Yesterday as I was driving here in Santa Cruz, there was a large banner on a wall with the slogan, Food Not Lawns.
This is not exactly a new concept, after all, there is now an organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn. And thoughtful people everywhere are planting a bit more in their home gardens this summer. But what if the front lawn fell out of fashion? What could be done with all that sunshine, fertilizer, and water?
I found an article in the Orange County Register written by Cindy McNatt: Cities and businesses, how about losing the lawn?
We've been asked as homeowners to cut back on water use, lose the lawn, get greener, reduce green waste and go organic. The California Friendly Garden Contest acknowledges some of these efforts.
I'm not sticking up for front lawns here, but think about this: Many homeowners use their lawns for family fun and entertainment. For possibly half the population of people who keep a lawn, it serves a function —- at least in the backyard where games are played and canines romp.
Compare the family lawn to the acres of grass planted around commercial buildings, public medians and retail stores. No children playing kick ball, no dogs rolling in the sun, no one catching a nap or picnicking under a shady tree.
Nick Mrvos of the Irvine Ranch Water District tells homeowner groups, "If the only feet that make contact with grass are the guys that mow it, it might be time to consider alternatives."
It doesn't matter how large or small the commercial landscape is, you will no doubt find a strip of grass that needs to be mowed each week. Some swaths we saw were so large they might equal 25 or more typical homeowner lawns. Others were so small they didn't even make sense.
I doubt there is a way to measure how many acres of "silly strips" are planted in grass, but if you spend any time in HOA neighborhoods, or the commercial areas of your town, or even drive through the local takeout restaurant and notice the stupid strip of grass in the planter, you wonder how it adds up in resources.
Greenbelts are not "green" anymore. Tom Larson, adviser to the Metropolitan Water District said these parkways were designed on the East Coast in the 1800s for storing excess snow. Don't you think it's time to move on?
Commercial building owners could save thousands a year in maintenance fees if they lost their lawns. Ditto for homeowner associations where shrubs and ground covers could be maintained once a month instead of weekly. Cities that need to cut back expenses could lose the grass in purposeless places.
Ron Vanderhoff said, "These greenbelts are from a bygone era. Water, chemicals, runoff, excess fertilizer, green waste, herbicides, air pollution, fossil fuels used all add up to a big mistake in today's era of using less resources and protecting the resources that we do have."
So how 'bout it then? Can cities, HOAs, and commercial property owners pitch in? [emphasis is mine]
Let's use this estimate, half the population of people who keep a lawn, and try to guess how much productive land could be freed up.