Eco-Friendly Lawn Care: Reducing your Carbon Footprint
Keeping our homes and yards looking great and functioning well for our needs is a priority, or even a status symbol for some. But not only do we love and enjoy our outdoor spaces, now we know that we can keep our yards in great shape without taking a toll on the environment. Gone are the days of greening up a lawn with a bucket full of chemicals or disregarding the needs of our communities as we water our lawns indiscriminately in pursuit of lawn perfection. Modern homeowners can simply and easily maintain a gorgeous outdoor landscape while still being eco-friendly. In fact, reducing your own personal carbon footprint left by your lawn maintenance is easier than ever if you follow some sensible guidelines. Let’s look at what your carbon footprint is and how you can make a few effective changes in your gardening and lawn care routine to reduce your impact on the world.
Understanding Your Carbon Footprint
The term carbon footprint is widely understood in basic terms as how much a person, business, or entity impacts the environment. When we think of this environmental impact, the first thing we often think of is in terms of emissions into the air, called the “primary” footprint. The “secondary” footprint, however, is the impact an entity’s consumption has on the environment. Our lawn care methods and products we use in our gardens and lawns directly affect this secondary footprint. Keeping our lawns and gardens healthy with eco-friendly strategies is easy and will lessen our own secondary carbon footprint, making the environment better for everyone in the long run.
Plan Smart with Fertilizer
One of the easiest ways to create a lush, gorgeous green lawn is to feed the grass and plants well. Traditional methods include adding chemicals like fertilizers. Instead of picking up a big-name chemical additive for your lawn, being more prudent in your selection and application of fertilizers can create not only the beautiful lawn you want but also be beneficial to the environment.
Don’t use any fertilizers if possible.
An emerald-green lawn is still a gold standard for many, but you might find that your grass and gardens will grow just fine without any greenhouse gas-emitting chemicals added to your lawn. While useful, traditional yard fertilizers can emit more gasses than they absorb, contrary to what common thinking had been about the overall positive environmental impact of green spaces.
Use phosphorous-free fertilizer.
Much of the fertilizer applied to lawns is absorbed into the ground, either through direct absorption or run-off, so fertilizers with phosphorous can alter the chemical makeup of this precious resource. Too much of it can create algae overgrowth, lowering oxygen levels and potentially harming fish and wildlife as well. Avoid any fertilizer that directly impacts the water or animal environment around a lawn or garden.
Fertilize only where you need it.
Instead of spreading fertilizers over all of your landscape, make sure that it hits its mark. Don’t overspray onto hard surfaces where the chemicals could be washed away, or onto garden areas that might contain helpful bugs or creatures where the strong compounds could kill them. Use a broadcast spreader or spread by hand to ensure appropriate coverage or pick up excess fertilizer to be used later in the right place.
Use a fertilizer that preserve helpful bugs or creatures.
Stop using harmful fertilizers or ones that contain pesticides that harm bugs or creatures that naturally occur in your lawn or garden. Nature’s pollinators, like the bee, can be negatively impacted by pesticides that are included in harsh fertilizers, as well as other helpful creatures like frogs and bats who eat pesky bugs. Be sure that any fertilizer used does not counteract an eco-friendly natural balance in your garden or lawn of these helpful and needed bugs and creatures.
Be Water Wise
We all know when our lawn needs water as it turns yellow or brown, the dirt shows cracks, or the growth slows down. But do we know when we have overwatered? Watch for signs of fungal disease in the grass or even moldy areas in the garden. Most lawns benefit from a less-frequent deep watering over repetitive light watering, depending on the grass being grown. Since collecting, purifying, and delivering water to homes for use on lawns and gardens takes money and expends energy, reduction or careful use of this resource is a great way to minimize your carbon footprint.
Creating a rain catchment garden that takes advantage of where rain naturally collects is a great way make the best use of water while creating a beautiful landscape addition. Or, use a rain barrel catchment system to capture naturally falling water to be reused in your lawn maintenance or gardening. Using collected water saves you money and will also preserve the water supply from being sourced unnecessarily, reducing your carbon footprint.
Use lawn machinery sparingly.
We love our beautiful lawns, but no one relishes the time behind a mower. Being at one with the outdoors is a perfect reason to invest time and energy into our lawncare. With a little planning, we can spend time on creating a lawn or garden we are proud of without excessively mowing or weeding.
Create no-mow areas.
Lawn care that integrates more natural areas that don’t require regular mowing or weeding can be just as beautiful as a lush lawn. Consider adding zones in your yard that need no or very little mowing to stay healthy and attractive like utilizing plants and grasses native to your area. While they may look different than a traditional green lawn, utilizing native plants in your landscaping will save energy in maintenance and upkeep as well as watering needs, all beneficial in reducing your lawn’s carbon footprint.
Since frequent use of a gas-powered lawnmower creates over 11 times the pollution of a new car, make a plan to mow less overall. Set your mowing height an inch or two higher, allowing your lawn more growth time in between mowing sessions, saving you time and decreasing the amount of pollution put out by your machine.
Choose Natural Solutions
Another way to create a more environmentally friendly yard or garden space is to focus on improving and enhancing your outdoor space with a focus on using natural products and methods.
Use what you already have.
Something as basic as on top of the mowed lawn instead of bagging and throwing them out, called grasscycling, can be a simple but effective way to increase your environmentally friendly yard quotient. Not only will your lawn benefit from this natural mulch, but you may also find that you need less or no fertilizer to keep your lawn lush since the decomposing grass will leach out its nutrients back into the grass. Another benefit is that you will use less non-organic materials by utilizing fewer lawncare bags, and less energy will be used by the trucks that pick up lawn waste, all creating far less of a carbon footprint.
Choose native grasses and plants.
Even though the ideal yard is a thick, bright green expanse of low-trimmed grass, this is not the grass that grows best in a lot of places. Instead of cajoling and coercing a non-native variety to adapt to your climate with plenty of fertilizer and excess watering, choose a local or native grass strain. Research what grasses grow best naturally in your area and focus on using those partially or exclusively in your lawn or garden to decrease your carbon footprint as you create a green space that will naturally require less maintenance.
Garden plants can also be selected based on where they grow naturally, beyond simply looking at the correct zone for optimal growth or planting season. Choosing plants that might naturally occur in your area means they will need less chemical or nutrient intervention to grow beautifully to their full potential, producing less of a carbon footprint for your garden with less production and spread of chemicals or changes in the water supply.
Plant groundcover instead of grass.
One ingenious solution is to use a faster-growing, low-maintenance ground cover, like clover, instead of grass for your lawn. While some neighborhoods might have HOA or other restrictions on lawn type, where allowed this solution is a great way to have a gorgeous green space with little to no maintenance. Since clover and other ground covers grow quickly and easily without fertilizers, your lawn will be lush and green without needing to be mowed or fed chemicals. Your carbon footprint will be cut down sizably since you will not need to use a gas-powered mower or buy or clean up fertilizers and will use less water.
Compost food waste.
Another great method to improve the look of lawns and gardens is by using compost. Creating your own compost is not hard, but it takes a little time and effort to feel the effects on your plants. Your lawn and garden will love the nutrient-dense addition of compost, but you will also be contributing less to your overall carbon footprint when you use compost instead of or as a partial replacement of fertilizers. By using less fertilizer on your lawn, fewer chemicals will find their way into the water systems. You will use less energy to buy and dispose of the fertilizer containers, and your food waste will not fill up the garbage pail, creating more refuse that has to be picked up and contained.
Use less energy indoors with strategic plantings.
We all love to enjoy the shade of a tall, leafy tree, but your home can benefit from it as well. Choose tree locations nearby your home to create shady spots that will help you use less energy indoors. West-facing windows and walls heat up with direct sun exposure, so choosing trees that will provide needed shade during hot seasons can help you save money on cooling down without using more electricity. A longer-term solution when trees need to grow to their height, this is a great addition to an overall strategy to reduce carbon footprints when developing landscaping plans.
Beautiful Lawns and Gardens
No matter how big your lawn or how small your garden, keeping it looking fresh and healthy is a common goal. When we think about how our lawn and garden care affects the environment, however, we use a new lens to filter what products we choose to use and how to define what is beautiful. But finding ways to use less energy, apply fewer chemicals, and create less impact on our natural resources like water are all commendable and easy strategies that will generate a crave-worthy greenspace while also reducing the impact on the environment. Everyone can adapt one new lawn or garden care strategy, making a positive impact on the environment. Every little bit counts as we all consider how to lessen our own carbon footprints. Working toward a more natural, environmentally friendly lawn and garden is easy and will still give you the beautiful outdoor space you will love.