You know who I’m talking about, the neighbor who obsessively preens his lawn as though it were a work of art. Out comes the mower at least once, maybe twice a week, to maintain the perfect length. The lawn looks so green and lush as to be almost unnatural. You just know this guy faithfully applies fertilizer to his lawn every spring, summer and fall.
What’s the big deal?
Now, there’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting a nice lawn, but does our environment have to pay the price? Commercial fertilizers contain nitrogen and phosphorous that eventually enter the water runoff from our lawns into streams and rivers, feeding an overgrowth of algae and other plant life. Plant overgrowth creates a negative domino effect of sorts by causing oxygen depletion in the water, which then leads to fish kills. Connections have also been established between human ingestion of the excess nitrogen that ends up in our drinking water and “blue baby” syndrome. Excessive levels of copper and zinc in commercially fertilized soil have been known to create crop production issues.
Neighborhood noise pollution.
Don’t get me started on gas powered mowers, weed wackers and leaf blowers. Have you ever smelled the fumes? Yuck! That’s like standing behind a running car and breathing in the exhaust. With all the gas-powered vehicles already polluting the atmosphere, do we really need more toxins floating around?
According to Chris Houchin of Quiet Garden Landscaping in Los Angeles, California, mower exhaust emits “forty-three times more pollution than even a car.” Two-cycle mowers, weed whackers and leaf blowers “emit up to eighty times the toxins, the fumes that an automobile emits.” (Quotes taken from “Ed Begley, Jr.’s Guide to Sustainable Living: Learning to Conserve Resources and Manage an Eco-Conscious Life (New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2009), 200).
What are the alternatives?
Happily for us and the environment, there are alternatives. What you need to keep in mind first and foremost is that a healthy lawn is your best defense against weeds and pests. Organic lawn products safely nourish your lawn without harming people, pets or wildlife.
The chemical components of compost improve soil structure and protect your lawn from pests. If you already have an active compost pile, you have a ready-made source of lawn fertilizer! Kelp meal, humus and seaweed powder are but some of the examples of commercially available organic fertilizer products.
Now for that lawn mower. How about a reel mower? Besides reducing the amount of toxins in the air, pushing a reel mower is great exercise! If your lawn’s too large, then an electric mower will do the trick. Electrically powered leaf blowers and weed whackers reduce toxic emissions even more. Hand or electrically powered lawn tools keep noise pollution down, too.
Natural is better!
All living things need balance in order to thrive, and soil is no different. Imbalance from an excess in chemical content affects not just the soil but all the organisms that depend on that soil for life. Do we really need an artificially perfect lawn? Natural lawn care alternatives produce the same results. Lawn mower exhaust destroys our air quality. Electrically powered lawn tools perform just as well!
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