Plants aid in alleviating climate change by helping manage global warming, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This means the more greenery, the better, right? Not all the time, apparently.
According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Management, manicured lawns look nice but they're actually a significant source of greenhouse gases. As such, keeping a lawn is counterproductive for anyone looking to help the environment. Grass lawns still soak up carbon dioxide but taking into consideration the resources required for watering, using fertilizer and mowing and it turns out more greenhouse gases are produced compared to what they absorb.
Researchers observed a hectare of lawn in Nashville, Tenn. and based on the upkeep required to keep that strip of land green, between 697 and 2,443 kg of carbon dioxide was produced in a year. The higher number translates to the same amount of carbon dioxide produced by an airplane flying more than halfway around the globe.
Dr. Chuanhui Gu from the Appalachian State University, one of the study's authors, said that the way gardens and lawns affect climate change emissions is normally overlooked, emphasizing the extent that lawns contribute to global warming. He pointed out that a hectare of lawn produces two-thirds of the amount of carbon dioxide an agricultural field of the same size emits.
"This contradicts previous beliefs that urban lawns generally absorb more carbon dioxide than they produce and are therefore good for the planet," he added.
It doesn't look like keeping a lawn is a good idea right now but, fortunately, all is not lost. While researchers are harping about the dangers of keeping a lawn, they also recognize that avoiding lawns altogether is not the best way to go about things.
Instead, they came up with a maintenance plan that has been designed to cut emissions by up to 70 percent. What does it entail? Simply keep watering to a minimum and schedule mowing to once every 14 days. Fertilizer use should also be avoided as much as possible, with grass cuttings suggested as an alternative since clippings contain all the necessary nutrients a lawn would need to thrive.
Guy Barter, chief horticultural adviser for the Royal Horticultural Society, approves of the researchers' maintenance plan, adding that using a mulching mower might be more advantageous as it chops up grass into smaller pieces, which will allow it to sink down into the lawn more effectively.
Other authors for the study include Amanda Carrico, George Hornberger and John Crane II.