Too many homeowners are beginning to see lawns as a waste of precious resources. Many areas of our nation are experiencing water shortages, and the cost of water is rising in nearly all metropolitan areas. Lawnmowers emit greenhouse gases, and runoff from excessive fertilizer use pollutes groundwater. So, is it actually worth it to maintain a healthy, green lawn?
This study reviewed many different aspects of lawn care and how they affect soil. According to lead scientist Quincy Law, “Soil is a non-renewable resource that must be protected. Grasses are able to remove carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere and deposit it into the soil as organic matter.”
Yes, lawn mowers do emit CO2, but the grass more than compensates for this output. In addition, there have been many improvements in lawn mower technology that make them more efficient and less harmful to the environment.
Reduce your work, reduce your emissions
Also, if you let the grass clippings sit on the lawn, instead of bagging or raking them up, this further increases soil carbon and nitrogen. Consider it composting in place.
“Soil carbon helps to bind soil particles and build soil structure,” Law says. “It also decreases the risk of runoff and erosion, and improves soil-water relations.”
Better yet, Law and his team determined that different species of grass deposit different amounts of carbon into the soil, and that the method of mowing also affects this amount. Their results showed that tall fescue resulted in more soil carbon than Kentucky bluegrass, but it does require more frequent mowing as well.
“By carefully selecting a grass and properly managing grass clippings, homeowners can increase the carbon sequestered in the soil. While this will not single-handedly significantly reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, it is still helpful.”
In fact, this research proved that carbon deposited by the grass more than offsets the carbon emitted by the actions of managing the lawn, and therefore, the emissions are more than justified. This can be a way to reduce your net carbon footprint by doing things in just a slightly different way than you always have been.
Law’s reasons for studying this obscure topic are deeply rooted in his history and that of his family.
“I grew up playing golf and immediately fell in love with working on a golf course, so I have always enjoyed working closely with nature. Additionally, I have a family history of farming. My brother currently farms land that has been in our family for over 150 years, and soil conservation has always been a priority. As my grandfather said, ‘Harvest the crop, not the land.’”
The point is the same; mild changes to your lawn management techniques can not only increase your environmental impact beneficially, but can reduce your negative impact significantly. In any case, you only need to save yourself some work by leaving the grass clippings where they lie, and you’ve done your world a favor. Sounds, great, huh?