Green Travel: Is your lawn out to kill you?
I have been seeing a lot of businesses, including a number of green hotels and eco-destinations, going local in their landscape as of late and I have to say, I like it. The use of native plants is a great idea and helps save on water, not to mention the plants adaptability to the local environment. But I have also noticed that these same businesses, but in smaller numbers, are replacing their well manicured lawns with native grasses as well. They have actually given up their plots of the great American lawn. It this fantastic or folly?
I have recently learned that the average lawn requires 3 inches of water a week. This is all fine and swell if you have a plot measuring about 10 square feet. But what if your yard tends to rival the grounds at Pebble Beach? Not so great right? That is a huge amount of water used every week just to keep the stuff green and nice. For the water savings I think native grasses are a fantastic idea. And while many think you can’t walk on them and that by using a native grass you loose the ability to actually enjoy your lawns, think again. You just have to be sure to get the right kind. Unless you are a horticulturalist or know one, the best place to start is at your local nursery where you can ask all sorts of questions and will undoubtedly be asked a few yourself. If you prefer to surf the information super highway, by all means, surf away. Or, do what I do, both. I surf until I think I know the answers and then I go talk to a pro. Usually, I get it right, but once in a while, I have missed the mark by a lot. I was aiming for Pebble Beach and ended up at Augusta. Go figure.
But aside from the water savings which is more than enough reason to replace that lawn, and the fact that I am partial to the look of native grasses anyway, I am also beginning to think that our lawns are actually out to kill us. No, really. I’m not talking about a sequel to “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” or even a third incarnation of “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.” I mean that all we do to keep our lawns neat, trim, and tidy is genuinely out to kill us.
I recently surfed over to the US Product Safety Commission’s website and was shocked to read some statistics regarding lawn mowing. For example, I had no idea that 250,000 people are injured by lawn mowers every year. Even worse, 90,000 of those people are seriously injured and actually require hospital treatment. Imagine, a nice summer day and you are out mowing your lawn and before you know it you are in the ER because you mowed over your foot instead of the lawn. Yikes! There is an age group that is safe, because those injured are under the age of 15 and over the age of 60. So, all you 16 to 59 year olds, get out there and start mowing the lawn will ya?
Granted some of the injuries could be prevented. Sure, it makes sense that you are out there mowing your lawn in shorts because it is hot and you are out in the sun right? But 54% of those injured were wearing shorts. And what are your feet wearing if you are wearing shorts? Flip flops right? Yeah, and so were 14% of the injured. Now here it gets a bit more obvious. 8% of those injured were drinking beer while they were mowing the lawn. Clearly, this does not include the under 15 crowd, so it is the 60 and over crowd that is out there drinking alcohol in the hot sun while operating heavy machinery. Don’t you know better? Come now. But the 15 and under crowd is certainly more prone to this next statistic: 4% of the injured were either talking or texting on their cell phones. You may not know better and I hope you learn your lesson when you mow your toes off. Was that text worth it? Now, if you were wearing shorts, flip flops, drinking beer, and texting, well, talk about throwing caution to the wind.
I will admit, I do have a lawn. I do not mow it myself. I have a gardener who comes every Friday morning at 7am. He cuts, blows, and goes. 7 minutes start to finish and he even doubles as an alarm clock. He is that punctual. So I avoid the risk of mowing off my toes because I would be out there in flip flops and shorts. That and I would have certainly already blown up in my haphazard attempts to fill the gas tank of the lawn mower when it stops half way through the job.
That now brings me back to the water issue. It isn’t a huge lawn but it isn’t exactly small either. It does use a great deal of water for it to be green. The fact that it looks like hell indicates that I have not been watering it enough. But I am also in the process of researching the right native grasses. I have it down to about a dozen that I like, several that I have seen used rather prevalently at several green hotels and at a local LEED certified cultural spot. I have also managed to barter services with my horticulturalist friend: she brings the seeds and advice while I send her home with several loaves of fresh home baked French bread. By this time next year I should be on my way to a nice green front lawn area filled with a variety of native grasses while the sprinklers just sit there, looking nice, offering birds a nice place to perch as they too admire my lovely drought tolerant landscaping. I’ll be happy with a lower water bill and all my toes. The only person who will not enjoy the new greener lawn area will be my gardener, but maybe I can get him on board with the whole local plants thing and it’ll be a win-win. So much for using him as an alarm clock tomorrow.
Live green. Pass it on.