Manataka American Indian Council
By Liora Leah, Manataka Correspondent
American lawns generate massive amounts of "green waste", waste water, require tons of herbicides, and cost the average homeowner much money and time.
to the Audubon Society, the average American lawn generates almost 2 tons of
clippings a year, and requires 2˝-4 times more water than shrubs or trees.
Homeowners use 50% more herbicides than they did 20 years ago, spend 40
hours per week mowing the lawn each year, and spend over $8 billion annually
on lawn care products and equipment. Read on for more eco-friendly ways to
maintain a lawn!
1) Use an electric or manual push mower to cut your grass. Don’t use conventional gas-powered lawn mowers – they pollute air and contribute to global warming. According to Sylvan Garden, "a typical 3.5 horsepower gas mower...can emit the same amount of VOCs—key precursors to smog—in an hour as a new car driven 340 miles. To top it off, lawn and garden equipment users inadvertently add to the problem by spilling 17 million gallons of fuel each year while refilling their outdoor power equipment. That’s more petroleum than spilled by the Exxon Valdez in the Gulf of Alaska."
You can get a push mower from companies such as SunLawn Imports, Inc.
or Real Goods (800/919-2400
Mowing with a push mower has an extra benefit--it's a good form of exercise!
2) Use hand tools or electric-powered tools such as hedge trimmer or lawn edger to maintain your yard. Don't use gas-powered tools. Use good old fashioned push broom and rakes for yard clean up, instead of noise and air polluting leaf blowers. Don't use the hose to wash down your driveway or sidewalk, as this is just a waste of water. On the coasts, the leaf and grass clippings end up in the gutter and go down the storm drains, out to the ocean.
3) Diversify your lawn by planting a mix of different grasses--that way, if one variety doesn't do well or dies, you still have grass that can "take over" for the dead variety. If your lawn is hardy enough, you won't need to use fertilizer. If you decide to use fertilizer, use an organic one such as Neptune's Harvest Organic Fertilizer (1-800-259-4769, or go to "Products" at http://www.neptunesharvest.com/.) Read more about organic fertilizers at Sylvan Gardens.
4) Avoid toxic chemical pesticides and herbicides. According to PANNA (http://www.panna.org/campaigns/pesticideFreeLawns.html ) "Every year U.S. homeowners apply at least 90 million pounds of pesticides to their lawns and gardens...pesticides are applied more intensively for lawn care than for farming! One recent survey reported that when informed about the risks posed by lawn chemicals, nearly 70% of homeowners indicate a preference for non-toxic alternatives." Pull weeds by hand, and get information about less-toxic weed control, lawn maintenance, and pest control from the NCAP website: http://www.pesticide.org/factsheets.html#alternatives
5) Conserve water. Water your lawn by hand with a hose instead of using timed sprinklers. This avoids water-wastage from runnoff and avoids watering your sidewalks and driveways. Water at night to avoid evaporation of water before it has a chance to soak into the ground. Avoid hoses made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride). PVC creates dioxins during manufacture, the useful lifetime of the product, and upon disposal; dioxin is a known carcinogen and hormone disruptor. Use hoses made of rubber instead, such as Craftsman, by Sears, or Flexogen, by Gilmour.
If you do use sprinklers, reduce the time they are on to no more than 10 minutes. Turn off the automatic timer during the rainy season in your area--there is nothing more wasteful than having the sprinklers running during a rain! Or do what I do--don't water your lawn at all, and let Mother Nature water it only during the rainy season, and let the lawn go brown or die off-season.
6) Save your grass clippings and use them as mulch for your yard. Mulch is anything that is put on top of the soil around your trees and shrubs to give nutrients back to the soil--grass clippings, tree bark, leaves and other yard "green waste" as well as food waste from the kitchen and even shredded newspapers! The mulch breaks down over time and adds nutrients to the soil. Mulch also prevents soil erosion and hardpan (tough, dried-out topsoil). Make a compost pile and feed it your grass clippings. Read the Organic Trade Association's "Composting for Everyone" http://www.theorganicreport.com/pages/249_composting_for_everyone.cfm to find out how to start your own compost pile using kitchen scraps and green "waste" that would otherwise end up as landfill!
7) Research plants that are native to your area and resistant to pests and drought, and replace some or all of your grass with these low-maintenance alternatives. I've let the shrubs in front of the house, on one side of the yard, grow down to the front sidewalk, eliminating about 24 square feet of lawn. According to the Audubon society, "If each one of us that takes care of our own lawn (49 million U.S. households), replaced just ONE square yard (just 9 square feet) of our lawn with a non-turf alternative, we would eliminate 1.2 MILLION hours of mowing and stop 60,000 tons of grass clippings from ever finding their way to a landfill. In addition, millions of gallons of water would be saved and tons of fertilizers and pesticides never applied." For more ideas about planting native shrubs and trees, see: "Rethink Your Lawn" from the Audubon society at: http://www.audubon.org/bird/at_home/rethink_lawn.html
Try some of these ideas, and you’ll save money, reduce environmental impacts, and have more time to enjoy relaxing in your yard!
Thanks for Going Green!