Providing tools and support to families, citizens, and activists to counter our consumerist culture and to create new social norms about how to have a high quality of life and a reduced ecological footprint.
Obsessive about your lawn? You aren't alone. In the American psyche, lawns are important. An immaculate lawn offers silent testimony to the fortitude of the unseen groundskeeper lurking behind the front door. And dandelions? Never has a pretty yellow flower been so universally reviled. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to have a nice yard without all the chemicals. The bottom line is that a green lawn doesn’t have to come at the expense of a green Earth.
If you like the look of grass, consider using native grass species that are adapted to local soils and can better withstand heat and drought. If you're not picky about having a lawn, consider “xeriscaping," or landscaping with plants and grasses that are well adapted to your climate and don’t need a lot of extra water and chemicals to stay healthy.
Whatever approach you take, try to avoid chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides and choose organic alternatives instead, such as compost tea. Organic fertilizers require less energy to produce than synthetic fertilizers and release nutrients more slowly than their synthetic counterparts (making them effective for a longer time). Natural pesticides target individual pests rather than kill indiscriminately, letting the “good” bugs thrive and reducing health risks to children. Alternative pest management techniques, like introducing insects or birds that prey on troublesome species are safer than chemical applications and often have more lasting effects.
For mowing, try the latest generation of manual reel mowers, which are easy to use and take up very little space. Not only can you reduce emissions, but you can also get a little exercise and have a more peaceful lawn care experience. Or, look for electric mowers, which are quieter than gas-powered models and don't release harmful fumes. Many lawn-care companies now specialize in green lawn care—see if there's one located in your community.
Why It’s Important
Unfortunately, the steps we take in the U.S. to keep the roughly 20–30 million acres of lawns a manicured, uniform green leave them anything but green in the natural sense. Every year, Americans apply 70 million pounds of pesticides to home lawns, trees and shrubs, roughly 10 times more per acre than is used on farms. Those little flags that spring up after a dousing are there for a reason: many of these chemicals are hazardous to your health and harmful to the environment.
According to The Green Guide , “Several studies of professional lawn care workers have shown they face of increased risk of non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (NHL), currently the sixth most common malignant cancer in the U.S. Workers in pesticide manufacturing plants have been shown to have higher rates of NHL as well as soft-tissue cancers.”
Nitrates and phosphates from lawn and garden fertilizers pollute the water table, leading to algal blooms that suffocate ponds and lakes by reducing oxygen levels. Air pollution is another problem: the EPA estimates that gasoline-powered landscape equipment—mowers, trimmers, blowers, and chainsaws—account for more than 5 percent of urban air pollution. Finally, lawns are a drain on our water supply: as much as two-thirds of urban freshwater is used to water lawns in some cities.
- EPA’s Healthy Lawn, Healthy Environment, a 19-page guide on how to care for your lawn and protect the environment.
- Come Live With Me: How to make and take care of your own neighborhood of worms.
- Eartheasy’s basics of natural lawn care
- Extremely Green’s thorough organic pest control guide
- Pest Control without Risks. A Greentips article from the Union of Concerned Scientists
- How to compost
- 10 Tips for Low-Maintenance Landscaping
- Discuss tips and techniques with other organic gardeners
- Organic land care tips from the CT and MA chapters of the Northeast Organic Farming Association