Why it’s time to get rid of lawns, the No.1 irrigated “crop” in America

Is there a greater symbol of life in suburban America than the lawn? Probably, but the point is that lawns are incredibly common for households in the U.S. That’s a problem since lawns are awful for the planet. Our addiction to lawns means that grass is the single largest irrigated agricultural “crop” in America, more than corn, wheat, and fruit orchards combined.

A NASA-led study in 2005 found that there were 63,000 square miles of turf grass in the United States, covering an area larger than Georgia. Keeping all that grass alive can consume about 50-75 percent of a residence’s water. Plus, lawnmowers suck up gas and pollute the air: Every year, U.S. homeowners spill some 17 million gallons of gas while filling up mowers. Not to mention tens of millions of pounds of chemical fertilizer and pesticides are used on lawns annually. Lawns do provide some benefits such as reducing the urban heat island effect, but for the most part, they are unnecessary and wasteful.

Instead of a lawn, you should turn your yard into a meadow of native plants that provide habitats for animals, from insects to birds and everything in between. A lawn that’s used to produce food could feed your family, boost neighborhood-level community, and provide jobs (if you don’t have a green thumb). When you run the numbers, it turns out that almost anything is better than a grass lawn — except pavement. If you want some guidance on how to convert your lawn into a little meadow of native plants and flowers, take a look right here.

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