As spring nears, days will get warmer and green will slowly return to the trees and our yards. With the coming of spring, many are preparing their fertilizer and mowers to care for their lawns. The green carpet of turfgrass that we have come to love, however, poses several threats to the watershed. By making changes to your lawn and lawn care routine, you can reduce the detriments of lawns and protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Why are lawns so detrimental to the environment? Where once a diverse ecosystem of local plants that were perfectly adapted to the local climate existed, now exists acres and acres of monoculture turfgrass. Turfgrass is actually the most grown crop in the United States, and it does not provide food for humans or habitat for wildlife. In addition to this decrease in biodiversity, lawns require a significant amount of resources.
Each year a staggering amount of potable water is used to keep lawns perfectly green. At a time when water supplies are increasingly under pressure as populations grow and the climate changes, lawns serve as an unnecessary strain on our dwindling resources. Fertilizer and pesticides also add significant strains on the watershed and the environment. When fertilizer is applied to lawns, it often washes off into storm sewers, and eventually flows into the Chesapeake Bay, where the excess nutrients cause algal blooms that choke out sunlight and kill the submerged aquatic grasses young fish and shellfish need for shelter from predators. Pesticides, known toxins to children and pets, are unsurprisingly toxic to other wildlife as well. When these chemicals make their way into the watershed, they can be harmful to the ecosystem.
The good news is that there are things you can do to reduce the environmental impact of your lawn, or better, replace some or all of your lawn with local plants. Each house and congregation can make a big difference by swapping out turfgrass with native plants, using fertilizer alternatives, and opting for cleaner lawn care equipment. By adopting these practices, not only will your yard look beautiful and provide essential food and habitat for local wildlife, but it will also require less resources and contribute less to the pollution of our shared watershed.
To learn more about sustainable lawn care:
- Check out our Lawn Care Guide
- Check out our “Landscape Habit” module in our Power To Motivate course made in partnership with the Anne Arundel Watershed Stewards Academy.
For more Lenten inspiration, check out our Lenten Calendar made in partnership with Interfaith Power and Light.
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