What is the largest irrigated crop in the US? Corn? Cotton? Soybeans?
No. It’s our obsession with the American Lawn, which requires 30% of our fresh water for irrigation on the east coast, and more than 50% of our fresh water supplies in the west. If you happen to live in the west where drought has been a persistent problem for the past few years, I’m sure you’ll agree that there are far better uses for this water than maintaining such an environmentally destructive practice!
And the sad thing is that no one but Scotts (and other chemical companies), turf farmers, and the water companies derive any profit from it.
There’s a fascinating documentary about our obsession with the ‘perfect’ American Lawn that everyone should watch. It’s called Gimme Green, produced by Isaac Brown and Eric Flagg:
Lawns are undeniably an American symbol. But what do they really symbolize? Pride and prosperity? Or waste and conformity? “Gimme Green” is a humorous look at the American obsession with the residential lawn and the effects it has on our environment, our wallets, and our outlook on life. It’s estimated that Americans use approximately 50 percent of their household water on their yards. By examining the social, commercial, and environmental pressures surrounding the green grass aesthetic, we begin to understand how a non-edible, resource-intensive plant could become our nation’s largest irrigated crop. Spanning a wide range of perspectives and locales, and employing an engaging blend of gravity and levity, this documentary short examines Americans’ true motives for maintaining a lush green lawn in their yards.
What you’ll learn from Gimme Green:
- Every day, more than 5,000 acres of land are converted to lawn in America.
- Americans spend more than 40 Billion dollars every year on their lawns
- Lawns cover more than 41 million acres
- Americans apply more than 30,000 tons of pesticides to their lawns every year
- Of the 30 most used lawn pesticides, 17 are routinely detected in groundwater
- The EPA finds that nearly half of these 30 pesticides are possible or probable carcinogens
- The National Cancer Institute finds that children in homes using these pesticides have a 6.5 greater chance of developing leukemia
- American lawns require 200 gallons of fresh water per person per day
- In the southwest, lawn owners use over 75% of their water on their yards
Watch this trailer about the documentary Gimme Green:
And you can watch the full the Gimme Green documentary in its entirety here.
But with all of this land area covered with lawn, all of the fresh water required to maintain it, not to mention all of the chemicals necessary to have a ‘perfect’ lawn, the fact is that lawns are not good at all for wildlife habitat — unless you’re eager to raise lots of Japanese Beetles who will be perfectly happy while in their grub form to take up residence in your lawn.
Our team members have written many articles about how to reduce your lawn to create more wildlife habitat:
- Why Lawns are Not Sustainable in Ecosystem Gardening
- Lawn Reduction Creates Wildlife Habitat
- Chipping Away at the Grass: How to Remove Lawn a Little at a Time
- 5 Easy Steps to Reducing Your Lawn
- What Can You Do to Replace Your Lawn?
- Is Lawn a Carbon Sink?
- Less Lawn, More Butterflies
- Bee Lawns
- From Lawns to Wildlife Habitat
- Manhattan Marcie Plants a California Lawn
- Turf: How to Green the American Lawn
- Is it Time to Ditch That Lawn?
- Pollinator Friendly Lawns
- How Much Lawn is Too Much?
- Dirt to Turf
And check out these great resources (Click image for more information):
Carole Sevilla Brown lives in Philadelphia, PA, and she travels the country speaking about Ecosystem Gardening for Wildlife. Check out her new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week.
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