The Low Down On Green Living
March 21st, 2008
Many of you have contacted us wanting to learn more about synthetic lawn options. As you know, encouraging people to save water in their homes is a big part of our mission here at Low Impact Living. Americans use an estimated 26 billion gallons of water per day, and roughly 30% of that (8 billion gallons/day) goes to water our lawns and gardens. That means the average home uses over 35,000 gallons per year to water their lawn, and for suburban homes it’s about 10,000 gallons more than that! So the idea of a lawn that requires no water is very appealing to us.
However, we must say we are conflicted about the use of fake grass because it is made from plastics. As you know, plastic comes from petroleum, which is a non-renewable, scarce resource. So the fake grass decision comes down to sorting between the two evils– using more plastic (fake grass) vs. using more water (real grass).
We come down on the side of saving water in this case. If you live in an area where fresh water is very scarce (e.g., the Southwest, the Southeast), and you have the money to get a synthetic lawn, go for it. Saving the water is more important than saving the plastic. (And as global warming increases, the regions of the US affected by drought will only grow!) If you live in these areas and do NOT have the money for a fake lawn, we encourage you to pull up your water-guzzling grass, compost it, and plant native grasses/plants. These are gorgeous and will save a ton of water. To learn more about the benefits of native landscaping, click here.
How Do I Get a Synthetic Lawn?
The “big daddy” in the fake grass business is SYNLawn. We have touched and walked on the SYNLawn grass and we must admit it’s pretty impressive. It feels good even on bare feet. You could imagine laying on it and playing with your dog (dog not included with purchase). SYNLawn materials start at $2.50 per sq. foot, and go as high as $6.90 per sq. foot. For a fully installed lawn it’s $6 to $11 per square foot. So you’re looking at $12,000-$22,000 for a normal 2,000 square foot back yard. It’s certainly not cheap, but remember– no water bills, no mowing, no fertilizer. They say the yard will last 10-15 years.
I asked one of SYNLawn’s regional leaders, Dwayne Ruth, why they can’t make the grass out of recycled plastics. He said at this time they cannot make the grass durable, recycled and reasonably priced– but that they are always looking at new materials and processes that will allow them to up the “green quotient” of their products. They also offer a cushy under-layment called “green foam” that you can put under the grass to make it extra safe for kids who like to fall down (and what kid doesn’t?). This foam is actually made from 98% recycled material.
Another company on the market, Green Grass Forever, is doing some beautiful synthetic lawn work. They are based in Los Angeles, but can do projects anywhere in the country. They have two types of grass– one called Nico Green (darker) and Jackie Two-Tone (lighter and definitely wins the award for best name!). They will come to your home, pull out your existing lawn, level the area, put down a composite stone mixture (critical for drainage!), and lay the faux turf. Then they spike it to hold it down and lay “crumb” or infill, which is made from recycled rubber. This infill settles into the grass, helping to hold it steady, but it also makes a nice flexible bottom that is great for kids knees and doggy rumps. Green Grass Forever charges $8.50/square foot all in– including materials and installation. So for a 2,000 square foot lawn it will run you $17,000. But Joe Cortese, the CEO, says that the costs of a natural grass lawn for water, fertilizer, re-sodding, and other maintenance will cost you more over a 10 year period. I’m not sure it’s a complete wash on the money–that would depend on where you live and how much you spend now on your grass. But surely you would save quite a bit of money after you installed the synthetic turf. And you’d have the peace of mind of knowing you were saving tens of thousands of gallons of water every year!
Other synthetic lawn companies you may wish to check out:
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