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Lawns & Global Warming

The Benefits of Lawns

While we often think of grass as just a pretty natural carpet, growing grass
can actually be beneficial to the environment:

  • According to NASA’s Ames Research Center, U.S. lawns collectively absorb about 12 billion pounds of carbon every year, helping to keep greenhouse gas emissions from harming the atmosphere.
  • Lawns act as a filter to help purify rainwater as it returns underground. They also act as an anchor for topsoil to help prevent erosion.
  • In other words, lawns are not inherently bad! It’s the way folks sometimes care for them — with synthetic fertilizers, gasoline mowers, toxic pesticides and excessive watering — that create the problems.

The Concerns About Lawns

Unfortunately, most Americans grow and maintain their lawns in ways that can  harm the environment, in part because petrochemicals are the foundation of  most lawn care.  Conventional lawn care gobbles up fossil fuels, exacerbates  global warming, hogs water, and dumps pesticides and synthetic fertilizers into waterways, adversely affecting our natural world.

The impacts to the planet and to the health of our families, pets and the  insects, birds and other critters that share our ecosystem are no longer acceptable.  Consider these facts:

  • In the U.S., approximately 2.2 billion gallons of fossil fuels are used on lawn care each year, making grass a major contributor to global warming.
  • The typical American lawn, about one-third of an acre, requires 10,000 gallons of water a year.  But in dry areas, that can increase to more than 100,000 gallons annually.  And the amount of fuel needed to pump the water is at least equal to the fuel used in mowing. In some cities, as much as two-thirds of urban freshwater is used to water lawns.
  • To create synthetic nitrogen for fertilizers, natural gas must be heated to up to 1,200 degrees.  The amount of natural gas required to make about 100 bags of lawn fertilizer would heat an average-sized home for a year.  Each 40-pound bag of fertilizer contains fossil fuels equivalent to almost 3 gallons of gas.
  • A report from the Seattle Public Utilities finds that up to 64% of the chemicals applied to lawns can run off into waterways.  These chemicals in lakes and streams can kill fish, birds and waterfowl and damage the food web that supports all wildlife.
  • Independent scientific studies have shown that the popular chemical pesticide Roundup is toxic to earthworms, beneficial insects, birds and mammals. Plus, Roundup destroys the vegetation on which animals depend for food and shelter.
  • Pesticides and fertilizers turn our lawns into increasingly needy “junkies.”  In the long run, grass needs more and more chemicals to maintain itself since its natural ecosystem has been destroyed.  It is a vicious and unsustainable circle.
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