By Samantha Hart
We all know that feeling when April finally comes around; when the grass is finally covered in green instead of white snow or brown leaves. But that feeling is often followed by an eye roll as well: The burden of lawn care is now fully in season.
Lawn maintenance is something that is done year-round, but is escalated and highly praised during the warm months of the year. However, the pesticides and fertilizers associated with typical lawn maintenance all have serious negative impact on the environment.
That’s not even to mention all the other tools used to take care of grass, like leaf blowers and mowers, which are noisy and can require gasoline.
“Americans spill about 17 million gallons of gasoline every summer” in the process of fueling their lawn equipment, according to American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn, a provocative 2006 book by Ted Steinberg and published in Longreads
It can be safely assumed that those who spill the gas get it on their feet, subsequently tracking the gas back into the house and leaving children or animals in close contact to the potent fumes.
At Fairleigh Dickinson, lawn-care professionals are constantly leaf blowing and mowing. The FDU community appreciates their hard work and how nice they make the campus look, but their constant maintenance has had terrible effects on the environment, in several ways.
For starters, grass is partially responsible for the reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, like trees. If it’s assumed that every lawn in the U.S. is mowed short, that’s an area “about the size of the state of Kentucky, though perhaps as large as Florida,” including 16,000 golf courses and 700,000 athletic fields, according to American Green. A large volume of grass that could be cleaning our air is being mowed in favor of cosmetics.
Intense lawn maintenance is also not in favor of general public health.
“A single golf course in Tampa, Fla. uses 178,800 gallons of water per day, enough to meet the daily water needs of more than 22,000 Americans,” according to American Green.
Although that water isn’t necessarily being “wasted,” it isn’t exactly being used to the best of its ability, like providing water for 22,000 people a day.
The combination of fertilizers and pesticides, all the millions of gallons of gas wasted, the reduction of CO2 absorbed from the air, the millions of gallons of water used for lawn care, not to mention the roughly 76,000 people injured per year operating a lawn mower (or, the same number of people injured by firearms every year, according to American Green) all contribute to public health and environmental issues.
FDU could help reduce their effects by not mowing as frequently, which would save the amount of gasoline needed for fuel. FDU could also not cut the grass so short when they do mow, which would allow for the longer grass to absorb more of the carbon dioxide from the air.
Maintenance could also water the grass less often, perhaps skipping for a week after a heavy rainfall. Lastly, FDU maintenance crew could take more precaution when operating the lawn mowers and leaf blowers to avoid any potentially unnecessary injuries.