Rethinking Lawns

Exploring Lawn Alternatives for Biodiversity Support, Climate Change Resilience, and infrastructure improvement


What if we rethought lawns?

Lawns are the largest irrigated crop in America at 50 million acres. That’s about the size of Minnesota or three times the area used to grow corn!

Seemingly small things like mowing and watering add up when there’s that much grass. Between mowing, watering, weeding, and the flooding it increases, lawn is expensive!

Title: An Average Lawn. Image depicts a closeup of a lawn, it’s soil, its grass and weeds, and a lawnmower. Descriptive text: Mowed weekly, which takes work, money, & burns gas. Often watered daily. Water flows straight through to flood other areas. Needs chemicals to prevent weeds. Compacted soil can’t absorb water. Shallow roots store little carbon. The only food for pollinators is weeds.

What could lawns become?

Lawn grass is just one species of thousands we could plant in our cities. What if we tried something else?

Experts from Chicago Park District, Chicago Botanic Garden, and other institutions are trying out different plants we think will work. The plant mixes in this experiment include our native prairie flowers & grasses.

Title: Our experiment’s benefits. Image depicts a close up of a lawn height mixed variety of species and a root & water-filled soil profile. Descriptive text: No mowing saves work, money, & the environment. No need to water once established. Mixed species makes it harder for weeds to sneak in. Flowers are food for pollinators. Deep roots capture carbon, stabilize and build soil. Water is absorbed, reducing nearby flooding.

Watch with us as we find out what species grow best here and who comes to enjoy the new sights!

Thank you to the following institutions for supporting our work:
Chicago Park District Natural Areas
Cardno Native Plant Nursery
Chicago Botanic Garden
University of Michigan-Flint
The Eppley Foundation for Research
The David H. Smith Fellowship
The Walder Foundation

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