Artificial Grass in Hawaii August 22 2017
When Christine Turk and her husband, Kyong, saw their first water bill at their new home in Puu Lani Ranch, they knew they had to make some changes. A lot of their 1-acre parcel was planted in grass. They definitely wanted to create a landscape that needed less water. They redesigned most of the site with rock gardens filled with succulents and cactus. In doing so they managed to reduce their water bill to 20 percent of the original cost. Not only is their current landscape low maintenance and drought tolerant, it is also beautiful.
While transitioning to their xeriscape garden Christine’s declaration to her plants was, “If you need a lot of water, we don’t want you.” Any plants that died once the water was reduced were not replaced.
The grass was the first to go. They liked the greenery around their pool but didn’t want the maintenance and mess. Their solution was artificial grass. It looks great, needs no water or maintenance and no grass clippings get in the pool. They were also able to install a low maintenance putting green on the property with the same artificial grass.
Though Christine admits the grass was expensive to install, “we think the savings on water and maintenance will pay for it over time,” she said.
Read the complete article here http://westhawaiitoday.com/news/local-features/thorns-and-prickles-abound-christine-s-cactus-garden
The Benefits of Artificial Grass August 14 2017
My first encounter with a garden with artificial grass came last summer. It was a hot day, and I remember soft blades brushing against my exposed calves in such a pleasant way that I soon found myself drifting away from the general chat about nannies, nappies and organic food.
Our own garden, back then, was an overgrown paved mess; all tangled weeds and dead snails, no place for a toddler. It was sad to see our two-year-old, Ezra, staring through the glass back door, not allowed out. By the following spring, we resolved, we would change it. Another baby was due and we wanted both children to enjoy playing outside.
We looked into real grass for about an hour. It was that half-hearted. This was partly because my parents had a real lawn at the house where I grew up, which was meant to be green but was often brown. The fact that neither my wife, Rosamund, nor I want to mow was also a factor. Who does? From moths to mould, stuff growing in a property is bad, and we thought of those pesky blades of grass in a similar fashion.
When a gardener told us we didn’t have enough direct sunlight to keep a real lawn healthy and that it would go mossy, I could have kissed him. I entered “Artificial grass London” into Google with lightning speed and, after a week of work, our tiny back garden was transformed.
We used a company called Green Man Landscaping after getting three quotes. The estimates were largely similar, but the guy at Green Man cooed as he ran his hand over fake grass and, if you are selling something, it doesn’t hurt to lech over it like a petrolhead does a fancy alloy. We choose Sensation. It was soft to the touch, and when Ezra sat bare-bottomed on a sample and announced it was nice, the deal was done. After all, our laziness aside, the main reason for this outlay has been Ezra and his baby sister, Eden. We’re incredibly fortunate to have any garden at all in London, and even though I can lie in ours and reach both flower beds with one stretch, it is something we own that is outside. In my former homes in the capital, the only daylight came on the walk to the bins, so we wanted our children to enjoy it as much as possible, while doing little ourselves. Hence the plastic.
My dad calls it a carpet, and, well, I did vacuum it the other day, after a fox scraped soil over the pristine plastic. The neighbours probably laughed, but I live in east London for the entertainment. I never factored in dealing with nature, and have barely any interest in it, other than watching Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth back in 2006.
After a week of the new garden, a cat left a poo on the lawn. Professional advice is to bag it and bin it, which I did. But you can’t pick the blades the residue is stuck to, and I didn’t want it to linger. So, water in mug — we are too useless to have ever owned a hosepipe — I sponged it with Fairy Liquid. You could eat off it now.
The fake grass has been in place for over a month and hasn’t grown an inch. It is still as green as Centre Court on day one. The weather was awful a few weeks ago; torrential rain woke us up at night, but the garden remained weirdly dry, the underlay and sand soaking up the water and leaving the “grass” on top unaffected.
One Facebook forum accused people like us of ruining places where urban wildlife could thrive, but I don’t think 24 sq metres of Walthamstow are to blame given, say, the paving over of the green belt. Besides, we can put Eden down on it and she isn’t slobbered over by worms, so we’re happy.
My parents remain sceptical. Apparently, in the 1980s, people thought that artificial grass was poisonous. But, then, I had an aunt who was terrified of microwaves, so attitudes change. They also thought it was tacky, obviously, and I admit the vacuuming was a bit The Only Way Is Essex, but at least we don’t have to buy a mower we don’t have the room to store. My mum has been over to see how sitting on the grass would feel and she didn’t have a medical reaction. My dad hasn’t been for an inspection yet, but maybe he’s too busy tending to his proper lawn.
My parents tried everything with that rogue stretch of green when I lived with them and treated it like people do a difficult friend. There was sometimes joy but mostly unpredictability, and things often went wrong. I admire them for plugging away, but my wife and I are less patient. Game of Thrones won’t watch itself if we’re at the garden centre, yet again, trying to find resilient seed.
We like the convenience because we are, after all, part of the Steve Jobs generation, living in a world of designed edges and efficiency that does the work for us so we can have fun. I now see artificial grass as the iPhone of horticulture — so practical and pretty that only lofty traditionalists would opt for anything else.
Our quotes came from Green Man (07741 284795), Easigrass (easigrass.com) and AGI (artificialgrass-installers.co.uk) and would have been cheaper had we not needed bricks removed ahead of installation: artificial turf can be laid pretty much anywhere, but cost depends on the preparation needed.
The labour came to £1,360, while the bill for “materials and Sensation grass”, for 24 sq metres, was £590. Had we opted for Perfection, a slightly bushier style, it would have been £264 more. The cheaper the option, the harder it is on on the skin; some include brown blades to create the illusion of, I guess, human failure.
You can buy outdoor vacuums to clean it, but if you have no outside storage you can just use your house one instead. Avoid damage by using a brush to clear pebbles and snail shells.
Don & Low enters synthetic grass yarn market August 10 2017
Don & Low, a Scottish technical textiles manufacturer, has announced the official completion and start-up of its brand-new synthetic grass line, after receiving Board Approval to make this substantial investment at the end of 2016.
“Working collaboratively with our raw materials and machine partners, as well as multiple years of extrusion and manufacturing experience, has meant we have some very exciting grass developments to bring to the demanding and performance driven artificial grass market,” said Jacki Stephen, Don & Low Product Development Technologist.
The investment will allow for 3,500 tonnes of grass yarn production capacity for 2018 alone, with potential for further investment and expansion in 2019/2020. Don & Low aims to utilise this investment by taking synthetic grass yarn technology to the next level and leverage its technical leadership position in other markets to immediately deliver enhanced yarn characteristics, for the benefit of the entire synthetic turf industry.
According to the manufacturer, this new investment has enabled Don & Low to create a unique and pioneering range of grass yarns, which is expected to exceed even the toughest industry expectations, and be a step ahead of current market offerings.
The new addition will also help Don & Low meet the increasing demands of the synthetic turf industry to provide highly durable, resilient and skin-friendly yarns for a variety of sports and landscape applications.
“As a result of this new venture, Don & Low has now become the only independent grass yarn manufacturer in the UK and is one of the few remaining independent grass yarn manufacturers globally. This will allow us to work with many different customers and business partners, while maintaining the quality and excellence of our products,” commented Mark Newstead, Don & Low Managing Director.
The product range will be officially launched at this year’s FSB Exhibition, taking place from 7-10 October, in Cologne.
Why Jessica Alba Loves Artificial Grass April 13 2016
Jessica Alba is a well-known actress, inspirational model and a driven businesswoman. Alba has been working as an actress since she was 11 years old, when an agent noticed her at an acting class. Since then, at the young age of 11, Jessica Alba has stormed the filming industry and become a household name. Even though Alba’s life is publicised and she is constantly followed by the paparazzi, not many people know her passion for design and her love for the environment.
Having purchased a home in Beverly Hills, California with her husband and pets, Alba wanted to change her garden to an eco friendly and safe place before she gave birth to her first child; Honor. Alba took the time to meet with a designer so she could create the perfect garden for her future family in a certain amount of time.
Since Alba turned her garden eco friendly, California since then have implemented a mandatory water restriction. The water restriction only allows people to water their grass at certain times of the day. As a result, everybody’s lawn turned brown and the people who had green lawns were fined for using too much water.
Alba mostly turned her lawn to artificial grass in order to protect the health of her children and pets; residents in California have since followed her lead. In order to prevent being fined, residents have also opted for artificial grass; purely for the fact they want a garden that looks green all year round without having to use water.
It seems as though Alba has set a trend and her love for the environment and the safety of her children and pets has changed people’s views relating to artificial grass. People realise that artificial grass is not only visually attractive, maintenance free and safer for animals and children, but it is also friendly for the environment.
Jessica Alba is extremely pleased with the results of her artificial lawn, and her animals and children can now play outside on an eco friendly surface.
HOAs could face fines under California drought rules February 05 2016
Any homeowner associations that try to enforce rules requiring green lawns despite the drought could be fined under regulations approved this week by the state water board.
The latest drought regulations adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board enable local water districts to fine associations that seek to prevent homeowners from reducing outdoor watering or letting their grass go brown in response to the drought.
Under state laws passed since 2014, homeowner associations are already barred from interfering with residents’ water conservation efforts or trying to keep them from switching to drought-tolerant plants or artificial turf. But until the latest measures were approved, a homeowner’s only recourse if an association tried to crack down illegally was to take it to court.
The new regulations approved Tuesday give water districts the power to fine HOAs that break the law up to $500 a day.
“It was important in this latest iteration of the emergency regulations that we make it clear that the urban water suppliers can use this in their enforcement efforts,” said George Kostyrko, a spokesperson for the state water board in Sacramento. “While the state board has a definite role here, the enforcement will be more effective at the local level.”
He said the regulations give water agencies a tool to use “if they’re getting complaints from residents who are being intimidated or fined for conserving water.”
Controversies have erupted in some communities when associations have told residents they must follow landscaping guidelines and keep their grass.
The rules could have an effect on how drought-related disputes play out in some of the homeowner associations in the Coachella Valley.
Cal Lockett, executive director of the Coachella Valley chapter of Community Associations Institute, said the nonprofit has encouraged associations to contact their local water district to make sure they’re complying with drought measures. There are more than 500 community associations in the valley, out of an estimated 43,000 associations in California – including condominium associations, homeowner associations and cooperatives.
Darren Bevan, chair of the institute's California Legislative Action Committee, said many communities have achieve tremendous water-savings, including by converting to drought-tolerant landscaping or artificial grass.
“This fine structure is brand new,” Bevan said in an emailed statement. “We are currently withholding judgement pending more information, but stand with the rest of California in being pleased to see that recent storms have brought much needed water to California.”
During the drought, some water districts have fined HOAs for failing to reduce water usage sufficiently as required under the state’s rules. Disputes have also flared between some HOA boards and groups of homeowners over how to respond to mandatory water conservation rules.
James McCormick, a lawyer who represents HOAs in Southern California, said he recently was involved in a mediation process involving a Coachella Valley association board and a group of homeowners who disagreed on the pace of scaling back on water usage.
“The difficulty that we’re facing is, associations are trying to meet those standards and meeting those standards is going to require oftentimes whole-scale revisions to the landscaping scheme,” McCormick said. “That costs money and that’s the biggest question: how do we accomplish this as quickly as possible with the funds that we have available, or the funds that we can generate?”
As for the possibility of water agencies slapping fines on associations, McCormick said he thinks enforcement will be difficult because the law still allows HOAs to set reasonable restrictions to maintain aesthetics, and it’s unclear how officials will determine which restrictions are permissible and which aren’t.
He said he thinks issuing fines doesn’t seem to be a productive way of moving toward the goal of reducing water usage.
Katie Ruark, conservation manager for the Coachella Valley Water District, said the agency will need to evaluate the measure adopted by the state board.
The new regulations, which take the place of previous drought rules that expire this month, will also slightly ease the mandatory conservation targets for many of the state’s water districts. Water districts in the Coachella Valley will have their reduction goals somewhat reduced starting in March to account for the desert’s hot climate.
Why is the Las Vegas Southern Nevada Water Authority paying homeowners $2.00 for every square foot of natural grass they remove? December 07 2015
Using community outreach and cash incentives, the area's Water Smart Landscaping Program has removed nearly 173 million square feet of natural grass. How much water is saved? OVER 9.5 BILLION GALLONS OF WATER PER YEAR, at 55 gallons per square foot.
After years of gentle prodding that included common-sense community seminars on water-saving tips, many Las Vegas lawns have now morphed into environmentally sustainable spaces with desert landscaping. In the long run, many homeowners realized they weren't really using the grass until they pushed a lawn mower across it.
California Governor Jerry Brown ordered that California rip up 50 million square feet of lawns to conserve water amid the devastating drought. California's 411 water districts are now offering rebates now as much as $3.75 per square foot, to persuade homeowners to give up on grass.
California homeowners have the right to remove turf amid drought October 05 2015
Question: My homeowner association board in our common interest development underestimates the severity of California's drought, and it fines and penalizes owners who comply with the state's water restrictions.
We ripped out our water-guzzling lawn and a huge pine tree that sucked up hundreds of gallons of water and installed artificial green grass. We were immediately fined. Because we refuse to pay, the board has summoned us to a hearing. What do we do?
Answer: A hearing for the purpose you describe is bogus. Your board may choose to ignore California's current crisis, but it cannot ignore the law.
With the recent passage of Assembly Bill 349, the California legislature recognizes that the state has the lowest snowpack ever recorded and that we are in the fourth year of a historic, prolonged and potentially devastating drought.
Many Californians are installing artificial turf in their single-family homes. Homeowners in common interest developments must be afforded a similar opportunity within appropriate design, aesthetic and drainage standards defined by their association.
Associations in common interest developments are barred from fining residents who stop watering their lawns during drought emergencies. Property owners who pursue water conservation by installing artificial grass should be encouraged, not sued or fined. If an association's decisions are motivated by aesthetics, it makes more sense to replace browning plants with more drought- and California-appropriate landscaping.
Civil Code section 4735, part of the Assembly bill, states that any provision of the governing documents, architectural, landscaping guidelines or policies shall be void and unenforceable if it essentially prohibits the use of low-water-using plants as a group or as a replacement of existing turf or if it prohibits the use of artificial turf or any other synthetic surface that resembles grass.
The Legislature has recognized the right of an association to regulate aesthetics. But the conservation of water, especially during a severe drought, takes precedence over that right.
The law is clear: A homeowners association shall not impose a fine or assessment against an owner for reducing or eliminating vegetation or lawns during any period for which either the governor or local government has declared a local or state emergency because of drought.
If your board members have been too preoccupied with their lush landscape to notice recent changes to the law, this hearing is your opportunity to educate them. If they will not listen to reason, show them the legislation.
The California Water Service maintains a database of helpful information and handouts. There is a call center to get clarification on regulations and report water wasters: (844) 726-8579.
If your board refuses to remove the illegal fines, you may be forced to pay under protest, then file a small claims action for reimbursement. If the fines continue, you may have to file a lawsuit seeking a court order that the penalties were imposed in violation of California law.
More residents opting to install artificial grass on lawns September 16 2015
Keeping a manicured lawn in Houston, especially in the summer, is a hot and tiring job
HOUSTON -- How much time and money do you spend a month watering and keeping up your lawn? For many Houstonians, a true maintenance-free lawn is the most appealing.
Keeping a manicured lawn in Houston, especially in the summer, is a hot and tiring job.
"The lack of water for months on end, the time it takes to get people come and cut it," said resident Tony Hogg.
Hogg had enough. So a year and a half ago, he had fake grass installed.
"We wanted something that looked better than real," Hogg said.
He got the grass in Space City, the birthplace of fake grass, Astroturf. Synlawn's Terry Stricklin clarifies today's residential fake grass is not the same stuff as went into the Astrodome, but their company is owned by Astroturf.
Over the last three decades, the industry has developed all kinds of lookalike grass, such as St. Augustine, fescue, bermuda and thatch. Thatch comes complete with brown blades to make it look more natural.
Stricklin says the company does installations everywhere from rooftops in downtown Houston to putting greens and dog runs – some in backyards. For dogs runs, a special kind of sand under the artificial grass to absorb odors is installed.
Regular yards are a growing part of the business. The Synlawn distributer began in Houston six years ago.
"We may have done 40 or so (yards) in our first year," Stricklin said. "We are close to 300 homes a year now."
At $8 to $10 a square foot, synthetic grass typically goes into smaller spaces. For example, covering 600 square feet would cost anywhere from $4,800 to $5,200.
Taking into account water and yard bills, how long will it take to break even on the investment?
"Your payback is probably gonna be four to six years depending on size of yard," Stricklin said.
As for Hogg, he figures, "After three years it's free."
The Life and Death of the American Lawn August 31 2015
The hashtag #droughtshaming—which primarily exists, as its name suggests, to publicly decry people who have failed to do their part to conserve water during California’s water crisis—has claimed many victims. Anonymous lawn-waterers. Anonymous sidewalk-washers. The city of Beverly Hills. The tag’s most high-profile shamee thus far, however, was the actor Tom Selleck. Who was sued earlier this summer by Ventura County’s Calleguas Municipal Water District for the alleged theft of hydrant water, supposedly used to nourish his 60-acre ranch. Which includes a lawn and—this being California—an avocado farm.
The case was settled out of court on terms that remain undisclosed. Everyone has moved on with their lives. What’s remarkable about it, though—well, besides the fact that Magnum P.I. has apparently become, in his semi-retirement, a gentleman farmer—is how much of a shift all the Selleck-shaming represents when compared to lawns’ traditional moral mandates. For much of American history, the healthy lawn—green, lush, neatly shorn—has been a symbol not just of prosperity, individual and communal, but of something deeper: civic ideals, collective responsibility, the assorted conveniences of conformity. Lawns, originally designed to connect homes even as they enforced the distance between them, are shared domestic spaces. They are also socially regulated spaces. “When smiling lawns and tasteful cottages begin to embellish a country,” Andrew Jackson Downing, one of the fathers of American landscaping, put it, “we know that order and culture are established.”
That idea remains, and its means that, even today, the failure to maintain a “smiling lawn” can have decidedly unhappy consequences. Section 119-3 of the county code of Fairfax County, Virginia—a section representative of similar ones on the books in jurisdictions across the country—stipulates that “it is unlawful for any owner of any occupied residential lot or parcel which is less than one-half acre (21,780 square feet) to permit the growth of any grass or lawn area to reach more than twelve (12) inches in height/length.” And while Fairfax County sensibly advises that matters of grass length are best adjudicated among neighbors, it adds, sternly, that if the property in question “is vacant or the resident doesn’t seem to care, you can report the property to the county.”
That reporting can result in much more than fines. In 2008, Joe Prudente—a retiree in Florida whose lawn, despite several re-soddings and waterings and weedings, contained some unsightly brown patches—was jailed for “failing to properly maintain his lawn to community standards.” Earlier this year, Frank Yoes, a resident of Grand Prairie, Texas, also spent time behind bars—for the crime, in this case, of the ownership of an overgrown yard. Gerry Suttle, a woman in her mid-‘70s, recently had a warrant issued for her arrest—she had failed to mow the grass on a lot she owned across the street from her house—until four boys living near her in her Texas neighborhood heard of her plight in a news report, came over and mowed the thing themselves.
This kind of lawn-based rogue-going is, apparently, quite common. The environmental science professor Paul Robbins’ book, Lawn People: How Grasses, Weeds, and Chemicals Make Us Who We Are, is full of stories of people asking their neighbors, with concern ranging from the fully earnest to the fully passive-aggressive, whether a broken mower might account for an overgrown yard, and of others surreptitiously mowing other people’s lawns when they’re away on vacation. The Great Gatsby’s titular character exhibits a similar case of what we might call FOMOW: So troubled is Jay by Nick’s failure to maintain his lawn—a lawn that abuts Gatsby’s—that he ends up sending his own gardener to do the sheering, thereby restoring order to their shared pastoral space.
The existence, in the world beyond West Egg, of apps like DroughtShame—which promises to help its users “capture geotagged photo proof of disregard for California’s water restrictions”—is an extension of that ethos. Lawns are private tracts that are, by law and by social fiat, shared. Their proper maintenance is part of the compact we make with each other, the logic goes, not just in the name of “order and culture,” but in the name of civilization itself. And in the name, too, of that fuzzy, fizzy ideal that we shorthand as “the American dream.” Land—“This Land,” your land, my land—transcends, at its most ideal and idyllic, anthropological divisions of race and class and tribe. It is “too important to our identity as Americans,” Michael Pollan put it, “to simply allow everyone to have his own way with it. And once we decide that the land should serve as a vehicle of consensus, rather than an arena of self-expression, the American lawn—collective, national, ritualized, and plain—begins to look inevitable.”
Which is all to say that lawns, long before Tom Selleck came along, have doubled as sweeping, sodded outgrowths of the Protestant ethic. The tapis vert, or “green carpet”—a concept Americans borrowed not just from French gardens and English estates, but from fantastical Italian paintings that imagined modern lawns into existence—became, modified for early American purposes, a sign that the new country could match Europe in, among other things, elitism. (Lawns, in Europe, were an early form of conspicuous consumption, signals that their owners could afford to dedicate grounds to aesthetic, rather than agricultural, purposes—and signals, too, that their owners, in the days before lawnmowers lessened the burden, could afford to pay scythe-wielding servants to do the grass-cutting.)
Thomas Jefferson, being Thomas Jefferson, surrounded Monticello not just with neatly rowed crops, but with rolling fields of grass that served no purpose but to send a message—about Jefferson himself, and about the ambitions of a newly formed country.
As that country developed, its landscape architects would sharpen the message about lawns as symbols of collectivity, and civic virtue, and democracy itself. “It is unchristian,” the landscaper Frank J. Scott wrote in The Art of Beautifying Suburban Home Grounds, “to hedge from the sight of others the beauties of nature which it has been our good fortune to create or secure.” He added, confidently, that “the beauty obtained by throwing front grounds open together, is of that excellent quality which enriches all who take part in the exchange, and makes no man poorer.” Lawns became aesthetic extensions of Manifest Destiny, symbols of American entitlement and triumph, of the soft and verdant rewards that result when man’s ongoing battles against nature are won. A well-maintained lawn—luxurious in its open space, implying leisure if not always allowing it—came, too, to represent a triumph of another kind: the order of suburbia over the squalor of the city. A neat expanse of green, clipped blades flowing from neighbor to neighbor, became, as Roman Mars notes, the “anti-broken window.”
In the century so influenced by the engineerings of Scott and the Fredericks Jackson Downing and Law Olmstead, suburbs gave order to the American landscape. And the lawn—its cause furthered by the Levittown model and the introduction of the motorized lawnmower and the Haber-Bosch fertilizing process and the mid-century’s faith in the easy virtues of conformity—spread. It was relatively cheap to install—see the seeds nicknamed “contractor’s mix” for their popularity among developers as a quick-and-easy way to landscape. A verdant metaphor for the new national highway system, it unified the country, visually if not politically. And symbolically if not actually. During a time of upheaval, the lawn suggested a sense of structure, and calm.
It also suggested an order of another kind: the neat division of domestic labor. Lawnmowers were marketed to men, as tools for maintaining their outdoor domiciles—the masculine equivalent, the logic went, of the wifely spaces that were the kitchen and the living room and the bedroom. The front yard—where kids play, where dogs play, where fun is had and jungles are gymed and meat is grilled upon flames—became portrayed, commercially, as semi-wild domestic spaces whose wildness needed to be tamed by men. Which is an idea that carries on in pretty much every Father’s Day-timed ad for Home Depot and Lowe’s and John Deere. A few years ago, Yankee Candle took the unusual step of marketing a candle to men. Its scent was evocative of freshly cut grass, and its name was “Riding Mower.”
The ads make clear how continuous the messaging has been between the past century and this one. Today, still, lawn’s pleasures are partly performative; their leisures are largely laborious. They are gendered. They are expensive. They emit not just oxygen, but also the whiff of ritualized self-sacrifice. Americans, as of 2009, were spending about $20 billion a year on lawn care. And that’s because grass is stubborn stuff, and living stuff, and its encoded impulses—to grow tall, to strive sunward, to reproduce—run generally contrary to our own desires. (As Paul Robbins notes, “We don’t let grass get tall enough to go to seed, but we also water and fertilize it to keep it from going formant. We don’t let it die, but we also don’t let it reproduce.”) Growing and mowing, animal against vegetable, cyclical and Sisyphean: There is a ceaselessness to the whole thing that is both Zen-like and very much not.
The seeds for most of the turf grasses that carpet the surface of the U.S.—your Kentucky blues (originally, actually, from Europe and northern Asia), your Bermudas (originally from Africa), your Zoysias (originally from East Asia), your hybrids thereof—are generally not native to the U.S. Which means that, while the grasses can certainly survive here, they generally take some cajoling to thrive in the bright, soft, reliable way we demand of them. A lawn of American Dream Perma-Green requires, generally, more water than natural rainfall provides. It requires soil whose nutrients content is plumped up by fertilizer. It requires, in some cases, pesticides. And yet symbiosis is on the turf’s side, despite and because of all that, because we need the grasses as much as they need us. We spend our money and our natural resources and our time cultivating our carpets of green not just because we want to, but because we are expected to. It is the fealty we pay to our fellow Americans, the rough equivalent of taxes and immunizations and coughing into our arms rather than into the air. To maintain a lawn is—or, more specifically, has been—to perform a kind of fealty to the future we are forging, together.
* * *
Which brings us back—as most things will, probably, in the end—to Tom Selleck. Whose water-shaming represents a notable and sharp shift away from all that, if you will, deeply rooted symbolism. Selleck’s crime, after all, was pretty much the opposite of the “crimes” committed by Joe Prudente and Gerry Suttle and Nick Carraway. All he was doing, in his blithe, rich-person way, was keeping up what until very recently would have been his end of the cultural bargain: maintaining his grounds, maintaining his green, keeping his little section of the national carpeting from drying out.
What he ignored, of course, was the transformation the #droughtshaming hashtag suggests: That the virtues and vices of our stewardship of the natural world have now switched places, making the civic thing to do—the communal thing, the responsible thing, the respectable thing—to ignore the lawn.
The ground beneath Selleck’s feet had shifted. And that ground, his critics raged, was far too green.
The shift, of course, took place most immediately because of California’s years-long drought, and because grass, per the EPA’s estimate, requires 9 billion—that’s not a typo; billion with a b—gallons a day to keep green. But it also took place, just as likely, because of anti-lawn sentiment that has been long-simmering among environmentalists, among journalists, and among activists. Michael Pollan, before turning his attention to the food economy, wrote an entire book—two of them, actually, making the case against lawns. So did Sara Stein. So did, if perhaps unwittingly, Rachel Carson: Silent Spring, in its tracing of the path of pesticides through the American environment, repeatedly implicated the suburban backyard. Lorrie Otto, who founded the anti-grass movement that became known as “Wild Ones,” condemned lawns as “sterile,” “monotonous,” “flagrantly wasteful,” and, in all, “really evil.” The web, more recently, has given rise to shorter, even angrier screeds against lawns. (Two recent, representative examples: Harvard Magazine’s “When Grass Isn’t Greener,” which quotes a botanist calling lawns “horrible,” and the Washington Post’s declaration that “Lawns Are a Soul-Crushing Timesuck and Most of Us Would Be Better Off Without Them.”)
These warnings, until recently, have gone largely ignored. California, drought notwithstanding, remained home stretches of imported greenery—around homes, around malls, atop golf courses dotting the desert with their false oases. A 2005 NASA study derived from satellite imaging—the most recent such study available—found that turf grasses took up nearly 2 percent of the entire surface of the continental U.S. And that was including the vast stretches of land that remained undeveloped. Broken out by state, some 20 percent of the total land area of Massachusetts and New Jersey was covered in lawn. Delaware was 10 percent turf. There were in all, per that same NASA satellite study, around 40 million acres of lawn in the contiguous U.S. Which meant that turf grasses took up take up roughly three times as much area as irrigated corn. Corn!
As of 2005, in other words, turf grasses—vegetables that nobody eats—were the single largest irrigated crop in the country.
Which is, in practical terms, fairly absurd. And yet it is the situation—it is our situation—for roughly the same reason that Joe Prudente went to jail for unsightly brown spots: Lawns mean something to Americans, symbolically and psychically and maybe even spiritually. They speak to our values, our aspirations, our hopes both feasible and foolish.
We could do what so many environmentalists and journalists have been begging us to do, for so long: to get rid of our lawns, replacing our languid, laborious expanses of grass with artificial turf, or re-landscaping with native plants, or xeriscaping (landscaping that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental watering). We could do what governments of Western states—California, Arizona, Nevada—have tried: paying people to get ride of their lawns, at prices ranging from $1 to $4 per square foot. We could. We probably should. The problem is, though, that culture changes as gradually as grass grows quickly. Iconography is much harder to uproot than grass, with nothing but thin blades to cling to the soil below. To give up our lawns would be, in some sense, to concede a kind of defeat—to nature, to the march of time, to our own ultimate impotence. And it would, in its recognition of the ecosystemic realities of the latest century, require us to do something Americans have not traditionally been very good at: acknowledging our own limitations.
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Now, though, we don’t just have drought. We also have Priuses and Leafs and Teslas that have become mobile status symbols. We have “organic” and “local” and “sustainable” being tossed around not just in the kitchens of Chez Panisse and Blue Hill, but on the Food Network and in the aisles of Wal-Mart produce sections. We have online quizzes offering to help us determine our personal carbon footprints. We have a new environmentalism that is rapidly shifting from the stuff of hippie morality to the stuff, more simply and more urgently, of survival.
We have Courthouse News Service analyzing an aerial photo of Tom Selleck’s compound and reporting, with a sense of both surprise and relief, that the ranch features “plenty of brown grass.”
Earlier this year, the California Governor Jerry Brown—the name will prove either deeply ironic or deeply fitting—issued an executive order mandating that citizens across the state reduce their water consumption by 25 percent. This was in response, of course, to the drought. But it was also in response to a broader shift in the way we humans think about our natural resources, in the way we relate to the world around us. “We’re in a new era,” Brown explained. “The idea of nicely green grass fed by water every day—that’s going to be a thing of the past.”
Maybe we really are in a new era. Maybe it will signal the end of our love affair with lawns. Maybe the new national landscape—a shared vision that inspires and enforces collective responsibility for a shared world—will be brown, not green. Maybe, as the billboards dotting California’s highways cheerily insist, “Brown Is the New Green.” Maybe the yard of the future will feature wildflowers and native grasses and succulent greenery, all jumbled together in assuring asymmetry. Maybe we will come to find all that chaos beautiful. Maybe we will come to shape our little slices of land, if we’re lucky enough to have them, in a way that pays tribute to the America that once was, rather than the one we once willed.
Keep the flood of water-saving policies coming August 25 2015
If the latest predictions are correct, there’s a good chance that one of the wettest, most powerful El Niños on record is headed straight for California. When – or, we should say, if – that rain does arrive, it will be a welcome reprieve from four years of drought.
But don’t let up on water conservation yet.
One rainy winter will not recharge our reservoirs, replenish all of our underground basins or refill all of our riverbeds. That will take years of normal rainfall, especially here in Northern California, and our future is far from certain.
Therefore, we applaud state and local leaders for continuing to carefully consider new ways to save water.
Last week, the California Energy Commission adopted tougher requirements for low-flow shower heads, building on similar orders issued in April to expedite the proliferation of water-efficient faucets and toilets.
This is a big deal because showers and faucets make up about 40 percent of residential indoor water use. For showering alone, Californians use about 186 billion gallons a year.
After July 2016, all shower heads sold in California must spit out 20 percent less water. Shower heads sold after July 2018 must cut water flows an additional 10 percent. Regulators expect that to translate into saving about 2.4 billion gallons in the first year. Sales of water-efficient faucets and toilets will save another 730 billion gallons over the next decade.
Those are no-brainer ways to conserve water, just like asking residents to water their lawns only a few days each week, or, better yet, requesting that they replace their lawns with drought-resistant landscaping, as the city of Davis has done at a series of workshops this summer.
Far more complicated are measures to let people rip up their grass and put down artificial turf.
Several California cities, including Roseville, already allow this. But the Sacramento Planning and Design Commission last week delayed a vote on whether to allow fake grass to be 1.25 inches high in front and side yards.
On the surface, lifting the decades-old ban on artificial grass seems like a simple way to help residents save even more water than they’re already saving. Sacramento-area households cut their usage by 37 percent in July, according to the Regional Water Authority.
Sacramento may allow Artificial Turf in Front Yards August 18 2015
In a city full of brown and dying front lawns, a new alternative could soon emerge -- green lawns, though fake, are up for consideration by Sacramento leaders.
At a meeting Thursday, members of the city's planning and design commission are expected to vote on whether or not to allow artificial turf in front yards.
According to the current ordinance, when it comes to front yard landscaping, "Only living vegetation may be used as a primary ground cover; no cement, brick, artificial turf, or other non-vegetative products ... may be used for this purpose."
The new ordinance would allow turf as long as it meets a 1.25 inch minimum height requirement.
The change was first suggested by councilman Jeff Harris who sees the potential upside.
"It's not going to solve the drought's problems, but there are areas where it can be aesthetically pleasing, save water, save the air from the exhaust from lawn mowers," Harris said.
In a memo to the planning and design commission, city staff recommend the changes get approved and passed along to the City Council for a vote. The memo cites the ongoing drought and Sacramento's need to reduce water use by 28 percent, the amount mandated by the state.
At Artificial Grass Liquidators in Rancho Cordova, general manager Tony Skelnik held a piece of turf nearly indistinguishable from grass. The height is the same, as are the colors and texture.
"It's just as comfortable and looks and feels and acts like the same thing," Skelnik said. "They're keeping cooler, they're bi-color blades with hollow stems in them, dual-color thatch and things of that nature. The technology has really brought it into the future."
He acknowledged a change in the ordinance would be good for business, but notes it'd help conserve water too.
"Obviously we're saving a lot of water," Skelnik said. "You're looking at about 8 gallons a month per square foot."
Sacramento city officials have looked into what other nearby cities allow turf, and found they're alone in their explicit ban.
Citrus Heights, Rancho Cordova, Roseville and unincorporated Sacramento County all allow artificial turf. Elk Grove allows it as long as it adequately drains water runoff. Rocklin and West Sacramento have no specific ban on artificial turf in their city codes.
World's First Luxury Animal Terminal July 21 2015
An airport terminal with a swimming pool, suites equipped with flat-screen TVs, customized departure lounges and around-the-clock medical care sounds like a dream come true for airline passengers.
Sorry, human frequent fliers, this one is for animals.
Horses, birds, pets and livestock arriving at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport will sit in the lap of luxury when the airport's state-of-the-art animal terminal opens in 2016.
Construction of the new terminal is under way on the former site of Cargo Building 78, which has been vacant at JFK for nearly a decade. Organizers have signed a 30-year lease with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
"The animal terminal will set new international airport standards for comprehensive veterinary, kenneling and quarantine services," Ark founder and Racebrook Chairman John J. Cuticelli Jr. said in a statement.
Among the new terminal's offerings:
• A large animal departure lounge offering stalls, food and water for horses
• Individual climate-controlled units for horses, equipped with bedding and natural light
• LifeCare veterinary hospital offering general and emergency care including surgery and advanced diagnostics
• A 24-hour Paradise 4 Paws pet resort featuring a bone-shaped dog pool, pet suites with a flat-screen TV option and a jungle gym for cats
• Paradise 4 Paws grooming, obedience training and pet massage therapy
• A livestock export handling system
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