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Guest Blog: On Earth Day . . . To Lawn, or Not to Lawn?

Or Maybe That’s Not the Question

By Donna Morin Miller

Donna Morin Miller is a health counselor in Wrentham, Mass.

Donna Morin Miller is a health counselor in Wrentham, Mass.

SEEMS LIKE EVERY TIME I READ about organic lawn care, I see a comment from the purist sector that argues how lawns are wrong and wasteful. They require inordinate amounts of water to maintain and provide little environmental benefit.

I agree. Lawns are resource-intensive, not only in terms of water, but also in physical labor, the gas or electricity required to keep them mowed, and the money drained from my bank account to re-seed, aerate, and fertilize. If it were up to me, my lawn and all the other acres of lawn in my development would be planted with native Hawthorns, hardy daylilies, and perennial purple asters. There’d not be a blade to be spied.

If it were up to me.

Unfortunately, I and all the other environmental purists are in the minority. America has developed the same love affair for lawns that it has for a morning cup of joe. We toss the Frisbee on them, roll through them, and lay in them while searching the skies for shapes. And yes, the chemical industry has created a near-impossible image of the ideal lawn, in all its shag-carpeted glory, leaving us to believe that if our men are grilling anywhere near a dandelion, they lose all sense of manhood right then and there.

So what is the planet-friendly among us to do?

Well, we start by showing our neighbors that they can have a lawn, and a close-to-green-shag-carpet-as-possible lawn without the use of chemicals. We talk about the importance of bugs and worms in the soil and how killing those sets up a life-long dependence on lawn chemistry. We compare the cost of treating a lawn organically to the pricey four-step package they’re paying for, and how the costs of organic decrease over time as the perennial blades begin to care for themselves. Maybe, when they’re ready, we let them know how a natural yard encourages wildlife to thrive.

Although it would be nice to see lawns disappear overnight, it’s simply not a realistic expectation. It’s the equivalent of asking the nation to go vegetarian tomorrow. Meat production is also resource-intensive and wouldn’t it be great if everyone loved their dandelion greens like they love their rib-eyes. As a health counselor, I encourage my clients to reduce their meat consumption. Serve meat as a side dish, make at least one daily meal vegetarian, or observe Meatless Mondays. The less meat consumed, the better a client’s health, and the better the health of the planet.

As the saying goes, we have to walk before we can run. Baby steps don’t amount to much when it’s just one person making them, but when we’re all taking baby steps together, that adds up to a whole lot of mileage. So maybe we ought to give the organic lawn care people a break. They’re introducing us to a new kind of love affair, and a quality relationship takes time to grow.

Donna Morin Miller is a freelance writer and owner of Better Off Well health counseling services. You can find her in the yard planting trees and pulling up dandelion greens for smoothies. Check her out at http://betteroffwell.com

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1024
  • OhioMom

    Great post. Here in suburbia, “responsible” you are tends to be judged by how nice your home looks. If you have lots of dandilions, you must not be responsible. There’s peer pressure to keep the neighborhood looking the way everyone wants it to. Hopefully our perception of what’s responsible will be changing as we take a more big-picture look at what we’re doing to our water supply, rivers, health, wildlife, etc.

    I would be happy to let the dandilions proliferate on our property. However, my husband would be mortified. So, as a compromise, I’ve found an “organic” lawn care service. My concern is that they link to safelawns.org, but aren’t an approved contractor. I’m not sure what that means. Anyway, they’re the best option I’ve found in the area so far, so I’m going to go with them for this year. I’m hoping to be an advocate (troublemaker? ha ha) in my neighborhood for rethinking our priorities.

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