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Walla Walla, WA
Friday, December 8, 2023

It’s Time to Leave Lawns Behind

January 26, 2023
Melanie Marino

Why You Should Consider Alternatives to Harmful Grass Lawns

Melanie Marino

It’s been said that if aliens came to earth, their first question wouldn’t be about cars or buildings or why humans look funny – it would be “why grass?” Why is it everywhere and why do humans care about it so much? If grass is inedible, why does it cover 2% of the continental United States – three times the land area of any irrigated crop? [1] If we’re constantly battling droughts, then why is 30-60% of public fresh water used on lawns? [2] If we’re concerned about the state of the environment, then why do we ignore the fact that homeowners spill 17 million gallons of fuel (more than the Exxon oil spill) each year while refueling lawn equipment? [3] Where did America’s affinity for grass lawns originate and why are people still so enthralled with them today? 

Our obsession with grass dates back to medieval Europe. Lawns became popular among the aristocracy and highly wealthy, quickly becoming a status symbol. With the rise of sports, public outdoor areas like parks, and the invention of the lawnmower, lawns became more widespread.[4] Lawns really took off in America during the 1950s with people chasing the American dream and working towards the desirable image of cookie-cutter, white picket fence, suburbia. This leaves us with the phenomenon of grass lawns we’re familiar with today. 

All this is not to say that grass lawns have no purpose – they provide erosion control, look visually appealing, improve air quality, and absorb carbon from the atmosphere. [5] However, these benefits aren’t unique to traditional grass lawns and can be seen from other vegetation types as well. Native grasses and shrubs consume less water and require little to no maintenance, and a mix of rocks and desert plants works perfectly for arid climates. More creative options like clovers and wildflowers provide the same benefits while breaking the stereotype that uniform, well-manicured lawns indicate status. [6] 

Grass lawns are unnecessary and impractical, especially with so many better alternatives available. They consume considerable time, energy, water, and money – providing minimal unique benefits. Although you may have a hard time convincing your family to kill your lawn at home, I encourage you to consider alternatives to a traditional lawn for your future residence. 



  1. Harrington, R. (n.d.). Grass takes up 2% of the land in the continental US. Business Insider.  
  2. Polycarpou, L. (2010, June 4). The problem of lawns. State of the Planet; Columbia Climate School.  
  3. Ibid. 
  4. Ibid. 
  5. Harrington, R. (n.d.). Grass takes up 2% of the land in the continental US. Business Insider. 
  6. Paul, E. (2019, June 20). Lawns may be green, but they’re terrible for the environment. Greater Greener Washington.   
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