News

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.


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 booktwo 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.

* * *

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.


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.

The $48 million, 178,000-square-foot facility, called the Ark at JFK, is billed by developer Racebrook Capital as the "world's only privately owned animal terminal and USDA-approved, full-service, 24-hour, airport quarantine facility for import and export of horses, pets, birds and livestock."

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


    DeSales starts work on new sports complex October 21 2014

    Try to picture it: a 3,000-seat sports complex, a new practice field, more than 100 added parking spots on DeSales High School's campus.

    It's difficult to imagine, school president Doug Strothman said, but once the school's monastery and five homes next to the Iroquois campus are torn down, the picture will be clear.

    In February, the school began fundraising efforts for a $4 million-project that includes building an artificial turf field and sports complex so students can play all levels of football, baseball and soccer games at home.

    The school, on Kenwood Drive, has since expanded the project to a $6 million-effort that includes demolishing the five homes and building a grass practice field.

    Visual progress of the project finally started showing this week when a bulldozer ripped into the long-standing monastery, which sat vacant on the property for the past 10 years.

    "Our community has been waiting for something significant like this to happen for a while," Strothman said. "There was buzz in the building today just seeing a hole in the monastery."

    Watching the monastery's destruction is bittersweet, Strothman and director of advancement Josh Blandford said, but for the school to move forward, the empty building had to go.

    The three-story monastery was built in 1957 as living quarters for Carmelite priests who worked at the school, Blandford said. About 30 people lived in the building at one point, but the last Carmelite priest moved out in 2004, and the building has been used mostly for storage since.

    "We will always treasure the Carmelite past," Blandford said. "They laid a tremendous foundation for what we now, today have here. Without them, we would not be the same place at all."

    Once the demolition is finished, the school will be able to start building the turf field and a new parking lot where the monastery stood. The field will run north-south, behind the school's L-shaped building, and will have seating for 3,000 fans. Two field houses will have concession stands, restrooms, locker rooms and athletic department offices.

    Strothman said construction on the sports complex could begin at the end of this year's football season or be held for a year, depending on when planning is completed.

    The school plans to demolish the five homes in January and will plant the grass practice field so it's ready by next fall, Strothman said.

    The soccer team and a proposed lacrosse team will mainly use the practice field, while the baseball and football teams will use the turf field.

    Currently, the soccer team practices off campus and the varsity football team plays all away games. The additions will allow all sports to stay on site, Strothman said.

    "A big part of the initiative is trying to get as many of our students and their after school activities on our campus instead of sending them out into various parts of the community," he said.

    DeSales has raised nearly $1.7 million toward the project and plans to pay for the rest with loans, Strothman said. The project should be completed within the next 12 to 18 months.


    Artificial grass has a life in a wide range of situations October 20 2014

    In a recent News.com article it states that home owners are faking it by embracing the weed-free alternative to a natural lawn as artificial grass which was once the province of hockey fields.

    Artificial grass is now popping up on the rooftops of the CBD and the backyards of suburbia and it's no longer the bright green "carpet'', rather today's artificial grass can be a lush thick lawn that looks just like the real thing to the naked eye and even feels similar under bare feet.

    This News.com article cites Warwick Parnell the sales director at Pro-tech Corp, Sydney-based synthetic grass specialists, and says there are many reasons people choose grass that is always greener.

    Warwick Parnell made some interesting observations:

    People are very busy today with work, children, and getting to and from daycare.

    Properties are smaller than they used to be, at least with less space devoted to lawns.

    Those high traffic area that gets way too much wear and tear.

    Those difficult spaces – such as between garden beds or elevated - hard to get to with a mower.

    Wanting a soft area 365/12 for guests and personal desires.

    He goes further still, taking his heart into his mouth for fear of the canine lobby, but that the family bog is regularly no friend of natural grass.

    With this new genre of artificial grass, he claims that real estate agents say anything that reduces maintenance helps add to the value of a property, and synthetic grass is something that does just that.

    On another level Max Cantwell the owner of Secret Gardens of Sydney says that consumers are realising it is a good option in areas where lawn cannot be sustained, or for those who are time-poor and don't want to maintain a lawn.

    Artificial Grass been around for decades

    As an author of five books on hockey and for 24 years the stringer hockey writer for The Australian newspaper to 1994, and still an occasional piece for Christian Today Sports, the artificial turf came on the hockey scene during the era.

    Field hockey was the first major international sport to take to heart artificial turf for its international fixtures, the first major event was the 1976 Montreal Olympics. A great many advances in the production and technology of artificial grass has occurred since then.

    Australia's initial artificial hockey pitch (the watered version as opposed to sand based pitches) was established in the same year, Perth and Melbourne and sadly Sydney was the last. Some of us can remember the 1980 debacle Australia v Ireland Test match on the Concord Oval grass rugby paddock where the Australian team managed a spartan 1-0 victory. A Sydney artificial pitch was hastily approved by government funding. At this time I was a Board Member of the NSW Hockey Association and writing hockey for The Australian newspaper.

    The 1984 Olympics was played not on a hockey specific artificial pitch but an all purpose pitch which would after the Olympics become a Gridiron pitch. This surface was a little bouncier than Australia's artificial grass pitches which in a sense made it more like playing on natural grass with its bumps where brilliant stick work determined outcomes.

    As it was the two nation's with the most brilliant stick work met in the LA Olympic Final, Pakistan and Australia. Interestingly on this bouncier pitch those nations that liked their set plays where the ball simply ran along the pitch in a straight line without any deviation did not do as well.

    In October 1984 in my sports ministry role I was provided the opportunity to address the National Board of the Australian Rough Riders Association regarding chaplaincy. I happened to have a sample of artificial grass that hockey utilised and several of the professional riders doubted whether it would stand up to a heavy bull's jumping. Today many Rodeos in the US use highly technological artificial grass.

    Soccer is played on artificial grass all over the world, as are many other sports, Council play grounds and cricket pitches and a thousand other community uses. It is a very common commodity today. Many of the newer churches today have artificial grass near their entrances.

    Schools, Churches .....

    Churches too have moved with the times and many of the children ministry areas are now artificial grass and some even have welcome areas which display artificial grass.

    Late last year I attended a Carols by Candlelight combined schools function held at St Joseph's College in Tweed Heads and again I noticed that the main thoroughfare in to the school environs exhibited artificial grass. It was simply a case of better student management, with no more wet and muddy shoes in a very rainy climate.

    My wife Delma and I on a Saturday morning often drive up to Point Danger at Tweed Heads, sit on the grass and I read the bible to her. I'm quite sure that I could order a bible with an artificial grass cover and no one would see the camouflaged bible and all those strange looks would disappear.


    Artificial turf promoted as a money saver in Washington Township October 14 2014

    WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — A plan to put artificial turf on Memorial Field would save the township money, according to an analysis from the Recreation Department. The plan calls for constructing the turf field, along with a companion drainage system underneath it and replacing lights at the facility. Recreation Director Eamonn Twomey and resident Scott Spezial presented a series of studies to the council indicating that despite a significant initial investment, the township would save money in 15 years compared with the current annual costs to maintain the grass field.

    "Years 16 to 30 is really where we are going to save the money," Twomey said. "It will pay for itself over 30 years." The township currently pays $114,300 annually to maintain Memorial Field, or about $34 per tax-paying dwelling. Some of the costs include placing sod on the field twice a year, reseeding, maintaining the clay for baseball fields and performing chemical maintenance of the field. Twomey and Spezial said the turf field would cost the township $2.2 million — which they suggested bonding over 15 years, equivalent to about $147,000 per year. However, the recreation officials said the township would save money after that.

    Much of the initial cost to replace the field would come from the infrastructure needed to be built underneath the field for drainage. Turf fields typically last about 15 years before needing to be replaced, but the township would only have to replace the surface-level turf, not the infrastructure, Twomey said. According to their analysis, over years 16 to 30, the field and lights would cost $2,713,499 with a grass surface compared with $499,999 if the township bonded the replacement surface-level turf. The township would save more than $2 million over the next 30 years with a switch to artificial turf, the study says. "There is nothing else we can do to prove the fact that this will save us money in the long run," Twomey said. Councilman Glenn Breckmeyer addressed the plan to his fellow council members.

    "When you build the field the first time, you are building the substructure," he said. "What they are saying is in 15 years, you only have to replace the carpet, or the top part. It's like a house; you don't uproot the floor, you just roll out a new carpet. It's basically the same thing. It's only a fraction of the price of the whole job. You get a bigger savings in years 16 to 30." Councilman Peter Calamari said he took an informal poll of township residents and that more than 90 percent of the people he talked to were in favor of turf. The council seemed receptive to the idea and is expected to review the studies from recreation officials.

     


    County supervisor fights drought with fake grass October 10 2014

    SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - County Supervisor Dave Roberts is doing what he can to save water during the historic drought by replacing his lawn with artificial turf.

    Californians are being urged to take advantage of government financing and rebate programs in the wake of the drought. And, taking on the challenge of being water efficient, Supervisor Dave Roberts is fighting the drought by removing more than 6,000 square feet of lawn at his home in Solana Beach and replacing it with artificial turf.

    Roberts hopes his project will encourage others to conserve water during our states historic drought and to take advantage of government financing and rebate programs.

    One of the rebate programs, Property Assessed Clean Energy or PACE, allows residential property owners to purchase water conservation or energy efficiency upgrades by financing them on their property tax bills.

    There are four different financing programs available. Supervisor Roberts is using the HERO program that provides up-front cash to support the homeowner's investments in energy and water efficiency.

    Supervisor Roberts is recouping some of his costs through a So Cal WaterSmart Turf Replacement rebate made available through the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

    So it's costing Supervisor Roberts $45,000 with a $12,000 rebate and he should see a pay back in eight and a half years.


    Play Turf: Pioneering safer playgrounds October 09 2014

    Matthew Avery and Cullen Elam have partnered to resurrect a modern day version of a business that Avery’s grandfather, Pat Avery, helped pioneer more than 50 years ago.

    Play Turf in Rome, is a reincarnation of the old Avery Sports Turf, which operated from the Celanese complex in Rome for many years.

    Avery said Play Turf sells artificial grass for playgrounds, landscape areas; multi-purpose sports fields, even doggy areas. “We’ve got a special product that a dog can relieve himself on,” Avery said. “We have a special in-fill system that goes inside the turf that eliminates odor.” He said the company recently put about a half acre of that particular turf in an Atlanta condominium development that was designed to be dog friendly.

    His grandfather, Pat Avery, was one of the pioneers of the artificial turf industry back in 1958, while Matthew’s father, George Avery, owned several manufacturing companies that made the artificial grass product.

    Today, the company’s primary product is a playground turf, which effectively replaces mulch and pea gravel, making it wheelchair accessible and maintenance free. “For daycare owners and schools there is zero liability,” Avery said.