News

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.


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


    Grass is greener in Midwich’s new offices October 23 2014

    The ongoing project, below, has seen the marketing department moved from the first floor of their Vinces Road headquarters to the new ground floor area, which features artificial grass, curved glass presentation areas, ‘relax and inspire’ zones, interactive touchscreens, projectors and videowalls.

    The refurbishment is the beginning of a two-year project led by Swaffham-based commercial interior specialists Acorn Works to transform the company’s head office.

    It comes after Midwich recently secured 115th place in the 10th Sunday Times Grant Thornton Top Track 250 league, which highlights the fastest growing medium-sized businesses in the country.

    The EDP Top100 firm, which employs 425 people, made an £8.5m profit on sales of £233.7m, according to its latest figures.

    Stephen Fenby, managing director of the Midwich Group, said: “Being a leading technology distributor, we thought it fitting that our staff worked in a cutting-edge environment, so we have started to invest in transforming our head office to a place where technology, creative use of space, and inspiring décor blend to make a workplace where people feel excited and proud to come to every day. Our new marketing department certainly brings a wow factor for visitors and the new meeting areas are already proving popular throughout the business.”

    The company said that the new working environment is brighter, more spacious, inspiring and more efficient. It uses interactive touchscreens in meeting areas, which allows users to present and showcase ideas in an engaging way.

    Steve Tomlin, contracts director at Acorn, said: “We are delighted to have been involved with Midwich once more – having last worked with them during their 2010 move and expansion from Gilray Road to their Vinces Road premises. The brief for the new marketing department was to go ‘above and beyond’ the norm. For inspiration, we were shown Google’s offices and initial ideas and themes involved a Caribbean beach hut, ski lodges and even a London bus.”

    He added: “The final result is something that we are all immensely proud of. With projects such as these, the devil is in the detail and there are numerous special touches to ensure the department can expand and develop as demand dictates.”

     


    TurfToes, A Startup With CSU Accelerator Support, Wants You To Walk On Grass September 24 2014

    Braxton Norwood wants you to enjoy the feeling of grass between your toes – all day long. Norwood, a Colorado State University student and budding entrepreneur, has launched a company called TurfToes.

    The company's name describes its product. They create sandals with bottoms made from artificial turf. If that sounds…scratchy, Norwood, who spent a summer working for an artificial turf company, and is somewhat obsessed with fake grass, offers a spirited pitch.

    "It's crazy how much it looks and even feels like actual grass," said the clean-cut senior, whose smile conveys confident enthusiasm. "Most sandals after you wear them for a while, wear out. We like to think of our sandals as wearing in. They get better over time," he said.

    Norwood's idea came after he spent a semester abroad in Barcelona, which had little grass. He missed walking on turf, and when he got home he started "putting [artificial] grass on funky things...my whole bathroom is a putting green."

    One day, he got a pair of sandals from Wal-Mart, and covered the sole with artificial grass, scavenged from a dumpster at his work. He started wearing them around, and got noticed.

    "People kept on telling me, OMG, I would love to buy a pair of these," he recalled. At first, he wrote the comments off.

    "But after a while, I started to think, this is actually something that could catch on, if this many people are interested." He got a business-minded friend, Tanner Eley, on board, and formed a company.

    Now, through Colorado State University's Venture Accelerator program, TurfToes is getting mentorship, support, and even office space.

    "Essentially, what the program is all about is identifying promising student startups from all over Colorado State University," said Jessica Rawley, assistant director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship at CSU.

    Students or very recent graduates can apply to the program. Twelve businesses get in each year, and they attend weekly seminars where they learn about everything from pricing models to pitching investors. Norwood recalled hearing from a speaker who had guided Apple's iPhone division, which made a big impression.

    The young companies also get cash -- it comes from donors to the program, and is typically $3,000 to $5,000 per business, said Rawley. They can use it for activities like crafting websites, manufacturing prototypes and otherwise getting their business off the ground.

    At the end of the year, a handful of the companies are awarded space for a year in the CSU Hatchery, which shares space in the Rocky Mountain Innosphere, an entrepreneur-focused office building. They get additional support over that year as they grow. 

    Local Entrepreneurs Share Tips, Experience

    TurfToes also benefited from another service offered through the CSU Venture Accelerator. They had a mentor, Bill Cobb, a retired Fortune 50 executive, entrepreneur, and consultant with a wealth of business experience.

    "He was amazing," said Norwood, recounting how Cobb's expertise helped shape their business plan. The business competed successfully in several entrepreneurial competitions, and they credit much of their success to Cobb.

    Cobb has been involved in the Venture Accelerator for two years, and is on board with a new company for the upcoming school year. He loves working with students, and offering his experience.

    "A lot of these young people have terrific ideas. But they are very naïve about the process of getting them started and commercialized," he said.

    For example, TurfToes originally planned to sell their shoes direct, through an online retail store. Cobb discussed with them the hurdles involved in individually packing and shipping shoes, and collecting and paying sales tax. They ultimately decided to sell wholesale, believing the volume and benefits of working with distributors would outweigh the lower profit margin.

    The Venture Accelerator, now in its third year, has supported entrepreneurial ideas ranging from a gourmet marshmallow company to a survival course program. While the future of these young companies is still unknown, a huge part of the program is training students in the craft of entrepreneurship, said CSU's Rawley.

    "As entrepreneurs, just classically, your for first idea there's really high rates of non-success. And so the best thing that we can do is create those people who can be serial entrepreneurs," she said.

    Inside their bright office space in the CSU Hatchery, Norwood and Eley show off their grass-coated flip-flops.

    The leather straps are soft, and while the bottoms don't exactly mimic grass, the sandal bottom has a pleasant texture on the foot, almost massage-like.

    While both say they would have taken the company forward without university support, they say the Venture Accelerator program made the path forward much clearer. They also gained access to competitions with funding and other support, like laptops, as prizes, which moved their business along.

    "A lot of people want to start businesses and they want to do this and that, but they don't know where to start," said Norwood.

    That's not a problem for TurfToes. With a Kickstarter campaign launching in late October, the company is already well on its way.