Grass mowing is one the most widely ignored environmental strains in the USA. It’s one we can not even avoid if we want to. Most places have laws against tall grass, and a huge amount of social pressure to have a nice lawn. This pressure is so strong even a University, a place that forward thinking, and “liberal” ideas abound, would not even consider anything but the golf course cut. Our ideals must change! If we really care about the environment, clean air, and future generations we have too think differently about what is right and wrong. Tall grass or an unkept lawn is actually a positive habit, not a negative one. We need to applaud, not fine or scorn people that DO NOT mow and put that social pressure on those with the manicured, environmentally damaging lawns. Maybe you don’t think a manicured lawn is that bad? Well read further for more info.
Lawn mowers, and trimers are some of the most inefficient engines out there. Although you may not think it, even the best have horrible fuel economy. They also have extremely bad emissions, with no laws, or catalytic converter, they spew an insane amount of pollutants into the air. One old gas powered lawn mower running for an hour emits as much pollution as driving 650 miles in a 1992 model automobile according to the EPA. They also use oil, consumables, and produce other pollutants. Mowers are also not that safe, 80,000 people per year are hospitalized due to mower accidents. Noise pollution is another issue. (See references below for more info) There are some options. You could use a push mower, which work fine on small lawns. Another option is an electric or battery powered lawn mower. Check out my home made battery powered lawn mower I charge with the sun. Now for the front lawn I use a Black and Decker rechargeable, that I charge with my solar panels.
Keeping the lawn green all year requires large quantities of water. It needs the most water at times when water is scarcest, during droughts and dry times. As a result of cutting it short, it needs even more water to stay green. Then come in the huge amounts of chemicals. Fertilizers are needed to replace the nitrogen that gets removed when the grass is cut and the clippings are removed. Then to kill the natural native plants that get labeled as weeds, we dump carcinogenic herbicides all over the lawn and put up signs to keep kids off, so they do not get sick. Because we kill off all the native plants, and leave only non-native grasses, we get new insects that have no natural predators. The few predators that could kill any insects have no where to live, hide, or perch in the overly short grass. So now we have an abundance of “Japanese beetles” or other bugs. Time to add some more chemicals. Pesticides kill all the bugs, good, bad, whatever, but be careful, don’t let your dog eat the grass, it will kill them too. In order to keep it all green you have to keep watering it, washing off the chemicals, right into the rivers and water table for everyone to drink later. Oh then you will have to re-add all the chemicals that got washed off. Then there are some of the worst polluters out there, the “chemlawn” and “truegreen” people. You might get upset that BP spilled oil all over the golf, but many people PAY to have just as dangerous chemicals dumped all over there lawn, on a regular basis. Why? So it is more green colored??
In a drought let the grass turn brown, it’s ok. It will come back. When you mow, leave the grass, it is mulch. Leave the grass as long as you can legally leave it, and it will stay healthier. Use more native grasses or wild flowers and you will see the “pests” go away, being replaces by butterflies and humming birds.
Ok so you decide to make a positive difference in the environment and stop mowing. Live in town though? A county with a silly law? Well they will come out and mow it for you, whether you like it or not. They will even charge you quite a sum of money. Some how it is perfectly legal in my town to dump toxic chemicals all over your lawn, but illegal to not mow. If your grass gets higher then 8″ they will cut it for you and charge you over $100. Don’t pay for the forced mowing, they will put a lien on your property! We need laws make companies like “true green” and “chemlawn” acountale for the huge amounts of pollution they dump in out water supply, not laws that punish the few environmentally conscious people out there. Fight the laws! Write your representatives and let them know you do not want such laws ruining your neighborhood.
Maybe you got lucky and you are in one the very few towns in the US that don’t require manicured grass, or maybe you live in the country. You still will be faced with daunting social pressure to cut your grass. This is where things need to change the most. Our ideas of what look good, need to be more responsible and environmentally friendly. We need to go back to pre 1950’s lawn ideals, back to a more natural, native grass look. People with lawns that look like a golf course need to be receive the negative social pressure. They are way worse then the hummer drivers during a gas crunch. Yet the ideals, the dangerous and wrong ones they carry, are the ones we as a society support. This has to change! When you see a lawn that “needs” to be mowed, you have to change the way you think. It does not need to be mowed. If enough people start to fight the idea and let their grass grow, we can challenge the norm. Conformity on this issue is far to dangerous for the environment. If you are a propionate individual, you have even more responsibility to let it grow, as people look up to you.
Where did these ideals come from? Big business has a lot to do with it. “Clover, which takes nitrogen from the air and deposits it in the earth where your grass can use it, was an accepted, even encouraged part of lawns until the early fifties. It only acquired its weed status because the earliest broad-leaf 2,4-D herbicides killed it off along with the dandelions.” Before the 1950’s lawn care was not important. The post war industries had new chemicals and new mowers to sell. Returning from the war GI’s gave them a strict conformist society ready to equate a miss managed lawns with communism. The short green lawn became part of the American dream for a suburban America. Many new neighborhoods required short grass for the first time, and national lawn associations, funded by big business, taught Americans all wrong, how to use chemicals, and lots of mowing, to make a lawn look good. Look at the TV of the time, “Leave it to Beaver” had a well kept lawn, why don’t you?
These ideals were just plain wrong. We need to through them out with other outdated and mistaken ideas of the time. Ideas about the place of women, and minorities were wrong and so were the ideals about lawn care.
Benefits of natural long grass:
- Clean more air and capture more CO
- Provide a habitat for local animals and birds
- You can have flowers
- Butterflys, bees, and hummingbirds will all have a food source
- Save YOUR time not mowing
- Keeps the area around your home cooler in the summer, and keeps snow from drifting in the winter
- Controls water loss and stays green with no water
- Stops erosion
- Push mowers
- Electric mowers (check out my solar lawn mower!)
- No mow grass, yes thats right they make grass you don’t have to mow! It stays shorter then 8″ Give it a google
- Get a grazing animal as a pet
- If you must mow, mulch