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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about... the common lawn and the environmental effects of our obsession with having the greenest, lushest lawn in the neighborhood.


CURWOOD: With spring in full swing, lawns are coming back, with grass and of course a touch of crabgrass. In the US more than 46 million acres of yards, golf courses, cemeteries, parks, and sports fields are now blanketed with the high-maintenance artificial monoculture we call the common lawn. The mowed lawn has its origins in 18th century France, when areas were designed for the palace at Versailles. The practice was adopted by the English aristocracy, and then later by American colonists in an attempt to transform the wildness of the New World into the sophistication of the old. With the increasing numbers of lawns comes concerns about environmental effects. Operating a gas-powered motor for 1 hours pollutes as much as driving a car for 350 miles. Pesticide use often fouls both the air and groundwater. And although farmers use pesticides more widely, homeowners apply them 20 times more per acre, even though weeds do somehow manage to survive. Lawn clippings are another concern. They constitute nearly 21% of all material added to municipal waste dumps each year. And in some parts of the nation, during the driest months of the year up to 60% of urban fresh water is used, you guessed it, to water lawns. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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