When facing big, complex problems, like climate change, it’s easy to feel helpless and hopeless. But if

you ever doubt that one person, one neighborhood, and one community can make a difference, take a look in your own backyard. The largest irrigated crop in the US is grass. It covers 3 times the land area of the runner-up, corn, or about 2 percent of the total land area in the continental US. That is a whole lot of potential for change! Rethinking how we landscape, how we mow, and how we treat our lawns can have a significant impact on the environment.

Stop the Lawn Shaming! A Shift Towards Environmentally Friendly Landscaping

Have you ever noticed this phenomenon? Your lawn is looking a little shaggy, so you mow it. A few hours later, your neighbor is out there cutting the grass, then another, then another. Soon the whole street is freshly manicured. Mowing is contagious. While there isn’t really a scientific basis for this claim, you’ve probably seen it in action in your own neighborhood!

There is some logic behind it though: Paul Robbins, University of Madison professor and author of Lawn People: How Grasses, Weeds, and Chemicals Make Us Who We Are, explains, “Shame used to be leveled against people who didn’t take care of their lawns enough.” It was a matter of keeping up with the Joneses. You didn’t want to be those people.

The Lawn Revolution

A shift is taking place, though. As Robbins says, “If you take too good care of your lawn, you’re wasting water.” And lots of it. Landscape and lawn irrigation accounts for one-third of all residential water use – or about 9 billion gallons a day. Half of this is wasted through evaporation, wind, and runoff.

You’re also wasting fuel. Conventional gas-powered mowers are only 20% efficient; if your car performed as poorly, you’d trade it in as fast as that gas-guzzler would get you to a dealership. Another problem is that about 17 million gallons of gas are spilled annually while refueling lawn andlandscaping equipment. That’s 6.2 million gallons more than the devastating Exxon Valdez spill of 1989. And we do this each and every year.

Running one gas-powered 24HP zero-turn commercial mower for an hour produces as much carbon emissions as 88 cars traveling at 55 mph, and an hour of yard work with your residential gas-powered mower produces the equivalent of 11 cars traveling for one hour.

And then there are the toxic chemicals. Guess which uses more pesticides per acre: suburban lawns or agricultural fields? If you guessed the ‘burbs, you are right. Pesticide use is linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, birth defects, ADHD, and issues with the nervous, reproductive, and endocrine systems.

No more lawn shaming or trying to keep up with the Joneses! It’s time that we start to make real, impactful changes to how we treat these valuable greenspaces.

Can You Have Your Lawn and Mow it Too?

Sure! You can have beautiful, vibrant grounds that are also healthy, environmentally responsible, and sustainable. How?

  • Opt for native plants and grasses that work with your area’s climate/soil conditions. They are adapted to your area, they help reduce water runoff, and they provide a natural habitat for pollinators.
  • Consider drought-resistant species. There are even drought-resistant grasses that require much less irrigation, such as hybrid Bermuda, Zoysia, Common Bermuda, Seashore paspalum, St. Augustine, Kikuyu, Tall and Red Fescues, Ryegrass, and Kentucky Bluegrass.
  • Use some of your space for crops. Why not plant a garden and grow some fresh produce for your family and friends? Use natural alternatives to pesticides (everything from dish soap and water to beer works) and reduce your mowing requirements. You can even go for extra credit and compost any organic scraps to feed your lawn and garden.
  • Leave your grass clippings. When you just leave the clippings, they add nutrients back into the ground. You significantly reduce the need for fertilizer. If the clippings are less than one inch in length, they decompose very rapidly and will not harm your grass’s health or appearance.
  • Switch to an electric mower or hire landscapers who focus on green practices. Mean Green Mowers require zero fuel, produce zero emissions, and dramatically cut the noise. Your maintenance checklist is also virtually non-existent. There are incentive programs for companies that want to switch to commercial mowers. As consumers and individuals, we can support businesses that deliver green solutions.

The Surprising Power of Lawns

Our backyards can be a tremendous force for environmental change. Evidence shows that the

average lawn can capture carbon more effectively than an untouched ecosystem. They can also helpkeep homes cooler in the hot months, reduce the “heat island” effect in cities, and support essential biodiversity.

Dr. Carly Ziter, a Concordia University professor, conducted research into the power of our personal green spaces. She says, “We have more land in yards than in parks or other areas we tend to think of as green space and infrastructure. As a citizen, I can make a difference. I can manage it in a way that contributes to the ecological fabric of the city and the life of the city.”

All that, and our lawns and yards can look great too!

Remember, one person can make a difference – especially if they inspire their neighbors, community, and the businesses they support to take action. Mean Green Mowers is committed to reducing environmental impact and creating a greener future… one lawn at a time. Get in touch with us to see how we can help you.