Why Fake Grass Might Not Be The Greenest Option

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As I stand at the sink doing the dishes, I look out into the garden to see Mrs. Blackbird hopping across the lawn, busily plucking up tasty worms from the ground. Our Blackbird ‘couple’ are out there every day along with a friendly robin, a noisy crew of sparrows and some dopey looking pigeons.

Our garden is typical of suburbia, a modest 70ft long and less than manicured due to years of garden football and a northerly aspect. I’m a keen gardener, and whilst my flower beds look in pretty good shape, our grass is a long way from being a utopian striped green lawn!

Buoyed by endorsements from ‘celebrity home-makers’ like Sarah Beeny, artificial grass is enjoying booming popularity. It appeals to a desire for an ‘easier’ life, highlighting the time and money saved, reduced maintenance, and people’s aspirations for the perfect lawn. But would I swap our unkempt patch for fake grass? Never in a month of Sundays, and here’s why;

I’d be saying goodbye to Mr. & Mrs Blackbird
...Woody Woodlouse, Willy The Worm and Madame Butterfly. We might not be able to see all of it, but there is a microscopic world at large beneath our feet. Our gardens support an amazing ecosystem of bugs and beasts; from bacteria and worms to frogs and birds. When you lay down plastic grass, you are smothering the soil and its millions of inhabitants who all have a role to play in our fragile ecosystem.

'A Teaspoon of soil contains billions of souls' Craig Sams, Green & Blacks Founder

Our local wildlife population needs us
Since World War Two much of Britain’s countryside has been turned into a nature-free zone due to intensive farming and the use of pesticides. Whilst you might think of your humble patch as unimportant, our gardens provide an essential refuge for all wildlife. Only this week I found a newt and a stag beetle in our garden.

‘These days gardens are very important, they are a haven for wildlife. Creatures can’t survive in the countryside because it is so full of chemicals.’ Joy Wallis, Dorset Wildlife Trust

We all need somewhere to go wild
As a nation we now spend more time staring at a glowing screen than being outside in nature. The American writer, Richard Louv, coined the term ‘nature-deficit disorder’ a growing separation between people and nature. Our gardens offer an important escape from the digital world, with a host of health benefits for the mind, body and soul. Plastic grass isn’t natural, and you have to ask yourself whether your garden will offer the same retreat when the nature part is largely removed.

‘Nature makes you nicer, enhancing social interactions, value for community and close relationships.’(Study: Weinstein, N., Przybylski, A. K., & Ryan, R. M. (2009).

Up to 15 years in your garden, 100s of years in landfill
Artificial grass will only last up to 15 years (at best) after which it will be ripped up and deposited into landfill, where it will take thousands of years to decompose. If you have pets then you'll no doubt be replacing it sooner. As a friend testified to, the grass starts to smell of pet faeces after a while, no matter how good the built in drainage. Fake grass just does not have the natural mechanisms for cleaning and renewing itself. Your ‘perfect’ fake patch will inevitably become unhygienic and unpleasant...and yet another disposable commodity.

No more bare feet in the summer
Our summertime is all too fast and fleeting, so when it’s here we spend as much time in the garden as possible; chasing each other with water pistols, practising gymnastics, playing badminton, sprawling on the grass - all activities enjoyed best with reckless abandon and bare feet!

Unfortunately, it is strictly ‘shoes on’ if you have fake grass; unlike the cooling effect of the grass and ground beneath your feet, fake grass reaches such high temperatures in the sun that you will be unable to walk on it in bare feet or lay on your back on it to contemplate the sky.

A natural lawn helps keep the air we breath cleaner
Grass lawns soak up carbon dioxide and so, like trees, grass is good for the planet. We talked to Craig Sams, Organic Pioneer & Green & Black’s founder, who told us a bit more about the carbon footprint of fake grass;

‘Every year every square metre of lawn is capturing 250g of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, storing some long term in its root system that sequesters it in the soil and storing some that becomes grass clipping that, if composted, keep the carbon out of the atmosphere for not such a long term. Set that off against the carbon footprint of fake turf and it’s win win.’

We're going down the same path as we did with paving front gardens.
No matter how technologically advanced it has become, artificial grass does not drain nearly as well as a natural lawn (nature’s sponge). This means that less rainwater reaches our natural aquifers, where we desperately need it, and more remains as surface water, where it can cause flooding.

Yet more plastic in our lives
No matter which way you cut it (pardon the pun) fake grass is made from plastic, an unnatural fibre and petroleum- based product that creates pollution and waste in the manufacturing process. At a time when we know we should be reducing the amount of plastic in our lives, we are introducing it into one of the only plastic-free places in our homes.

Grass has become yet another consumer product
Eek! What next? Fake shrubs and trees (I did google this and they rather worryingly do exist)? Save your pennies and sanity and stick to the real thing.

With all these issues considered, I’ll be protecting our little piece of green space; warts, worms and all. It might be time to accept the imperfections in your garden, so that you can enjoy the wild perfection of nature with your friends and family.

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