The single most irrigated crop in the United States is grassy lawn. Yep, 40 million acres of lawn for which Americans collectively spend about $40 billion annually on seed, sod and chemicals. And then there's all that water. If you include golf courses, lawns in America cover an area roughly the size of New York State and require 238 gallons of (usually drinking-quality) water per person, per day. According to the EPA, nearly a third of all residential water use in the US goes toward what is euphemistically known as "landscaping."
Some Folks Are Mighty Protective of Their Lawns
5 Ways to Value Your Lawn
1. Toxic Waste Site
"Lawns use ten times as many chemicals per acre as industrial farmland," writes Heather Coburn Flores, author of Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden And Your Neighborhood into a Community. "These pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides run off into our groundwater and evaporate into our air, causing widespread pollution and global warming, and greatly increasing our risk of cancer, heart disease, and birth defects." In addition, lawn mowers produce several types of pollutants, including ozone precursors, carbon dioxide, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (classified as probable carcinogens by the CDC). In fact, operating a typical gasoline mower produces as much polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons as driving a car roughly 95 miles.
2. Badge of Conformity
We have become a nation of pawns with lawns. Food comes from the drive-thru, entertainment is televised, the concept of play exists on hand-held computers, democracy is a reality show every four years, and that tiny parcel of land we allegedly share with some bailed out bank is inevitably set aside to be a lawn. As described by Ted Steinberg, author of American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn, when it comes to lawns, social and ecological factors often work in coordination. Lawns, writes Ted Steinberg, are "an instrument of planned homogeneity." He asks: "What better way to conform than to make your front yard look precisely like Mr. Smith's next door?"
Grasscycling, in the words of the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB), is "the natural recycling of grass by leaving clippings on the lawn when mowing. Grass clippings will quickly decompose, returning valuable nutrients to the soil." The CIWMB explains that grasscycling saves time, money, and protects the environment for the following reasons: "Mowing time is reduced since the bagging and disposal of clippings is eliminated. Grass clippings add beneficial organic matter to the soil, which provides free fertilizer and produces healthy, green lawns. Grasscycling reduces turf grass fertilizer and water requirements, which can minimize toxic runoff entering storm drains and polluting lakes, creeks, and rivers." Imagine, as Food Not Lawns does, each house not with a lawn but instead with a small organic "Victory" garden from which the family is fed. Imagine those without a lawn joining their local community garden to re-connect and grow their own. Or perhaps you'd like to imagine them getting more hardcore and engaging in some green graffiti, guerilla gardening, and seed bombing. 5. A Place to Plant Your Freak Flag "The vast expanse of forever-green American lawn is not only the most resource intensive agricultural crop in the world," writes Tobias Policha in Green Anarchy, "but also an obscene icon to our arrogant privilege and total alienation from a life in harmony with nature." Two simple suggestions: - Don't mow[/ur;] - Don't water