American lawns have so, so much potential—and right now, it’s going to waste. It’s time to culturally stigmatize the classic overwatered, overfertilized, overmowed American lawn—a symbol of excess that’s persisted for far too long.
Minnesota is one of the few places in the country where traditional turf grass can grow without much help, but it’s still no match for native grasses if your goal is to reduce your planetary impact. All grasses pull carbon dioxide out of the air and bury it underground, but native grasses have much deeper roots—and can store carbon much more efficiently.
In places like Southern California, there is no reason for conventional lawns to exist—and amid an ongoing megadrought, cities are offering buyouts for homeowners to convert their grass lawns into native vegetation or shaded, xeriscaped rock.
A lawn filled with native plants provides a habitat for animals, from insects to birds and everything in between. A lawn that’s used to produce food could feed your family, boost neighborhood-level community, and provide jobs (if you don’t have a green thumb). When you run the numbers, it turns out that almost anything is better than a grass lawn—except pavement.