Can Lawn Care Be Environmentally Friendly?

pesticide warning sign in home's front lawn

A beautiful grass lawn is good for the environment, right? Not necessarily, and the lawn care company who does yard work can make a big difference to a positive answer for this question.

While grass, like other plants, captures carbon dioxide (CO2), certain lawn care practices can cancel out the environmental benefits of growing grass. For example, the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, as well as gas-powered yard equipment and high water consumption, all take an environmental toll.

By adopting eco-friendly practices, a lawn care business can reduce the environmental impact of their service and secure the trust of customers who want natural, sustainable lawn care.

Lawn Mowers

The choice of lawnmower has a big impact on how eco-friendly your lawn care business is. Using a gas-powered mower for one hour can have the same carbon footprint as a 100-mile car trip! The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that gas-powered lawnmowers emit eight times more nitrogen oxides, 3,300 times more hydrocarbons, 5,000 times more carbon monoxide, and more than twice the carbon dioxide per hour of operation than electric lawnmowers.

Electric mowers don’t totally eliminate pollution — unless the electricity source is 100 percent renewable. However, they don’t consume gas or produce carbon emissions, resulting in cleaner air for the lawn care crew and the homeowner.

And there are additional benefits from electric or battery-powered mowers. The most noticeable benefit is the noise level of an electric mower; they’re much quieter than a gas-powered mower. They require minimal maintenance as you don’t have to replace spark plugs, change the oil, or refill the gasoline. Electric mowers weigh less and are lighter to haul around. They are also easier to start as they don’t require any cranking or pulling.

In the long run, they are a cheaper alternative because you won’t be spending money on gas.

Lawn Chemicals

Herbicides and Pesticides

Herbicides are used to kill undesirable plants or weeds. Some herbicides will kill all the plants they touch, while others are designed to target one species. Weed killers are the most used chemical in the lawn maintenance category, with 90 million pounds of herbicides being used on lawns every year, according to the Pesticide Action Network.

Pesticides are chemicals used to kill fungus, bacteria, insects, plant diseases, unwanted bugs, and weeds. However, while these chemicals may kill off the unwanted pests around a yard, they are very dangerous and have tons of harmful side effects.

Pesticides and herbicides used in traditional lawn maintenance can harm beneficial insects and animals. And if not fully absorbed, these chemicals can soak through soil and contaminate groundwater. Or they may run off into streams and lakes where they endanger aquatic life.

In addition to containing harmful chemicals, pesticides negatively contribute to climate change because they are manufactured using petroleum products, and energy is used during the manufacturing process and for transportation.

The good news is that there are many alternatives you can use instead of traditional pesticides and herbicides. In fact, there are some you can make with ingredients from your own kitchen!

Fertilizer

Fertilizers have an extremely large carbon footprint. Carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane — all greenhouse gases — are produced during the fabrication of fertilizers. For every ton of fertilizer manufactured, two tons of carbon dioxide are produced.

Any nitrogen that isn’t absorbed by plants when fertilizing is converted by microbes into nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Like pesticides and herbicides, runoff from fertilizers can reach wells and contaminate our water supply. Wells with high concentrations of nitrates may cause congenital disabilities, blue baby syndrome, nervous system impairments, and cancer. Other runoff contaminated by fertilizers eventually reaches streams, lakes, estuaries, and then finally our oceans.

While organic fertilizers don’t show immediate results like some synthetic fertilizers might, the long-term effects are much more beneficial and less damaging. Organic fertilizers improve soil, assist with water retention, and make the soil lighter so that air can easily flow to plant roots. Organic fertilizers don’t waste nutrients, and they are less likely to create a build-up of salts that slow plant growth. And they’re safer for pets and children.

Excessive Watering

You can determine if a grass needs water by seeing how dry the soil is. Soil moisture is determined by many factors, including temperature, humidity, wind speed, rain frequency, soil type, and overall grass condition. The golden rule of watering is to water thoroughly but infrequently.

Green Your Lawn Care Business

While going green takes time, investments, resources, and commitment, the benefits are huge. The benefits of operating an eco-friendly business include tax credits and incentives, improved efficiency, and healthier workplaces. Smart, sustainable decisions can save you money and increase your business’ revenue.

Customers are willing to pay more for products and services that are safer for their families and the environment. Customers want to be green, and they expect the businesses they invest in to lead the way.

Jeremy Yamaguchi

About the Author

Images courtesy of Lawn Love

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Comments

  1. For those tired of the time and expense of a lawn I save 100s of $$$/year, spend 1/4 the time cutting grass and have a weed-free lawn simply by cutting grass much higher. Google “34″, $100, 20 lb Triple Weed Whacker Lawnmower”. The longer you let grass grow the less expensive it is to maintain. I don’t water, fertilize, apply weedkiller or aerate at all.

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