Say No To Plastic – Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Artificial Grass

clover lawn

In recent years, artificial (or plastic!) grass has gained popularity by being sold as a “low-maintenance landscaping solution”, however, beneath its green facade lies a host of environmental and wildlife concerns. As awareness has slowly grown about the detrimental effects plastic grass can have, more people are now thinking twice about installing it which in my eyes is great because our plastic problem is big enough, we don’t need to be carpeting our outdoor spaces in the stuff too, so come with me as I delve into the awful truths of artificial grass and share the eco-friendly alternatives that will help to promote biodiversity and environmental health.

The Cold Hard Truth About Artificial Grass

Artificial grass, often made from synthetic materials like Nylon and Polyethylene, poses a multitude of environmental challenges including:

  1. Plastic Pollution: Synthetic grass is plastic, derived from non-renewable resources like petroleum. Every square metre of artificial turf contains several kilograms of plastic making this yet another contributor to the ever-growing global plastic pollution crisis.
  2. Large Carbon Footprint: An artificial lawn of 60sqm for an average urban garden will create about 435kg CO2e of greenhouse gas emissions through the plastic manufacturing process. It is also important to note that a plastic lawn cannot carbon store as a real one can.
  3. Heat Retention: Artificial turf absorbs and retains heat. This leads to higher temperatures both underfoot and in the surrounding environment which can become unbearable during the warmer months, often making it dangerous for people and animals to stand on whilst contributing to climate change.
  4. Water Consumption: While artificial grass doesn’t require watering like natural grass, it lacks permeability, leading to poor water absorption and drainage. This can result in water run-off and erosion, particularly in heavy rainfall, and resulting in flooding and soil degradation.
  5. Chemical Exposure: Synthetic grass is treated with and contains chemicals to help prevent colour fading, mould issues and to repel water. Over time, these chemicals along with microplastics leach into the environment, contaminating soil and waterways and posing risks to both human and animal health.
  6. Short Lifespan: Artificial grass will only last for around 10 years and, even though many companies claim that it is recyclable, in most cases this isn’t possible with the majority of these services only being carried out in select specialist centres in Europe. Here in the UK it will most likely either be incinerated or go to landfill.
  7. Loss of Biodiversity: Artificial turf provides little to no habitat value for wildlife. Bugs and insects are unable to live and thrive in contaminated soil, birds and other small mammals cannot feed from a plastic lawn, and visiting pollinators will decline in numbers.
plastic cups on top of plastic grass

Natural and Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Artificial Grass

Fortunately, there are some wonderful, natural alternatives that are sustainable and wildlife and eco-friendly:

  1. Native Wild Grasses and Wildflowers: Planting native wild grasses and wildflowers will not only look absolutely stunning but will also support local ecosystems. Native plants provide food and habitat for pollinators, birds, and other wildlife, promoting biodiversity and ecological resilience.
  2. Xeriscaping: Xeriscaping involves designing landscapes that require minimal water and maintenance which is ideal if you live in a warmer climate or if your garden receives full sun all day during the summer months. By selecting drought-tolerant plants and incorporating permeable surfaces like gravel or mulch, you can create a beautiful and eco-friendly outdoor space that will conserve water and support native species.
  3. Permeable Paving: If you are really struggling with maintaining your garden lawn and want to steer clear of a plastic one you could consider using permeable paving materials such as permeable concrete, porous asphalt, or interlocking pavers. These materials allow rainwater to infiltrate the soil, replenishing groundwater and reducing stormwater run-off. You can create pockets of wildlife habitats around this by adding features such as raised flower beds, pot plants, a water feature or pond, trees and bug houses.
  4. Clover Lawns: Clover lawns are gaining popularity as a fantastic alternative to plastic grass. They are low-maintenance, easy to care for, look great, make outdoor spaces more welcoming to wildlife and spare the environment from chemicals found in artificial turf.
  5. Green Roofs and Walls: For urban areas with limited outdoor space, green roofs and walls offer an innovative alternative. These vegetated surfaces help mitigate the urban heat island effect, improve air quality and provide habitats for birds and insects.

Why Choose Natural Alternatives?

Making the switch from artificial grass to eco-friendly alternatives offers numerous benefits including:

  1. Environmental Sustainability: Natural landscaping reduces the reliance on non-renewable resources and minimises environmental impact, helping to combat climate change and protect ecosystems.
  2. Biodiversity Conservation: By supporting native plants and wildlife, natural landscapes contribute to biodiversity conservation and ecological balance, enhancing the resilience of local ecosystems.
  3. Water Conservation: Native grasses and plants allow water to be absorbed back into the ground rather than leading to run-offs that can lead to flooding.
  4. Health and Wellbeing: Spending time in beautiful natural environments has been proven to improve both mental and physical health, reducing stress and promoting overall well-being.

We NEED to shift away from this artificial grass trend and move over to natural and eco-friendly alternatives in order to help to protect our environment and boost biodiversity. Come on, let’s choose nature over plastic!

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