- The Plastic Effect
- Neighborly Differences
- Change: Plan it
- Food Waste at the University of Michigan
- A Greener Lawn
- Plastic Waste Around Us
- Sustainable Mondays
- Climate Change and Science Communication
- How to get involved with Sustainability at U-M
- Equal Environment: GMOs
- The Plastic Effect
- Climate Change Trivia
- Environment Inequality
A Greener Lawn
Annie: Lawn Care in the US is expensive, time consuming, and loud.
Yet this patch of perfectly green, weedless, inch tall and neatly edged grass is a hallmark of homeownership in America. They’re a point of pride, and indicator of character. I called my dad-- a homeowner who truly goes above and beyond with his quarter acre. and asked why he puts so much time, energy, and money into it.
Jim Rauwerda: “I like it when people compliment me on the yard and the flowers… and it’s a good pastime…”
Annie: “Thank you! That’s fantastic.”
Fantastic for my dad, I guess, who truly enjoys spending time alone mowing. But what for the rest of us who consider it another chore, another expense?
As of 2005, lawns covered an estimated 63,000 square miles of America. That's about the size of Texas. According to NASA, it's the most grown crop in the United States--and it's not one that anyone can eat; it's primary purpose is to make us look and feel good about ourselves.
Even worse, to maintain our lawns, we’re using toxic herbicides and pesticides that are infiltrating water systems, our food, making us sick, and quite literally killing the bees.
More than just a waste a waste of space, time, money, and resources, maintaining America’s lawns is harmful to our health.
I called Mike Levine to talk about Nature and Nurture, he and his partner Erica’s organic landscaping business right here in Ann Arbor, and we spoke about about sustainable alternatives that may curb America’s obsession with lawns-- and the harmful effects of current lawn care practices. One of the facets of his company is edible landscaping-- so, scrapping the pristine green lawn and replacing it with… a food garden. I asked him what motivated him to spend decades trying to change the way Americans treat their lawns.
Mike: So there’s this idea of the perfectly green lawn that’s well lit, that was because people had, you know, because they were raising sheep. And sheep do a really good job of mowing the lawn, and after uh, WWII there were all these-- well actually and the Vietnam War-- there were all these chemical companies that were making herbicides, defoliates and things, and they had huge stockpiles of these things and they didn't know what to do with them. So there was this huge marketing campaign to try to convince the American people that what you really needed was a perfect lawn. And when I say perfect I mean no weeds, and perfectly green, and you know, perfectly mowed and all that. But the thing is that what that lawn would have meant is lost in the new world; you know, people don’t want to have lawns so they can have sheep, they just have lawns because they want to keep up with the jones’. And this is really the result of a huge marketing campaign that lasted many decades that the chemical industry did. And so then they encouraged Americans to buy these same herbicides and use them on their lawns and that’s kind of how we have the modern lawn. IT’s things like this that inspire us to say, “wait a minute let’s push back against this. It’s not a good, healthy culture to have around our yards.
Annie: So your perfect lawn?! It’s the result of a marketing campaign to get rid of leftover war chemicals. Your yard can be cute without herbicides-- especially if you plant native species and edible crops, which would save you money on your grocery bill. Plus-- it’s a whole lot greener than lawn grass.
Thanks for listening! Contact Annie at firstname.lastname@example.org for sources.
Warchol, K., Callahan, K., Sub-lethal exposure to neonicotinoids impaired honey bees
winterization before proceeding to colony collapse disorder. Harvard School of Public Health Journal, 2013.
"Looking For Lawns". Earthobservatory.Nasa.Gov, 2018, https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Lawn.
Accessed 4 Dec 2018.