Greening Our Space
By: Bill Stoiber
In last year’s hit movie “Marriage Story” Adam Driver, a transplanted New Yorker, is informed: “You can actually have space in LA!”. Here in Yorktown, maybe that “space” is taken for granted, but, more often than not, if one is a homeowner, one’s living area might be mapped out by that most basic of suburban expediencies: the lawn.
The lawn, and the chores which it represents, can be to some individuals the bane of suburban existence, while to others the cultivation of one’s yard is its own reward. The contemplation of a fine English lawn is inspiring to many (forget that its manicured magnificence is likely the result of 400 years of rolling!). And the fleeting sight of a green patch in one’s front yard, after a temporary January thaw, brings one hope for a merciful end to winter.
Whether we feel warm and fuzzy about our own personal grassy swath or not, the suburban ethic and social pressure pretty much mandate that your yard be reasonably maintained. And here is where a considerable carbon footprint comes to the fore: according to Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor at the Univ. of Vermont, over TWO BILLION gallons of gasoline are used annually in the U.S. for lawn care. This is a quantity that has about doubled since 2010. Also, due to soft emission regulations, gasoline-powered mowers, blowers, weed whackers, et al, produce high levels of CO2, organic compounds, and nitrogen oxides, making garden equipment engines responsible for fully 5% of U.S. generated air pollution. The EPA estimates that every gallon of gasoline burned by lawnmowers emits 20 pounds of CO2.
What is to be done? In the spirit of accepting personal responsibility for reducing our carbon footprint, the following are relatively inexpensive suggestions for the humble grower of grass:
- A Lawn Truly Green Eschews Gasoline. Go Electric. Or manual. There are now many options for battery driven lawn tools. The batteries can be interchangeable and even power snow blowers when that season is upon us. And if we don’t mulch our leaves, could we maybe return to the simple rake? One might venture to state that of the very few things that a diverse assemblage of suburbanites can agree upon: LEAF BLOWERS ARE HATEFUL! Especially when they are somebody else’s.
- Reduce Lawn Size. Certain techniques such as foundation plantings and deciduous tree shading can be significant energy savers. A pair of pear trees in one’s front yard, surrounded by mulch, reduces lawn care while providing bushels of succulent fruit (be prepared to wait it out 3-4 years). For the mulch, avail yourself of the Yorktown Organic Yard Waste Facility on Greenwood Street. This no-fee recycling destination can be a big money saver for those seeking wood mulch, leaf mulch, or topsoil; plus, the facility accepts all types of organic yard detritus as gathered by the indomitable weekend warrior.
- Edible Estates. For the really ambitious veggie or fruit gardener, check out “Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Lawn Into a Garden”, by H.C. Flores, or The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden by Ivette Soler or Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn by Fritz Haeg. The focus here is on cultivating the FRONT yard, which tends to receive more sun. The color photos in these books are fabulous!
- Concrete Trucks. Just kidding. However, should your yard be expansive and sunny you may wish to consider turning some lawn area into a solar canopy; or simply install solar panels on grade – an option which is usually cheaper than roof top installation. The reduction of the carbon footprint with solar panels far exceeds the contribution of grassy lawns. This is a topic which will be covered in more detail by future columns in this space. Good luck!
Bill Stoiber worked as a Mechanical Engineer, primarily in the field of renewable energy, and retired from the New York Power Authority. He and his family have lived in Yorktown since 1998.
Yorktown100 is a 100% volunteer group of neighbors working to reduce our carbon footprint by 5% a year through various programs. Contact us if you would like to learn more, or would like to join. We welcome new members! Visit us at https://yorktown100.org/ and help make a difference.