Let your lawn go natural for wildlife.
Tens of millions of houses in America collectively maintain 20 million acres of lawns. As Yale forest ecologist, F. Herbert Bormann and his colleagues detailed in Redesigning the American Lawn:
- A lawnmower pollutes as much in one hour as does driving an automobile for 350 miles.
- 30 to 60 percent of urban fresh water is used for watering lawns (depending on city).
- Over $5 billion per year is spent on fossil fuel-derived fertilizers for U.S. lawns.
- 67 million pounds of synthetic pesticides are used on U.S. lawns each year.
- 580 million gallons of gasoline are used for lawnmowers each year.
More and more people in the US are replacing much or all of their lawns in favor of growing pesticide-free vegetables, fruits and flowers, as well as including natural wildlife habitat. The National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Wildlife Habitat program provides a wealth of web-based resources, including a certification process to help you in the transition from lawn to natural habitat.
In addition to making your lawn wildlife-friendly by providing water, fruit bearing native plants, and shelter, always keep cats indoors. Why? According to estimates by the National Audubon Society, avian mortality due to house cats is 100 million birds per year.
Regardless what you decide to do with your yard, a very environmentally friendly and useful action you can take is to compost your garbage wastes and yard clippings. Not only does it save water and electricity if you compost instead of using a garbage disposal, but it also reduces the need for trash hauling and landfill expansion, while simultaneously benefiting your soil. Rain barrel rainwater collection systems offer an excellent way to capture rain from your home's roof.
Benefits including cutting your water costs, lightening the load on your sewer and municipal system, protecting nearby rivers and streams, while using recycled industrial food grade barrels, keeping water away from your foundation, and coming out with a great looking yard and garden. Each inch of rain on a 1000 sq ft roof yields 623 gallons of water.
Finally, for the lawn you do maintain, consider replacing the power mower with a push mower, as well as mulch-mowing that retains the cut grass on the lawn.
Redesigning the American Lawn, A Search for Environmental Harmony, F. Herbert Bormann, Diana Balmori, Gordon T. Geballe, Yale University Press, 2nd edition, 2001.
Energy-Efficient and Environmental Landscaping : Cut Your Utility Bills by Up to 30 Percent and Create a Natural Healthy Yard, Anne Simon Moffat and Mark Schiler, 1994.
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