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Yard Care is Due for a “Green” Revolution

By Bob Andrews

Many homeowners love their emerald green lawns and perfect gardens; but these may not be as “green” as they seem. Conventional gardens and lawns require high maintenance care practices that, in fact, undermine our efforts to build sustainable communities and reduce the impact of climate change.

Conventionally maintained yards absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester it , to some extent, in the earth. The more CO2 is sequestered, the less there is in the atmosphere causing climate change. There are, however, far better plants to cultivate in our yards, and landscaping practices to use, than are commonly chosen.

Conventional yard maintenance favors frequent and deep cutting with noisy, gasoline-powered equipment; throwing away grass clippings and other nutrient rich debris” such as leaves and plant material ; applying large amounts of chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides; and wasting water through excessive watering. These practices can reverse the carbon sequestration benefits of growing plants and add to greenhouse gas emissions.

Burning fossil fuels to run landscaping equipment adds a lot to our carbon emissions. It is also noisy and stress-inducing. Of at least equal concern, however, is the impact of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which contaminate the soil itself and the ground water beneath it.

Conventional yard practices, in short, put nature on life support.

What would make yard care a more truly “green” process? Here is a quick rundown of the actions needed, which must be regarded as a form of climate action, since they will result in less greenhouse gases in the atmosphere:

    1) Replace non-native, short-rooted plants with deeper-rooted, hardy native plants. Native grasses, perennials, trees, and shrubs contribute to an attractive landscape and, when organically maintained, sequester more carbon dioxide in the soil while providing other environmental benefits. If you still want some grass, reduce the relative size of your green lawns and choose deeper-rooted, slow or low-growing native grasses to eliminate the need for frequent mowing and watering.
    2) Substitute quiet electric-powered lawn machinery for machinery that is gasoline-powered.
    3) Do not haul away grass clippings and leaves. Leave them in place, compost them, or grind them up into a fine organic material that will serve as fertilizer and enrich the soil when it is spread out on the property.
    4) Use only natural materials to build optimal soil health. Use organic fertilizers and safe pesticides, and only use what is truly needed.

If you have questions or want specific guidance about how to maintain your yard sustainably and make it truly “green” , BioCAN is a local organization that will help you. Just write to

In addition, the Concord Comprehensive Sustainable Energy Committee is currently offering bargain “swaps” of gasoline-burning mowers for cordless electric mowers with rebates at a September 23 event. To learn more, go to the Cooler Concord website.

Bob Andrews is a Concord resident, a member of the Steering Group of ConcordCAN!, and a member of the Environmental Leadership Team at First Parish in Concord. .


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