The Environmental Impact of Lawns: Rethinking our Green Spaces

I’m sure our neighbours were so happy when the for sale sign went up on our “lawn” in Calgary. We weren’t good lawn people. If you didn’t water and fertilize your lawn, you didn’t need to cut it. Simple! Our neighbour’s lawns grew so well that they had to cut it twice per week and at different angles.

The traditional suburban lawn has long been a symbol of beauty and status. However, as we become more aware of the environmental challenges we face, it’s crucial to reevaluate the impact of our choices on the planet. Surprisingly, lawns, which seem harmless at first glance, can have a significant environmental footprint. In this blog post, we will delve into the reasons why lawns are not environmentally friendly and explore alternative solutions for our outdoor spaces.

1. Water Consumption

Lawns require vast amounts of water to maintain their lush appearance. In many regions, watering lawns contributes to excessive water consumption, especially during dry seasons or in areas prone to drought. In Okotoks, there are restrictions and schedules that you need to be aware of. This high demand for water depletes local water supplies, stressing ecosystems and creating water scarcity issues. Considering that water is a finite resource, it’s important to question whether maintaining a lawn is the best use of this precious commodity.

2. Chemical Dependency

The quest for perfect lawns often leads to a heavy reliance on pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers. These chemicals can have adverse effects on both human health and the environment. Pesticides and herbicides can contaminate water bodies, harming aquatic life and disrupting fragile ecosystems. Synthetic fertilizers contribute to nutrient runoff, which can lead to harmful algal blooms in lakes and coastal areas. Additionally, the overuse of chemicals can degrade soil quality over time, making it less fertile and reducing its ability to support diverse plant life.

3. Energy Consumption

Maintaining a manicured lawn requires a significant amount of energy. Lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and other equipment rely on fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. The collective impact of millions of lawns being maintained with gas-powered equipment should not be underestimated. Transitioning to more sustainable landscape maintenance practices, such as using electric or manual tools, can help reduce carbon emissions and mitigate climate change. There’s also the beer to think about if one has a ride on mower. One needs an entire extra fridge for that!

4. Loss of Biodiversity

Lawns typically consist of a single type of grass, providing a uniform and monotonous landscape. This uniformity eliminates habitats for native plants, insects, and wildlife that are crucial for biodiversity. By replacing diverse natural ecosystems with manicured lawns, we disrupt the delicate balance of local ecosystems, reducing the availability of food and shelter for a variety of species. Embracing native plants and creating natural, wildlife-friendly habitats in our outdoor spaces can help restore biodiversity and support local ecosystems.

5. Opportunity Cost

The large expanse of lawns often means missed opportunities for other land uses that could be more environmentally beneficial. Transforming lawns into productive vegetable gardens, native plant habitats, or even rewilded areas can provide multiple benefits. Vegetable gardens promote local food production, reduce food transportation emissions, and encourage sustainable consumption. Native plant gardens attract pollinators, improve soil health, and enhance local biodiversity. By reimagining our outdoor spaces, we can contribute to a more sustainable and resilient future.

Maybe we were on to something… although I’m pretty sure the weed killer would have come out if planted anything other than grass seed.

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