Opinion: Lose the Lawn

2 mins read

Behind the picket fences and in front of the freshly painted townhouse, the “American dream” has long included a pristine green lawn. By the time the ‘50s and suburbia rolled around, every American that could afford a yard had a yard. Now, over 40 million acres of lawns cover the U.S. However, these high-maintenance plots of green—which people rarely even use—are not worth the slight conformist aesthetic value they afford. Though some may enjoy the vision of a clean, traditional front of the home, this small benefit is not worth the resources that maintaining a lawn requires, and there are many alternatives that waste less of our very limited water supplies.

Berkhashni Nirula, a UCSC student studying environmental science said, “I think lawns are absurd. Grass is invasive, and it being the main form of yard is not sustainable in any way, especially in California.” 

California is generally quite dry, and despite not being in a drought right now, our water is still precious. California’s water cycle typically goes from an “El Niño,” period to a “La Niña,” period. We were just in the wet and rainy El Niño, but now we are about to enter La Niña, so we will have much less water.  As the world undergoes climate change, resources like water are running out, and these diminishing resources are taken up by lawns—which aren’t necessary for survival or even for maintaining basic quality of life—at astonishing rates.

Because the most common grass used for lawns, Kentucky Bluegrass, isn’t native to California, lawns aren’t well adjusted to our arid climate and require a lot of water—lawns take up about 5% of the water in California. While this may not seem like much, keep in mind that as a state who relies on water to sustain our economy due to agriculture, and also as a state with dwindling water resources, using so much for something that is entirely unnecessary is quite the waste.

AP Environmental Science teacher Lance Powell said, “When you put lawn grass in your yard, you’re [wasting the potential for a natural habitat] and removing native plants that insects and hummingbirds thrive off of. A lawn is not diverse. There’s one type of organism and if anything pops up we call it a weed and put chemicals on it. In California, at this stage in the game, we’re going to continue to have water issues, and we’re just using up that precious water that’s getting piped in all the way from Yosemite. It’s really just a poor use of water. Lawn grass has gotta go.”

In addition to wasting water, lawns also contribute to the climate crisis rather than helping mitigate it like most other plants would. An average of 1,048 pounds of CO2 are produced every year by mowing just one lawn with a gas-powered mower—imagine this multiplied by every lawn in America (about 85 million). That’s 89 billion pounds of CO2 added to the atmosphere each year. 

Thankfully, there are some alternatives that you can choose when designing your yard. Red Fescue and Purple Three Awn closely mimic traditional lawns, which are great for kid’s play areas and recreational activities. Succulents and cacti are a very beautiful option (albeit less kid-friendly), and clover lawns are increasing in popularity.

Powell said, “You can start by getting rid of your lawn or stop watering your lawn. Really what people should do, if they have the space, is intentionally plant native species or drought-resistant species. You could just throw out a bunch of wild seeds if you don’t want to put too much into it. A lot of pollinators are in trouble, so, if we want them to come back, we need to put in the plants that they like.” 

Mackenzie is a junior at M-A and in her first year of journalism. She’s interested in writing about a variety of topics, especially those concerning our community here at school. She enjoys reading, hanging out with friends, doing art, and participating in theatre.

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