APPENDIX to ‘Beautiful Green Grass?’


(compiled by Pat Newman,

According to the government’s National Centers for Disease Control (CDC):  Americans alone churn through 75 million pounds of pesticides each year to keep the bugs off their pea pods and petunias. When those chemicals get into waterways, fish ingest them and become diseased. Humans who eat diseased fish can themselves become ill, completing the circle wrought by pollution.


Permaculture Research Institute (re lawns):  Amazingly, we have found a way to both destroy the environment and ruin animal habitat, all the while giving ourselves heaps of work without any real return on the effort.

It would be bad, but not as bad, if our lawns weren’t so demanding. They go against nature. We fight weeds and trees from invading the landscape, which is desperately trying to repair itself with these pioneering species. We work sparingly with animals, leaving perches few and far between for the birds, vast expanses of land with no rockeries nor rotting wood for the lizards and frogs. The whole thing keeps growing, and we keep insisting that it stay short and green, its edges crisp and clear against the driveway, the sidewalk.  We spend a lot of cash and a lot of time on the lawn.

For the battle against nature, we arm ourselves with petroleum-powered machinery. Our lawnmowers consume dwindling gas reserves while belching out unregulated carbon emissions into our seemingly pristine oases. Weed whackers are no better, weed killers even worse. We send bags of grass clippings, leaves, sticks and all other organic matter away in trucks, only to apply chemicals to keep the grass growing because nothing has been left to revitalize the soil to the sufficient level of richness it was when we had it trucked in. Somewhere near the sidewalk, with the sprinkler system spritzing, we post signs requesting others to please not walk on the grass.

That patch of green isn’t necessary; we’ve been growing grass in our yards for less than a century. And there are plenty of alternatives. Xeriscaping (also called xerogardening), for example, uses native plants and mulch to limit the amount of water and maintenance needed in a garden.  You could replace the grass with clover, which requires little water and no herbicides and could give you a constant supply of luck (and food for bees). Habitat gardening has the added benefit of attracting wildlife to your space. Or you can plant wildflowers—even replace your concrete driveway. My favorite solution is to replace your lawn with a meadow.


The Guardian

…who decided that “green” means “grassy”? Maybe that’s heresy, but I am saving money, protecting bees, birds, butterflies and other critters and definitely doing more to protect – and nurture – the nature I love.


HuffPost:  Nicki Fotheringham blog

Don’t worry; you don’t have to go cold turkey on the grass patch. Start by reducing the size of your lawn. You can augment this reduction by installing simple pathways of rocks, stepping stones or lumber. Ponds and water features also help to occupy all that new garden real estate.


You can slowly start introducing some lawn alternatives; perennial groundcovers that grow sideways so they don’t need to be mowed, but still provide a luscious green carpet for your tootsies. A really popular choice at the moment is microclover which spreads fast, looks great and flowers too. Opt for other hardy perennials such as dwarf dogwood, alyssum, verbena, sweet woodruff, cotoneaster, and bishops weed. You can also plant herbs like juniper, thyme, chamomile, and oregano which make for luscious, fragrant carpets.


 Washington Post

“Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution has the potential to become one of the costliest, most difficult environmental problems we face in the 21st century,” concluded the EPA in 2009.


A few more ideas and data from various sources:

– Regular mowing reduces wildlife habitat, destroys nesting wildlife, and eliminates food for pollinating insects that farmers, flower growers, and Nature depend on.

– Lawn clippings blown into storm drains carry fertilizers and pesticides that kill water animals and deposit so much nitrogen that algae growth goes crazy – which also kills the water dwellers.  When the algae die, they sink to the bottom and decompose in a process that removes oxygen from the water. Fish and other aquatic species can’t survive in these so-called “dead zones.

– Several million tons of fertilizer are used for non-agricultural land each year.

– About 35,000 gallons of water and about 70 million lbs of pesticides (insecticides and/or herbicides)

are used specifically for lawns each year in the U.S.

– The average riding mower emits the same amount of pollution as 34 cars.   All mower emissions = those of 3.5 million cars each driving 16,000 miles per year.

– Noise pollution is a significant irritant for many people and has a negative impact on wildlife, particularly during their breeding season.

– Children in homes commonly using lawn pesticides were 6 ½ times more likely to develop leukemia in a National Cancer Institute study from many years ago.  (I don’t have more current data than this, but likely it is available from NCI or CDC.)


On the other hand, rather than expanses of lawn and other tired old concepts,



A “conservation landscape, which, (defined by the Chesapeake Landscape Conservation Council)

  1. Is designed to benefit the environment and function efficiently and aesthetically for human use and well-being;
  2. Uses locally native plants that are appropriate for site conditions;
  3. Institutes a management plan for the removal of existing invasive plants and the prevention of future nonnative plant invasions;
  4. Provides habitat for wildlife;
  5. Promotes healthy air quality and minimizes air pollution;
  6. Conserves and cleans water;
  7. Promotes healthy soils;
  8. Is managed to conserve energy, reduce waste, and eliminate or minimize the use of pesticides and fertilizers.

For information on building wildlife habitat, contact the National Wildlife Federation and the Rock Creek Conservancy, both in the Washington, DC area.

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