By Thomas Sheffield

Spring time is here, and many outdoor enthusiasts look forward to getting outside and cutting the grass.  Many people get excited about this weekly chore.  For many, it is therapy.  Personally, I think it is a pain.  However, I love to see a well-manicured lawn.  I look at golf courses, football fields and baseball fields with amazement and wonder how much work it would take to get my yard to be that nice.  And there lies the problem.

We should all try to add value to our homes and our communities.  Taking care of our lawns is one way we try to add value, but could lawncare be killing us?  According to the Bible, on the third day, God created the grass, the herb yielding seed and fruit and it was good.  Native grasses will do what they are supposed to do and grow freely and yet, we spend an estimated 70 hours annually to “care” for our lawns.  This includes over-watering, fertilizing, adding pesticides and cutting. We also import foreign seeds, and basically kill our yard’s ecosystem.  The estimated $50-$82 billion we spend annually on overcutting and landscaping is money we could spend sustainably elsewhere.  

 Killing our lawns ecosystem is like creating a yard of concrete.  Our yards and the “care” we give to them are contributing to global warming.  Not only do we use 580 million gallons of gas each year in our lawnmowers, we are contributing to the decline of pollination and the honeybee population.  Native grasses have deeper roots and can store more carbon underground than shallow rooted turf.  Studies show native grasses, reduced watering and no fertilization, slow lawn growth to where you will need to mow your yard every two months.  

Sara Stein, an influential native gardening writer says: “Continual amputation is a critical part of lawn care.  Cutting grass regularly-preventing it from reaching up and flowering – forces it to sprout still more blades, more rhizomes, more roots, to become ever more impenetrable mat until it is what the owner has worked so hard or paid so much to have:  the perfect lawn, the prefect sealant through which nothing else can grow – and the perfect antithesis of an ecological system.”  

We use 30-60 percent of drinkable water on lawns.  This is irresponsible usage of our natural resources and is killing our planet.  Here are some solutions:  First, switch to native grasses.  They require less cutting and watering.  Second reduce mowing and fertilizing.  Switching to native grasses will allow for less cutting and promote growth.  Finally, visit the UT Extension website to learn what native grasses should be in your yard.  There are even classes available if you are interested.  

I do realize the idea of native grasses may not be popular, but neither is climate change.  The negative effects of climate change are felt worse in our community and take longer for the poor, minorities, children and the elderly to overcome.  We must use everything we can to our advantage so we can ensure a brighter future for our community.  Please feel free to contact me or you can follow me on Twitter @tcsheff. #Resist #WordsActionChange