5 Easy Ways to Make Your Lawn More Eco-Friendly
Updated: May 4, 2020
The best way to make your lawn more environmentally friendly is to simply quit performing the most harmful lawn care practices, including using fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. Additionally, you’ll want to use a mulching mower rather than bagging out leaf litter and grass clippings.
The ProHowNow Way: Less is More When it Comes to Lawns
There’s no getting around it—grass lawns are bad news for the environment. Lawns cover upwards of 77,000 square miles in the United States, meaning they are replacing huge amounts of native plants that otherwise would support local ecosystems. On top of that, according to a recent article in The Guardian, lawn care in the United States uses 7 billion gallons of water a day and approximately 59 million pounds of pesticides annually, making it a huge contributor to the decline of bees, butterflies, and countless other insects, animals, and plants that are native to specific regions across the country.
For all these reasons, many people are getting rid of their lawns in favor of gardens, native plants, or xeriscapes. But what if you don’t have the time or money to replace your lawn? What if you have kids or pets that need a grassy area to play on? Luckily, there are a handful of easy things you can do to make your lawn more environmentally friendly.
1. Quit Raking Leaves and Bagging Your Grass Clippings
Rather than raking up leaf litter and using a bag attachment on your lawn mower to catch lawn clippings, simply mulch it all up with your mower. Take the bag off your lawn mower, use the mulching plug insert if you have one, and mow right over those leaves. The grass clippings and pulverized leaves will then naturally break down and improve the soil health instead of being sent off to a landfill (where it may or may not get composted and reused).
If everyone across the U.S. started doing this, studies show it could even help curb global warming by increasing the amount of atmospheric carbon that lawns sequester from 5.9 teragrams/year up to 16.7 teragrams/year, an astonishing 270 percent increase!
2. Quit Fertilizing
Most fertilizer that gets added to lawns simply washes away and pollutes our waterways. Equally bad, most fertilizer is made from fossil fuels, meaning it contributes to global warming. So again, simply stop.
Mulching leaves and grass with your lawn mower, as described above, adds nutrients to the soil, in and of itself. In fact, studies show that this technique alone reduces the amount of fertilizer you’d normally need by as much as 50 percent, and in our experience here at ProHowNow, it’s all you need to keep your lawn healthy. If you feel like your lawn needs more nutrients than that, then use compost instead of fertilizer. Another study indicates that doing so can lead to a 50 percent increase in plant growth and improved water retention.
3. Stop Using Pesticides
Noticing a theme here? All it takes to be more eco-friendly is some targeted neglect, and using pesticides is right at the top of the list of things to stop doing. We get it, some bugs can be a nuisance, but overuse of pesticides has decimated bee populations, our primary pollinators, not to mention thousands of other important species, so quit using them. If you absolutely need to deal with a bug problem, such as slug infestation, try an alternative such as pest traps.
4. Stop Using Herbicides
Herbicides, while meant to kill unwanted weeds, can have some catastrophic side effects. This includes potentially contributing to bee colony collapse disorder and perhaps even causing cancer in humans, although current studies are largely inconclusive because chemical companies are not required to disclose what’s in their products, such as the case with the popular herbicides Roundup and Touchdown.
Regardless, there’s no need to use such products on your lawn. Instead, simply hand weed or use a weeding tool to remove any noxious weeds that create thorns or stickers, and then let the other weeds do their thing. In fact, many plants considered weeds, such as dandelions, actually provide numerous benefits to your lawn, including feeding pollinators, loosening your soil, and releasing calcium from deep in the soil so your grass can access it. If dandelions or other weeds start to become too widespread, pick some of them out, or try letting your grass grow an inch or two taller than usual to choke them out.
5. Quit Watering
As we discussed in the introduction, lawns are huge water wasters, eating up 7 billion gallons of water a day—and they don’t even produce anything edible. Incorporating all the lawn tips 1 – 4 above should help improve your lawn health and the water retention of your soil, meaning it won’t need as much water to stay green.
That being the case, we recommend that you stop watering your lawn altogether. If you live in a dry region, your lawn will likely turn yellow by late summer or fall, but so what? Your kids and pets can still play on it and it’ll green up again when the rainy season starts.
If you absolutely need to water (e.g. due to HOA requirements or personal aesthetics), at least make a point of watering less frequently. Often, one or two deep watering sessions per week is more effective than short, daily watering sessions, and it uses less water.