How to Make Your Yard More Eco-Friendly

Updated: Jun 21, 2019

6/21/19 UPDATE: Check out City of Lawrence's suggestions for mulching your lawn, which means mowing over fallen leaves and lawn debris and letting it decompose on your lawn, enriching the soil and retaining water, among other benefits.

© Morgan Barrett

This spring I learned about a new concept: a green yard. A close-cropped, perfectly uniform green lawn is not what I mean. In fact, most of our yards are not green at all.

It's part of the American dream, or so we've been told: the neat, lush lawn surrounding a well-maintained house on an immaculately groomed block in a suburban neighborhood. Green spaces that are free of 'weeds' is the ideal to live up to, achieved by laying down chemicals each spring before those pesky yellow Dandelion heads even dare to poke their heads out of the soil. The problem with this ideal is that it does more harm than good to our ecosystems.

Dame's Rocket © Morgan Barrett

Herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers are all commonplace in the lawn care section at big box lawn care and home improvement stores. The labels on these lawn chemicals are full of cautionary statements warning you to keep their product out of waterways, away from pets, and away from human contact. You're told to spray them on a mild, windless day when the soil is damp. They might mention the fact that the product is highly toxic to bees, which can cause widespread colony death of an already-imperiled pollinator.₁ If you follow the directions perfectly, your negative environmental impact may be minimal. But that still won't stop some of the chemical from seeping into ground water and ending up in our waterways, killing or harming countless fish, insect, and plant species, and eventually making its way back to us in the form of our drinking water. To me, considering the potential negative effects of treating my yard with chemicals, a perfectly uniform green lawn is no longer worth the environmental and personal risk.