When you drive through neighborhoods today, you see perfectly manicured lawns with grass as green and lush as a springtime meadow. You think to yourself, “What a beautiful lawn-that must have taken quite a bit of maintenance,” and you would be right-it does. You would not, however, be thinking to yourself about the environmental impact a lawn like that would create -why would you be? The lawn is all natural, and so is therefore helping the environment, right?
The Hidden Environmental Impact of Lawns
Wrong. In order to maintain a beautiful lawn, you need fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals harmful to both the environment and yourself. You need water, and a lot of it. Most harmful of all, however, is the lawnmower used in cutting that lush, green grass to keep it from turning into an uneven, multi-colored sea in your front yard.
A study conducted a while back at the University of Callaghan in Newcastle, NSW, found that lawnmowers contribute 5.2 and 11.6 percent of CO and NMHC emissions in the Newcastle region alone. In fact, a 2007 report by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities gives an example of a brushcutter that meets USEPA emissions standards (something Australia lacks) as creating as much pollution in an hour as 10 cars in the same amount of time. It estimates that domestic, non-regulated brushcutters are likely emit several times more pollutants.
Overseas, it's no different The gas-powered lawnmower emits the same amount of pollution in one hour as a car driven for up to 100 miles, according to a Swedish study conducted in 2001. According to a US government body, the Environmental Protection Agency USEPA), 54 million Americans alone mow their lawns each week, contributing as much as 5 percent of the nation's air pollution. And it does not stop there. It is estimated that over 17 million gallons of gasoline are spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment, contaminating both water sources and the air. Lawn mowers also release high levels of CO2, volatile organic compounds, and nitrogen oxides, according to PeoplePoweredMachines.com.
Now What Do You Do?
So how do you maintain your lawn if you can not use that trusty mower you've had the early 80's? You could get yourself an imported mower from places such as the United States, Europe, or Canada, who all have set emissions standards. However, their standards still do not alleviate the oil-spilling problem. You could get yourself an electrical mower, if you want to spend anywhere from $ 700- $ 2,000. You can only use electrical mowers on small lawns, however, because they need to be plugged into an outlet at all times, and, depending on your electrical company, can be just as damaging as fuel-powered mowers.
The Friendly Alternative
So what is the most environmentally friendly way to maintain a beautiful lawn? Synthetic grass. For those of you opposed to artificial grass, keep in mind the environmental-as well as aesthetic-appealing of having a synthetic lawn. On average, a natural lawn needs about 25 millimeters of water a week. Annually, Australia gets about 472 millimeters of rain a year. In only 18 days, a natural lawn uses just as much water as the entire country receives on average in any given year. Synthetic grass, however, uses no water for sustenance. On top of that, it drains what water does hit it back into the soil beneath it. Turf also requires minimal maintenance, which means-you guessed it! -no mowing. You would no longer have to worry about finding an eco-friendly alternative to that old mower you've had for years, or about your front yard turning into a sea of green and brown. Most of all, you would no longer have to worry about spilling oil when refueling your mower. With a synthetic lawn, you could say goodbye to your old oil-spilling, CO2 and nitrogen oxide emitting mower, and hello to a cleaner, more beautiful atmosphere.