Lawns are usually non-native grasses, mowed short, offering no food or shelter for birds, basically equal to wastelands. Add pesticides, and for birds, the wastelands become toxic dumps.
Nation-wide, according to the National Wildlife Federation, up to 30 million acres of land are covered in lawn. Then we pour about 70 percent of our residential water on it to keep it lush, dump 70 million pounds of active pesticide ingredients on it to maintain perfection, spend hours mowing and trimming while burning vast amounts of gas and oil, all to bag up the clippings and send them to the landfill. Then we fertilize and repeat the process.
The excessive waste creates nothing practical. Instead, according to the EPA, the runoff pollutes more than 26,000 miles of rivers and streams while mowers emit about five percent of the nation's air pollution. In fact, a gas-powered lawnmower emits 11 times more pollution than a new car.
We're raising an expensive crop with a single purpose: vanity.
What's with the obsession over lawn? Most sources credit it to our English heritage--estates once maintained by the aristocracy, fertilized and trimmed by flocks of sheep. Other sources say it comes from our original lineage from the African plains. Those who ventured into the high savannah grasses, sheltering lions and other predators, never ventured back out.
Many cultures understandably ridicule us for our fastidious--and wasteful--behavior regarding lawns.
Meanwhile, as human populations explode, we steal more and more habitat from wildlife, including birds.
Simultaneously, you reduce work--and not just in reduced mowing. Native plants don't want extra water or fertilizer; they rarely need pruning; they're easy to grow. They're mostly plant-and-forget species.
Don't know whether a plant is native here? Check the online USDA Plant Database for complete lists, including native habitat maps. Several local nurseries have begun stocking natives; and to supplement the local supply, check online for area sources.
Now, during migration, birds need stopovers to feed, drink, bathe, and rest. Every lawn marks yet another wasteland for desperate migrants. Help change that; you'll be rewarded.