The Environmental Benefits of a Real Grass Lawn
There is certainly a metamorphosis happening with our outdoor landscape design, especially for private homes and businesses. Drive down any street and you will find at least a couple of front yards turned to stone, literally. This trend is called xeriscaping. The thought behind it lies in the fact that grass and ornamental plants cause us to use more water through irrigation than we should.
What you are not hearing, however, is that our green grass, trees and plant life offer many more benefits to the environment than problems. Aside from providing a safe and comfortable place for children, pets and adults to play, our soft green lawns offer a wealth of benefits to the environment both directly and indirectly.
Improvement of Air Quality
Aside from providing oxygen to the atmosphere via photosynthesis, green lawns actually improve the quality of the air in urban areas. Hundreds of pounds of sulfur dioxide, created by the burning of fossil fuels, are absorbed by just one acre of grass! Once absorbed, these chemicals are broken down and utilized by the plant itself, and the soil in which it resides. Grasses trap over 12 million tons of dirt and particulates each year, just in the United States. Without grass, imagine the effect on our air quality!
Protection from Erosion
Every year, approximately 6 billion tons of soil is either washed away by rain or floods, or simply blown away. This figure is higher than that experienced during the ‘Dust Bowl’ years in the 1930s. One single grass plant has a root system that extends 300 miles, binding the soil together and preventing erosion. Runoff produced by a healthy lawn is close to zero as it absorbs all but the heaviest of rains to near completion.
Effects on Indoor Temperatures
Homes that have extensive xeriscaping are often hurting the environment due to their high dependency on air conditioning. Conversely, those with lush lawns and tall trees rely less on air conditioning, thanks to the shade and cooling effect produced by the plant life in the yard. Areas where there is little greenery are typically seven degrees warmer, overall, than those areas that are rich with plant life.
Blades of grass process hot air much like a swamp cooler. In fact, the cooling effects of green lawns on an average block of houses actually exceed that of over 68 tons of air conditioning! Don’t believe it? On a hot summer day, stand with one bare foot on the grass and one bare foot on the sidewalk!
Positive Social and Mental Impact
Though it may not be a disappearing resource, our health and well being is still of utmost importance to most of us. Sociologists have studied urban areas and have found that those with parks or grassy areas have less graffiti overall, less criminal activity and its residents are in generally better health. Hospitals and businesses know that people heal more quickly and are more productive when they are able to look out of a window and see a beautiful yard or garden.
Lawns, trees and plants provide people with a sense of tranquility. Think of how many times you’ve gone to the window at a hotel or apartment to see what kind of view you have before you accept it. Chances are you were looking for a beautiful view of nature rather than that of a dirty parking lot or brick wall.
Environmental impact is, of course, of the utmost importance. That said, before we jump to one side of an issue we need to carefully weigh all information and properly balance our conservation decisions. Do people tend to over water their lawns calling for many cities to put a ban on watering? Yes. Fines and neighborhood watches, along with drip lines and proper watering techniques, can almost entirely eliminate water waste. Meanwhile, our green lawns provide so many benefits to our environment and health that actions should be taken to reverse some of these misguided reactions, before they become something in our distant past.