40 million acres across the US are dedicated to lawns, possibly the most useless crop imaginable. Lawns cover almost 2% of the continental United States.
The typical American lawn wastes thousands of gallons of water annually. If people transitioned from lawns to alternatives, like native plants or edible gardens, that space would start to have a real function. While gardens still need to be watered, data suggests that with various designs, even highly productive vegetable gardens can produce food and use substantially less water than lawns.
It isn’t just a senseless waste of water, seas of monocrop lawns require huge amounts of harmful chemicals. Millions of U.S. households dump tens of millions of pounds of pesticides and herbicides on their lawns every year. These unnatural monocrops have no defense to an ecosystem that desperately wants diversity, so weeds and bugs are met with poisons. The poisons, pesticides and herbicides contaminate water sources. The chemicals create serious health risks for wildlife, pets, and you and your children. They get into your home and your water and are correlated with increases in a variety of cancers, nervous system disorders and other illnesses. Alternatives can make use of techniques to maximize productivity and reduce or eliminate the need for pesticides and herbicides.
It is likely some strange suburban aesthetic has made lawns so ubiquitous. A transition away from useless lawns to food producing gardens and native plants could have an enormous impact. This shift might be enough to offer humanity a little breathing room, greater autonomy, increased food security and some modicum of protection for global biodiversity.
Photo: “Untitled” by Mark Tegethoff is licensed under CC BY 2.0