Many people have synthetic lawns now, especially in dry areas such as the southwest. It makes sense, because an artificial lawn is so good when it comes to water conservation. However, is it possible that a synthetic lawn is more harmful than good when it comes to the environment? A quick look at these grass alternatives will help you make your own decision.
The drought this summer in the Midwest has left most people’s lawns and lawn plants brown and dried up. Not just dormant, but dead as a doornail. This would be a good time to have a synthetic lawn. You probably know some of these as artificial turf, Astroturf, and outdoor carpet.
You would think that it is a no-brainer that these are a good idea. But, there is a potential problem with them. For starters, not too long ago researchers were looking into the synthetic materials used to make Astroturf for potential health hazards due to lead.
Of course, the scare was that football players and other athletes would interact with the substance while in contact with it during sports activities; however, if you have a synthetic lawn made from this material and your children play on it, they could be in danger of poisoning as well. Now, on to the environment:
Some synthetic grass is made of nylon, which is a petroleum product. Some environmentalists are concerned about off-gassing, or out-gassing, which is the release of gasses from these products. There are even concerns that synthetic lawns can contribute to global warming because the average temperature on the surface of the lawn is 30-50 degrees higher than it is in its surroundings. I can personally attest to this fact because I have worked in a garden that contained a synthetic lawn. I felt like I was working around a parking lot it was so hot and smelly.
In addition to those things, statistics show that artificial grass eventually ends up in a landfill, which does the environment no favors. Substances in these synthetics such as silver and zinc then end up in the water as contaminates which may be harmful to humans, aquatic life, and beneficial microorganisms. Furthermore, as the chemicals break down, they are subject to going airborne and being inhaled by humans and other life forms.
Not all of the fears about artificial grass have been proven true. Some manufacturers are now making what they call safe artificial grass, but there are still concerns about the substances used to make the backing for the turf, which again are petroleum products. Unfortunately, the energy expended and the resources used in making the ‘safer’ product, such as water, make the whole thing a wash when it comes to being helpful for the ecosystem. Much of the available research shows that it is better overall to water, mow and maintain a traditional lawn in the traditional way than to make alternative grass products.
The fact is that if you are concerned that a synthetic lawn may be unfriendly toward the environment, you have a good alternative that will still save water. Take your cue from people on the west coast and in the desert states such as Arizona and Nevada: Many of them have beautiful rock yards that they decorate with cactus and other plants that require very little water. Some people go for the natural look of their environment, and others opt to go for a variety of colored rocks, such as beige, turquoise or white, or even green rocks that look like a fake lawn.
If you prefer to have real grass, maintain an organic lawn that is environmentally friendly. You do this by watering only when absolutely necessary, fertilizing with compost and letting the grass grow taller than your neighbors; uh, your neighbor’s lawn, that is.