Criticisms of Lawns
number of criticisms of lawns are based on environmental grounds:
- Many lawns are composed of a
single species of plant, or of very few species, which reduces
biodiversity, especially if the lawn covers a large area. In
addition, they may be composed primarily of plants not local to
the area, which can further decrease local biodiversity.
- Lawns are sometimes cared for by
using synthetic pesticides and other chemicals, which can be
harmful to the environment, especially when misused.
Consequently, in Canada, for example, over 130 municipalities
and the entire province of Quebec have now placed restrictions
on the cosmetic use of synthetic lawn pesticides as a result of
health and environmental concerns. Additionally, Sweden,
Denmark, Norway, Kuwait and Belize have also placed restrictions
on the use of the herbicide 2,4-D.
- The use of pesticides and
synthetic fertilizers, which require fossil fuels to be
manufactured, has been shown to be detrimental to combating
global warming, whereas organic techniques help reduce global
- Maintaining a green lawn
sometimes requires large amounts of water. This was not a
problem in temperate England where the concept of the lawn
originated, as natural rainfall was sufficient to maintain a
lawn's health. However the exporting of the lawn ideal to more
arid regions of the world, such as the U.S. Southwest and
Australia, has crimped already scarce water resources in such
areas, requiring larger, more environmentally invasive water
- Grass typically goes dormant
during cold, winter months, and turns brown during hot, dry
summer months, thereby reducing its demand for water. Many
property owners consider this "dead" appearance
unacceptable and therefore increase watering during the summer
months. Grass can also recover quite well from a drought.
- In the United States lawn
heights are generally maintained by gasoline-powered lawnmowers,
which contribute to urban smog during the summer months. The
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that in some urban
areas, up to 5% of smog was due to pre-1997 small gasoline
engines such as are typically used on lawnmowers. Since 1997,
the EPA has mandated emissions controls on newer engines in an
effort to reduce smog.
However, using ecological
techniques, the impact of lawns can sometimes be reduced. Such
methods include the use of local grasses, proper mowing techniques,
leaving grass clippings in place, integrated pest management,
organic fertilizers, and introducing a variety of plants to the
In addition to the environmental
criticisms, some gardeners question the aesthetic value of lawns.
One positive benefit of a healthy
lawn is that of a filter for contaminants and to prevent run-off and
erosion of bare dirt. Highway construction projects in the United
States now routinely include replanting grasses on disturbed soils
for this purpose, although they are not maintained as lawns. It is
important to note that a healthy lawn does not necessarily mean that
synthetic pesticides need to be used, as organic solutions exist.