From: Adrianne Appel, IPS, Organic Consumers Association, More from this Affiliate
Published June 16, 2010 09:15 AM

U.S. Lawns Getting an Eco-Makeover

From coast to coast, eco-concerned homeowners are ripping out their manicured, chemically-treated lawns and replacing them with organic food gardens, native flowers and sometimes, just rocks.

"It's a growing endeavour. It gets bigger and bigger every year," said Steven Saffier, coordinator of the Audubon Society's At Home programme, which encourages people to let their lawns go wild to support birds and other wildlife.

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The lawn, the one-third acre or more of trimmed grass outside the front door of so many U.S. homes, is getting an eco-makeover as people learn about the lawn's impact on the larger environment.

Groups as diverse as urban garden clubs, environmental groups and wildlife protection groups are spreading the word that a big, lush lawn harms biodiversity and is an eco- disaster.

"Lawns contribute to climate change," Saffier told IPS. "The fossil fuels used in fertiliser and pesticide production add CO2 to the environment."

Lawns in the U.S. are grown mostly from non-native grasses that require large amounts of water, pesticides and fertilisers. Many homeowners aim for perfection, considered a dark green mat of closely-mown grass without weeds, a look promoted by chemical and fertiliser manufacturers here.

But homeowners, corporations and schools are starting to catch on to the idea of creating a wild space where nature can thrive.

Last week, Saffier helped dig a garden with a native spice bush plant at a Pennsylvania school. The group had barely covered the roots of the plant with dirt when a swallowtail butterfly landed on a leaf and laid her eggs.

"That's the kind of thing we are going for, on a larger scale," Saffier said.

What happens on individual lawns is multiplied many times over, because more U.S. surface area is devoted to lawns than any other irrigated crop, according to an analysis by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The Lawn Institute, which represents the 35-billion-dollar per year turf industry, estimates that 25 million acres of lawn are growing in the U.S. This land previously hosted native trees, shrubs and grasses and entire ecosystems, but not anymore.

Article continues: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_21035.cfm

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