Negotiating the Climate Crisis: Changing Perceptions of the American Lawn

published Nov 02, 2022
2 min read

The American love affair with lawns started in the 18th Century when European immigrants introduced the idea of a “pristine” lawn. What began as a practical solution for anticipating hostile visitors and grazing livestock became a status symbol.

Only the wealthy could afford to splash out on grass maintenance. Over in the US, the humble lawn evolved into a physical manifestation of the American Dream.

In the US, a homeowner’s lawn is still indicative of their status within the community. Lawn care is so important that many homeowner associations have regulations on grass maintenance, incurring fines for poor lawn management.

But things are changing. An ongoing climate crisis has caused a sociological shift to environmental consciousness.

Rethinking the American Lawn

In Los Angeles, California, restrictions on outdoor water use have caused lawns to fall out of fashion in favor of native plants such as buckwheat or toyon. Many perceive an “American lawn” as long-term upkeep, with costs dedicated to environmentally harmful pesticides, watering requirements, and general maintenance. But, if you think all lawn-care products are made from harsh chemicals, think again.

Now, environmentally friendly lawn-care products are becoming widely available, like organic weed killer.

The megadrought in the American southwest is the worst climate disaster seen for 1,200 years. Of all the states in the southwest, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah are among the worst affected by extreme drought intensity levels.

Utah is known for its dense population of Mormons who moved from east to west to escape religious persecution. Mormon settlers wanted to recreate the grassy lands of their home to symbolize prosperity and their commitment to being a steward of nature.

Now, some residents have stopped watering their front lawns — but even in the last two years, where 90% of Utah was in a state of exceptional, extreme, or severe drought — Utahns kept on watering.

Image Source: Shutterstock

Keeping It Green

But having a beautiful golf course lawn is a stylistic choice. It’s still possible to enjoy your green space but save on watering requirements. It just takes a little lawn-care education.

Reduce watering requirements by using soil moisture management products and choosing the right grass seed. You can cut your watering requirements in half by using the soil moisture manager:  Hydretain, which acts as a “water magnet”.

After Hydretain has been watered in and soaked into the grass-root zone, it will attract water molecules to root hairs. Vapor and humidity in the soil aren’t usable by plants generally as they’re constantly evaporating — so Hydretain helps draw in moisture from below and above the root zone. This allows your grass to take advantage of the water already in the soil.

Warm-season grasses like Bermuda, St Augustine, and Zoysia only need an inch of water per week — which is far less than most people think. However, you can do more to retain water in your lawn.

Setting your irrigation system to run in the early morning (around 4 am) will allow water to soak into the lawn fully in the cooler hours before the sun rises and evaporates the moisture. In addition, the wind tends to be low in the early morning hours, which is better for ensuring an even spread of water that doesn’t get blown away in the wind.

Changing Your Approach

Perceptions of the American lawn are shifting in favor of having an environmentally friendly and biodiverse green space. Selecting native plants requires far less upkeep than maintaining a green, golf course lawn.

But, it’s not black or white.

You don’t have to change your lawn — especially if you like it just the way it is. You shouldn’t have to rethink what you like, either. By reducing your watering requirements using Hydretain or selecting a warm-season grass type, you can still enjoy a lush, deep green lawn. After all, it’s pretty satisfying to look at.

Being mindful of the products you choose is also a better way to be planet-positive. Look for organic weed killers, or DIY lawn-care methods to keep harsh, harmful chemicals away from your surrounding ecosystems.