Replace lawns with grass alternatives

Replace lawns with grass alternatives
Grace Bradley is a junior journalism and environmental studies double major.

Most homeowners in the United States have yards that require constant maintenance.

If people do not mow their grass every week, it grows tall and thick over sidewalks and driveways. If it isn't watered every morning, it turns brown, and neighbors are quick to complain about the eyesore. 

As people’s lives become more demanding and the cost of living soars, being able to use and manage a lawn becomes less and less realistic. Additionally, these lawns are terrible for the environment, depleting fresh water stores and decreasing food availability for native wildlife. 

Homeowners should stop wasting money and water on controlling grass lawns and instead opt for more sustainable options.

According to Planet Natural, lawns like those today began in the 16th century. Rich Europeans would purchase large amounts of land as a show of wealth. Because most people had to farm in order to sustain themselves, being able to own land without using it as farmland showed both that the family could afford to feed themselves and that they could afford to pay others to maintain the lawn. 

European immigrants carried this tradition to North America. Eventually, lawns became more accessible for the middle class due to inventions like the lawnmower, making life more convenient. Because they were more affordable, lawns no longer symbolized wealth, but a happy family and a well-loved home. 

However, grass lawns have no intrinsic worth. They are hard to manage, time-consuming and — in areas that don’t have frequent rainfall — expensive. 

According to Nature’s Seed, Kentucky Bluegrass, a common lawn grass, can need anywhere from 2 to 2.5 inches of water per week in order to retain its soft texture and bright green color. It also has to be mowed frequently. If left unmanaged, it can grow to a height of two feet.

Lawns are also responsible for wasting life’s most valuable resource: water. They gulp down the same treated water that comes out of a home’s faucet. Dragging the water up from underground aquifers depletes the world's freshwater supply. 

As dry states like California and Nevada deplete their water supply, they have no choice but to get water transported from places like the Colorado River, a river that used to drain into the ocean but now stops miles short. The U.S. can’t afford to waste fresh water on a “crop” that can't be used. 

According to Psychology Today, Americans spend $60 billion a year caring for turf grass because it gives people the illusion of control in their lives. If they can control their grass, they can control their lives. This delusion then makes others think that a well-manicured lawn means the homeowner is doing well. 

Another common reason people want to keep their grass is so little kids have a place to play outside. However, removing grass doesn’t mean replacing the flora with gravel. Plenty of grass alternatives, like moss, micro clover, blue star creeper and Corsican mint, are easy to care for, and they don’t need to be watered or mowed. 

Planting native grasses is one of the best ways to help restore the ecosystem. Native plants return food for bugs and animals, like birds. They don’t need to be watered because they are accustomed to the rainfall, temperature and humidity in the region.

Planting a variety of native crops boosts biodiversity and ensures a healthy ecosystem. 

According to the World Health Organization, a worldwide decrease in biodiversity is detrimental to the ecosystem. Constantly removing plants animals rely on alters the complex food chain. This could have monumental consequences, including an increase in species extinction.

A final alternative to lawns is gardens, although they are more time and labor intensive. A person can buy seeds from a nursery or save them from grocery produce and water their gardens by catching rain runoff from their roof. While much of the produce from the garden can then be eaten when picked, the excess can be canned or pickled for winter.

Considering the many alternatives, families shouldn’t have to waste $150 a month watering a crop that they can’t eat or wasting hours mowing and edging along sidewalks.  Planting grass alternatives is an easy way to save money while participating in preserving the ecosystem for future generations.