Recently finished reading this book American Green The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn by Ted Steinberg (rented from the library of course!). It walks you through the history of lawns and their environmental impact. It was actually an interesting read considering what might seem like a dull topic. I highly recommend.
I have a very small lawn and apart from seeding and watering the occasional bare spot, mowing is about the only form of lawn maintenance we do. Despite not being the extremest depicted by this book, I will still never look at lawns the same way again.
Here are a few highlights from what I learned:
- Turf is one of America’s leading crops – there is twice as much as cotton
- More herbicides are applied to lawns than to crop farms
- The average American spends 1/2 a day per week on their lawn (26 days a year!)
- Turf grass is not native to North America
- A lot of people are hurt each year in accidents related to lawn care
- Lawns are a social status symbol
What is wrong with us? Seriously.
One discussion in the book has also stuck with me. The author points out that many of us consider our lawns as separate from nature. I go to conservation areas for walks with my dog and child often but never really viewed my lawn as being a part of the environment in the same way. Here are two small quotes from the book:
“Yet the issue has consumed nowhere near the attention and resources showered on the preservation of wilderness areas. […] It is wrong to draw a sharp line in one’s imagination between the “nature” present on the Rocky Mountain front and that available in the suburbanite’s own front yard. The natural world found on even the most perfect and stylized of lawns is no less real than that at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Different, yes, but to draw too sharp a distinction between the sparsely settled world of Alaska and the dense suburbs […] is a prescription for the plundering of natural resources. It is easy to see how the yard, conceived as less natural and this less important than the spotted owl, is easily ignored.”
“We cannot in fairness rail against those who destroy the rain forest or threaten the spotted owl when we have made our own yards uninhabitable”
I think I am going to do some research into native plants in my area and try to brainstorm ways to make my property a more integral part of nature. I will say that when I installed my first ever garden this past summer (see photo) there were several butterflies that visited our yard (to my daughter’s delight) that were not there before. I hope to increase this further. The husband is also involved in road design and I might see if I can subtly sneak in a conversation about community green spaces.