Lawns are wonderful things. They add beauty and curb appeal to your home. Lawns are a great play place for your kids and they make a great place to relax and enjoy nature. But what makes a lawn a lawn?

Natural grass has been the “go-to” lawn of choice for years. There is another option, depending on your preferences and needs and that is artificial turf. It was developed in the 1960s for sporting arenas to cut down on maintenance and equipment expenses. It’s typically made of polyethylene plastic grass and an in-fill base of crumb rubber which is ground-up recycled tires (up to 10,000 in a single stadium), artificial turf has also made its way to our yards.

Given the water shortage we’re experiencing in SoCal we thought it was a good idea to take a look at the benefit and downsides of each type of lawn.

It’s the Real Thing!

Here are some benefits drawbacks to real grass lawns.

 Benefits

  • Increased soil stability. The root structure of a healthy lawn reduces land degradation as well as wind and water erosion.
  • Cooler air. Mississippi State University released a study that stated a healthy lawn cools as much air as an 8.5 ton air conditioning compressor. Around half the heat is eliminated by evapotranspiration.
  • Less CO2. Lawns are carbon sinks. The 40 million acres of natural lawn in the US take up 6 to 17 teragrams of carbon every year.
  • Filtration. Lawns are natural filters that take up about 12 million tons of pollutants, dust and particulate matter from the air and water per year.
  • Reduced noise pollution. Lawns buffer some of the noise pollution, especially in urban areas.
  • It’s natural! Let’s face it, grass is a natural part of the earth. Anything natural is generally always going to be better than it’s synthetic option.

 Drawbacks

  • Water use. Some communities use up to 50% of their residential water supply just to maintain lawns and gardens.
  • Chemicals. Over-fertilization or improper application, along with over-watering creates a chemical run-off that ultimately hits the water supply. So it’s important to follow the instruction on your label when fertilizing.
  • Pollution. Lawnmowers and other maintenance equipment of the non-electric variety create a significant amount of ground-level air pollution.

 Landscaped – by Science!

There are also some good environmental benefits and drawbacks to artificial turf, not to mention the time saved in mowing and pulling weeds.

 Benefits

  • Reduced spending. You’ll spend less on fertilizers, weed killers and maintenance equipment.
  • Reduced pollution. Less run-off pollution due to no chemical use.
  • Excellent drainage. It dries very quickly after rain or washing. There are also no puddles or patches of mud left.
  • Long lasting. No replanting expenses as with natural grass lawns.
  • Looks. Artificial turf always looks perfectly manicured with none of the labor of mowing.
  • Durability. Much more durable than grass, kids can play on artificial turf all the time with no fear of damaging the lawn. They also provide an even playing surface – no holes or mud – so there are fewer injuries.
  • It may have rebates available! Learn about potential rebates for artificial lawn replacements.

 Drawbacks

  • Cost. Artificial lawns are expensive. The initial cost of synthetic turf is much more than it’s real counterpart, but over the long-term, it will cost less.
  • Non-reversible. Artificial turf kills all living organisms in the subsoil, which means it takes years of soil remediation in order to be able to grow natural grass again.
  • Heat. Artificial turf retains heat; a day in the 90s could mean an artificial lawn that is at more than 120 degrees.
  • Synthetic turf should be washed periodically and also kept cool during hotter days. Use of an irrigation system is still recommended, but it will require much less watering.