Well-shorn lawns are still the norm on the grounds of parks, schools, churches, hospitals, business parks and neighborhoods. While better than exposed bare earth, such swaths of green are still environmental minefields.
Rain flushes dog poop, pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals from those grassy surfaces into local streams. The springtime spreading of fertilizer to keep grass thick and green is a troublesome source of nutrients that are harmful to the Chesapeake Bay.
Close-cropped grass grows from compacted dirt that doesn’t soak up much stormwater. The short, monoculture grass has no wildlife value. The army of lawnmowers needed to keep the grass cut to socially acceptable length emits air pollution at three times the rate of automobiles.
And keeping everything a tidy green eats up mowing dollars that could be better spent on the missions of churches, schools and the like.
“It’s kind of tyrannical. Lawns control us more than we control them,” said Ryan Davis of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. “One of the most insidious parts of a lawn is it doesn’t do anything. It’s just sterile and sitting there.”