The United States National Wildlife Federation says of lawns:
- 30 percent of water used on the East Coast goes to watering lawns; 60 percent on the West Coast.
- 18 percent of municipal solid waste is yard waste.
- The average suburban lawn gets 10 times as much chemical pesticide per acre as farmland.
- Over 70 million tons of fertilizers and pesticides are applied to residential lawns and gardens annually--not so good for lungs.
- A gas lawn mower emits 10-12 times as much hydrocarbon per hour of operation as a typical auto. A weedeater emits 21 times more and a leaf blower 34 times more.
- Where pesticides are used, 60 - 90 percent of earthworms which are important for healthy soil are killed.
The unnatural, bad for the environment attributes of American lawns are:
- they are composed of only one species of grass
- they are filled with chemical fertilizers, one of the worst water pollutants in the U.S., and potentially harmful nitrate levels from them are being found in drinking water wells across the country
- they receive toxic pesticide applications such as chlorpyrifos (Dursban) which causes multiple sclerosis. The EPA says 95 percent of pesticides used on residential lawns are possible or probable carcinogens. ChemLawn claims a child must ingest 10 cups of treated grass clippings to equal one baby aspirin's toxicity, but does not mention the danger of inhaling the pesticide residue or absorbing it through the skin. The pesticides are killing off bird species.
- a 1,000-square-foot lawn with a typical irrigation system consumes 25,000 gallons of potable water each year
- homeowner associations require green lawns and fine members who do not comply
- the large amounts of gas/electricity, oil not to mention time used to mow them
- the gas used by lawn care people to transport their mowers and equipment
- they did not really exist until real estate developers first sold the idea after WWII when suburban plats were established and sold to baby boomers' parents.
Although farmers have had to submit nutrient management plans on their fertilizer use for decades, some states have passed laws prohibiting homeowners from applying fertilizer in certain date ranges, within so many feet of a waterway, on impervious surfaces like sidewalks and driveways, on frozen ground or when heavy rain is forecast, as a de-icer, and using any that contains phosphorus except on brand new lawns.
Think carefully before putting out any fertilizer because it contains the two most harmful polluting nutrients to rivers and ocean bays, nitrogen and phosphorus. They contribute to oxygen-sucking algae bloom growth which causes dead zones where fish and other wildlife cannot survive.
Alternatives to the major lawn concept are to either kill the lawn and plant a vegetable garden, one big garden of natural plants like a meadow, or at list minimize the area kept in grass that needs to be mowed. Switch to an Eco-lawn type grass seed, a drought-resistant blend of grasses that requires no fertilizer and little if any mowing. Artificial grass may be made of recycled materials and does not require watering, but it will get hot, adds to the urban heat island effect, does not enrich the soil or provide oxygen or a good home for worms and other wildlife, and does not absorb rain water to lessen storm water runoff.