Researchers shine spotlight on sustainability of lawn management

The hypothesis was that most Americans manage their lawns with water and fertilizer in much the same way. The research showed that US lawn care behaviours are more differentiated in practice than in theory. The conclusion: “even if the biophysical outcomes of urbanization are homogenizing, managing the associated sustainability implications may require a multiscale, differentiated approach”.

The survey of 9500 residents in six US cities showed that, in the past year,  63 percent of respondents fertilized their yards and 79 percent watered them, but the variations between neighbourhoods and cities were quite significant. Clearly a ‘one size fits all’ approach to sustainability education is unlikely to achieve optimum success. Lead researcher Colin Polsky, Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Geography of Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, is quoted by NSF as stating “Responding to lawn care-related environmental challenges may require locally-tailored solutions in more cases than we thought”.

While this research focussed on the ways in which people manage their lawn monocultures, which GallonDaily considers to have generally escaped some much deserved environmental criticism, the concept of varied social practices in areas in which business and governments assume homogeneity, such as residential kitchen, recycling, composting, waste management, and personal transportation practices, may require further study and adaptation of educational and system-related practices, in Canada as well as in the US.

A National Science Foundation press release including quotes from the researchers can be found at


An abstract and a link to the full article, small fee required, is at

The April 2014 issue of Gallon Environment Letter will discuss some of the environmental problems associated with urban lawns. Subscribe now by visiting New registrations to our free subscription will end on May 1st 2014, after which date only paid subscriptions will be available.

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