They may look green, but many lawns are anything but. American homeowners frequently use toxic chemicals on their lawns to keep them green and lush; this can amount to up to 10 pounds of pesticides per acre. When it rains, these pesticides are flushed into local streams, rivers, and lakes, harming animals, insects, fish and plant life along the way.
Here are some tips to make sure your grass looks great and is still safe for pets, children, and all living things!
Choosing the Right Mower
Using a gas-powered mower for just one hour produces the same amount of air pollution that a car emits from driving 100 miles. Luckily, there are many low-energy, high-quality alternatives to conventional gas mowers.
Rotary Mowers. The “old fashion” hand-powered mowers your great-grandparents used are making a comeback! Homeowners with smaller lawns find rotary mowers particularly appealing for their maneuverability, low maintenance cost, and minimal environmental impact.
Electric Mowers (Corded). Electric mowers emit far fewer pollutants than gasoline-powered machines. Additionally, they’re much quieter and are often easier to push than their gas-guzzling counterparts.
Battery-Powered Mowers. Today, many electric mowers (and other pieces of lawn and garden equipment, such as weedwhackers and leaf blowers) operate with battery packs that can be electrically recharged. These mowers offer many of the same benefits as traditional electric mowers, though the batteries may have a somewhat limited shelf-life (often about five years). And, because the batteries contain heavy metals, they must be disposed of in a hazardous waste facility.
Many local utilities offer discounts on new, electric-powered lawn care equipment to businesses and homeowners who trade in their gasoline-powered appliances. Contact your power company to find out if they offer such a program. Adopting additional environmentally friendly lawn care practices can also make a big difference. You’ll want to:
Mow only when absolutely necessary. For most lawns, this means cutting your grass no lower than 2.5 inches. Keeping grass as long as 3.5 inches is ideal for crowding out crab grass and other weeds, and longer grass is known to retain water better (meaning a greener lawn)!
Use natural fertilizers or compost. These fertilizers release nutrients slowly throughout the year, won’t leach away, and support a variety of soil organisms that combat common plant diseases.
Seek out lawn care companies that use natural management practices. As opposed to heavy chemical treatments, which many popular lawncare companies use today, natural management avoids the health and environmental hazards of lawn pesticides.
Leave grass clippings on the lawn. It will make your job easier AND it’s more environmentally friendly! This will provide your lawn with a natural (and free) source of nutrients. You can also use these clippings as compost in your garden.
Create healthy soil. Earthworms and other soil organisms keep the soil healthy. By moving through the soil, they allow water and air to penetrate the surface while simultaneously recycling thatch back into nutrients that the grass can use. If you see an earthworm in your yard, don’t kill it! Instead, place it somewhere where it can safely burrow back down into the dirt.
Using Less Water
A study from the University of California calculated that approximately 50% of the state’s residential water consumption was used for landscape irrigation—a number which gets considerably larger the more inland you travel. While good landscaping has been shown to improve the quality of life for residents who are able to enjoy it, this is A LOT of water to use on watering grass.
The solution? The best way to conserve water is to reduce the amount of landscaping required to maintain your yard. Consider:
Xeriscaping. Given how labor- and water-intensive maintaining a lawn can be, why not opt for a yard that’s grass-free? Some alternative ground covers that require little mowing or watering include yarrow, alyssum, clover, thyme, and sweet woodruff. Before planting, check with a local nursery to make sure the option you choose can tolerate your local climate conditions.
Watering deeply but infrequently. Grasses do best when the whole root zone is wetted and then dries out between waterings. Avoid frequent shallow watering that causes poor root development. Overwatering also promotes lawn disease. Water in the early morning when temperatures are cooler to minimize evaporation.
Checking your sprinkler system regularly. Adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk, or street.
Collecting and using rainwater. Water your garden with a rain barrel, or direct downspouts and/or gutters toward shrubs and trees.
Installing a drip irrigation system. This form of micro-irrigation can be placed around your trees and shrubs to help you preserve soil quality and water more efficiently.
National Young Farmers Coalition is an EarthShare Nonprofit Partner dedicated to championing policies that recognize farming as a public service and building connection between people and the land in the face of our ongoing climate crisis. By supporting young farmers with resources and training, and by sharing their stories, National Young Farmers Coalition strives to remake our food systems to be more equitable, just, and sustainable—ideal for both people and planet.
Meet the folks behind National Young Farmers Coalition and learn about the work they’re doing every day to help young farmers and our environment.
As the name suggests, for lands to be habitable by humans and other living organisms, they must be able to produce and support life. Today, 29% of land on earth is barren and unable to support life (microbes not withstanding); either covered by glaciers or made up of rocky or sedimentary terrain such as deserts, salt flats, sand dunes, and beaches.
Regenerative agriculture is the practice of enriching the land through farming and other agricultural practices; an effort that has been led by Indigenous Communities for thousands of years. Rather than stripping the ground of its nutrients, regenerative practices add to the health and strength of the soil and the overall ecosystem. In essence, it is a decolonization of agriculture as a whole.
It is, “a pathway to an abundant and resilient future…shifting from the narrative of human dominion to one of healing our relationship with the Earth” (One Earth). As a result, farms become more resistant to climate-related threats such as drought, flooding, and extreme shifts in temperature.
Sustainable agriculture is the first step forward to achieving regenerative agriculture. This is accomplished through the introduction of practices to improve environmental health, reduce the use of freshwater and harmful pesticides, and improve carbon storage in the soil.