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October 2004 Issue

Which Grass Is Greener?
Comparing natural and artificial turf.

By Jessica Boehland

Which Grass Is Greener? Fieldturf

This article is reprinted by permission from the April 2004 issue of Environmental Building News.

Turfgrass is ubiquitous in America, covering roadsides, parks, cemeteries, golf courses, and more than 50 million residential yards. Most experts believe that turf covers more than 30 million acres of American ground, an area larger than the state of Pennsylvania. Lawns make popular common spaces, encouraging community interaction and recreation, and they lend a sense of order and even status to our homes and businesses. A 1986 Gallup survey, widely cited in the landscaping industry, found that manicured landscaping, including lawns, adds nearly 15 percent to the value of American homes. But creating and maintaining turfgrass carries serious environmental burdens related to irrigation, fertilizer and pesticide use, and regular mowing. "In most places flawless carpets of green simply cannot be grown in an environmentally benign manner," says Chris Reuther of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

The environmental and financial cost of maintaining lawns has a lot of the country searching for alternatives. Some are turning to hardscapes, native plantings, or Xeriscaping, choosing plant species that naturally require little water and maintenance. Others are wedded to the look of the traditional lawn. What if there were a way to have your lush, green turf and enjoy it, too? What if I told you your lawn could stay green without irrigation? Without pesticides or fertilizers? Without even mowing? What would you say to that? "What's the hitch?" probably. Well, the hitch is that your lawn wouldn't actually be alive; it would be made of plastic. Plastic? (Some readers may be wondering whether we've gone mad.)

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