Thumbs down Avoiding phony grass

As with so many things these days, some of what passes for green materials is anything but. For instance, phony plastic lawns are all the rage in some circles. Some communities even give rebates to homeowners who replace their living lawns with artificial ones. Manufacturers point out that a fake lawn uses no water and needs no mowing, fertilizer, or pesticides.

Nonliving turf worsens the urban heat island effect, uses materials that are made from fossil fuels (and may contain toxic elements), eliminates even the paltry life-giving benefits of real grass, and creates a potential waste-stream nightmare at the end of its service. Throw in the fact that synthetic turf does require some water to keep it clean, contributes to stormwater pollution because it offers no biofiltration, and gets dangerously hot in summer, and you can see that plastic lawns are a very bad idea.

Living lawns are a huge part of the negative environmental impact of landscaping, but substituting a sea of plastic is going in the wrong direction. A far better alternative is to install a meadow of native grasses or other perennials. Better yet, put in a diverse garden of useful plants that wildlife will appreciate and that you'll enjoy for food.

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