation and transpiration with sprinkler systems, even if they are run at night. There is a global water shortage, even if the area you live in is not currently struggling, that doesn’t give us a right to take water unnecessarily.

2.) Maintaining a lawn requires fertilizers, weed killers, and pesticides, which are added to the ground and run off into our water supply during rain storms, or just by watering the grass. These chemicals are toxic, and the nutrients from fertilizers exacerbate algal blooms, which are often toxic as well, and create hypoxic (dead) zones in bodies of water. Also all these products are packaged in plastic, including grass seeds.

3.)  Lawn mowing, weed whacking, etc. all require gasoline unless you have swapped out your engine to something that runs on peanut farts or whatever. The gas used to power these mowers contributes about 5% of the nation’s pollution. Running these machines emits carbon and greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Again, why? Because we want to show off to our neighbors?

4.) Even if you use a battery-powered lawnmower, the manufacturing process of these devices carries its own pollution issues.  Some batteries can be recycled, but let’s face it, a certain percent of Americans fail to do this. Dead batteries can end up in landfills, causing ground water pollution.

5.) Except for these 2 companies, most mowers are not made in the United States. Many state that they are assembled in the US, but the parts are actually made in pollution-torn countries like China. These parts are designed with very limited life spans (technical obsolescence); which causes homeowners to have to buy several mowers instead of one that last virtually a lifetime… which used to be the case.

6.) Mowing and other lawn care chores create dust and disperse pollen and other allergens into the air. That includes pesticides and weedkillers that have been applied.




So, what do I do instead?

To not have a lawn does not mean you have have a dirt patch in your front lawn an a broken down car resting on cinder blocks. Come on, now.

There are beautiful alternatives to lawns, from pebble gardens, to adding succulents or cacti -plants that require little water to survive.

Photo Courtesy: HGTV


Image result for sustainable lawn

Ooh la la, so fancy. 

I think pebble gardens are beautiful and a wonderful alternative to thirsty lawns. But this still isn’t my favorite alternative to lawns. Not even close. I think there is an even more sustainable, more environmentally friendly, and even more beautiful replacement for the traditional grass lawn, oh yeah, and it can benefit your family as well.


Turn your lawn into a garden

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Beautiful landscape? Check! Fresh, healthy produce? Check!

Forget farm to table, how about front yard to table? This could be you, my friends. And this isn’t far fetched. Many families and individuals are transforming their useless front lawn into a useful produce garden. This isn’t a new idea, other countries have been doing this for centuries.

In Japan, lawns are pretty rare. Almost all private land is dedicated to personal farming, from rice paddies to vegetable gardens. It is beautiful taking a train through the Japanese countryside and not seeing manicured lawns that look like tacky Trump golf courses, but instead, lush vegetables and pristine fields of rice paddies, providing nutritious food at a local level.

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Photo Courtesy:


But there is a slight catch with home vegetable gardening, unfortunately. You can’t just go out and get a bunch of seeds, toss them into some dirt, and hope for a mixed green salad next week.

Gardening can be difficult, and if it’s not done properly, can be very wasteful. My advice is to “apprentice” with an experienced gardener. Maybe you have someone in your family, a neighbor, someone at school, or shoot, even try getting in with a community garden to learn some skills.

Then, start with some basic vegetables like lettuces, herbs, and things that are relatively fast and easy to grow.


How to build a vegetable garden from lawn in three days



I like this video because he uses cuttings from old vegetables to regrow new ones, that’s true zero wasting! But there is a scene where he uses a water bottle to propagate some herbs, and you know how I feel about plastic water bottles. You can use a shot glass, or really any narrow glass that allows the top of the herb to stay dry while the root area sits in water.

Oh yeah, we have a ton of information on growing vegetables from cuttings, check it out:

Regrow your vegetables from cuttings! Regrow your vegetables from cuttings! 



Sustainable Gardening in the Bay Area:

I’m a big fan of John from Growing your own Greens. Another Bay Area resident, he has a lot of good advice on sustainable gardening practices we can all implement in our own personal gardens.


One last thing: for those of you currently watering your lawns, take a break and see how much money you save. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. You can allocate those savings into new sustainable projects, like gardening, or designing a sustainable landscape (See video above).

Now, go get your hands dirty! ❤



John of 

Photo of lawn garden courtesy of:

Sources: National Emissions from Lawn and Garden Equipment

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