The Costs of Conventional Lawn Care
(Adapted from PlanetNatural.com)
Americans collectively spend big bucks — about $40 billion annually — on seed, sod and chemicals.
Much of that money goes to products that “help” grass only in the most superficial ways and that degrade the soil, pollute any water they reach, and pose serious health threats to humans, their pets, and any wildlife in the area, including birds. As people become aware of these facts, attitudes towards conventional fertilizers and pesticides are beginning to change.
In the U.S., a number of cities and towns have restricted the use of pesticides on school grounds or in parks. Locally, the Naperville Park District has suspended the application of chemical weed killer on playgrounds in response to a petition questioning the district’s weed control efforts in parks.
Kentucky bluegrass is one of the most prevalent grasses in North America. It makes for a beautiful lawn but requires enormous amounts of water, which hurts both the environment and your pocketbook. A sustainable landscaping presentation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that watering lawns accounts for 30 to 60 percent of water consumption during the summer months.
There are other costs of planting a grass that isn’t well suited to the land or its rainfall. We end up using tons of soil amendments, fertilizers and pesticides to keep things looking good. Yet lawns, combined with gardens and other landscaping, do a lot of good. They muffle traffic and other noise pollution, and like all green plants, lawns help reduce carbon dioxide levels. They act as filters, removing pollutants from the air that we breath. And nothing beats grass as a place for kids to play.
Going organic doesn’t mean you have to give up your lawn, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you have to give up the rest of your life tending for your lawn. It means planting what will do well in your climate, watering deeply but infrequently, and avoiding the use of dangerous and expensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This site should help, whether you’re ready to dive in head first, or just want to dip a toe in organic waters.
How Green is Your Lawn?
- 40-60% of nitrogen from fertilizer runs off or leaches away, ending up in ground or surface water, including wells.
- 60-70 million birds die from pesticide poisoning each year in the US alone.
- In the US, 30 percent of water consumed on the East Coast waters lawns, 60 percent on the West Coast.
- Close to 70 million pounds of pesticides (including herbicides) are applied to US lawns each year. This is approximately ten times the amount applied to American farmland, acre for acre.
- As of 2004, about 70 million tons of fertilizer were used on US lawns each year.