The Alternative to Turf Lawns

Most American suburbanites love the idea of a perfectly mowed, turf grass lawn (see picture below).  It seems to be a standard feature of an outdoor space for which people strive.  But, what if there was a better way to have a beautiful outdoor space that could be maintained using less time and resources?  Well…  There is.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “thirty percent of water used by the average American household is devoted to outdoor water use.”  You may think to yourself that 30 percent isn’t a very large portion of our water usage.  Let’s quickly try to put that in perspective.  According to, the average American uses 176 gallons of water per day (including for outdoor spaces).  Thirty percent of 176 gallons is 52.8 gallons that is attributed to outdoor water use per person, per day.  The United States Census Bureau calculated that in June 2011 there were just over 311 million US citizens.  If each one of them is using 52.8 gallons to maintain their lawns (of course, these are all averages and estimations) then in one day, Americans use about 16.42 billion (16,420,800,000) gallons outdoors.  Why not take it one step further; in one year Americans use about 6 trillion (5,993,592,000,000) gallons of water on their outdoor spaces.  That seems like a lot to me.

So, now that I have bored you to death with numbers, here’s how we can still have beautiful lawns and landscapes while using less water to maintain them.  The easiest method to reducing water usage can be stated in three simple words:  Use native plants.  Native plants are the species that grow wild in your specific location with nothing but the loving hand of mother nature.  Because they are accustomed to the environment, they need very little, if any, additional resources.  Through the use of native plant species you can reduce water consumption for outdoor uses as well as create a unique space for you and your family to enjoy.  So, break up the monotony of the perfectly striped lawn and take a look at how a natural garden can make you happier while helping the environment out too.


Evelyn Hadden is the author of Beautiful No-Mow Yards: 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives and has put together a video of some natural gardens that people have designed and implemented in their very own yards.  The video itself is pretty corny (especially the music right at the end), but it does showcase some of the many options available when designing your garden.

Here is Ms. Hadden’s  YouTube video:



  1. I’ve always wrestled with the reasons to why we prefer to have a mono-culture of plain turf lawn. yes its simple, but most family member NEVER use it all that much, besides the times when the young boys actually push the lawn mower over it !!!

    I enjoyed this cheese ball of a video, many alternatives to the ecological desert of a expanse of water guzzling St.. Augustine grass

  2. Arianna · · Reply

    That would be interesting to find out why as a society we prefer these types of lawns. When and where did the idea originate and how did it become a standard that most people do not question, but simply strive for?

  3. I found the below info from and

    Basically it originates from Europe because of the moist, mild climate. Some of the earliest lawns were the grasslands around medieval castles in France and Britain, kept clear of trees so guards had an unobstructed view of approaching, perhaps hostile, visitors. The term also referred to the village “commons”, the meadows shared or held “in common” where villagers could graze their sheep and cattle. These hooved lawn mowers kept the grass cropped, fertilizing as they grazed.

    Then starting in the 16th century Renaissance, the wealthy French and English deliberately cultivated lawns… although they used chamomile or thyme instead of grass.

    In the 17th century, the closely cut “English” lawn was popular and became a symbol of status and showed that the owner could afford to keep land that was not being used for a building, or for food production.

    So when they came over they brought the idea of lawns and the grass seeds. Then a bunch of factors made it popular i.e. lawn mowers and suburbanization, and now people don’t know better as it’s been engrained into part of the American Dream.

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