Study on grass alternatives

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In Western Australia’s dry climate it takes a lot of water and energy to keep lawns green and lush.

Perth public and private lawns cop about 145 gigalitres of groundwater to survive the climate, enough to fill 56,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The use of pesticides and the greenhouse gases emitted during mowing lawns negate any environmental benefits they have, according to the authors of a new study.

That conclusion doesn’t sit well with the turf industry however, who said it was getting easier and easier to care for lawn and the benefits extended far beyond good looks.

The University of Western Australia and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences study into the sustainability of lawns around the globe has found the benefits of lawns were far outweighed by their impact on the environment.

Researcher Dr Maria Ignatieva from UWA’s School of Design said lawns made up almost a half of the
urban green areas globally and called for a rethink about what flora are used in public spaces and gardens.

Professor Ignatieva said it was important to look at new alternatives to the traditional grass lawn in urban planning and think about how residential spaces and gardens could be made more sustainable.

“Traditionally, lawns were created purely for aesthetic reasons and in modern times, for recreation,” she said.

“However we need to rethink our view of them, and see them more as a creative opportunity to create a space that is visually attractive and functional whilst at the same time being environmentally friendly.”

Dr Ignatieva suggested redesigning public and private open spaces and doing away with conventional grassy lawns as the universal urban ground feature by replacing them with a variety of drought-resistant native plants, new generation of groundcovers or other materials such as mulch and stones.

“Native plants are designed to cope with Australia’s hot, dry conditions, and while being environmentally friendly they also require far less time and expense to maintain.”

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