We hear every day that we need to protect the environment.  Of course we should be doing as much as we can to “GO GREEN,” and guard our natural resources. There are several people out there now days talking about using “artificial turf” surfaces for their home lawns, and even parks.  But why?

I know we see this plastic grass on TV at sporting events, and it looks as if they’re life’s magic solution to having an “evergreen turf,” but do you ever hear what is required to maintain one of these fields?  How about how many players are injured on them, or the several health risks that these players face every time they step onto that field?  The simple answer to all of those questions is NO—you don’t.  I’m going to talk about a few things today that are never brought up in your fake grass salesman’s pitch when he comes to your yard to give you an estimate. 

Let’s start with the most important item—SAFTETY.  The safety of our families, pets, and friends that will be using the lawn to play on.  I realize that you most likely will not be playing a football game on your lawn, but there are still a lot of issues to consider.  Did you know that if your kid falls and scrapes his/her knee on the turf surface that they are exposing themselves to several types of bacteria that infect the skin, and the heart and nervous system?  These bacteria’s are transmitted from skin to skin contact or even simply by stepping on or touching a used band aid that an infected person had on their body.  What causes these infections?  These infections are caused by bodily fluids, animal droppings, and a failure to sanitize the surface.  How can you sanitize the area without utilizing a sprinkler system and some water?  The simple answer is you can’t.  Even if you have irrigation, artificial turf doesn’t act as a natural water filter, reducing and purifying water passing through its root zone like a natural grass surface.

The second item to consider is the HEAT. We are often sold on the amount of water we are saving, but were you told that you probably wouldn’t be able to walk on the surface between May and October in Arizona without the threat of burning your skin?  There have been several studies that have shown artificial turf to be up to 86.5 degrees hotter than a natural grass surface on a “cool” 81 degree day.  Often surface temperatures reach up to 174 degrees in the summer.  I don’t know about you, but I am not putting my daughter and dogs on surface that will burn their skin.  I guess by not having a sprinkler system in makes you look like you’re environmentally friendly.  I am betting that with the heat you are generating around your home, your energy bills are apt to be higher.  So, you may be saving a little water, but by carpeting the earth with plastic, you are actually contributing to global warming, and increasing the carbon footprint.  By the way, have you figured out how many trees you’ll have to plant to achieve a carbon neutral situation?

The third argument for people putting down an artificial lawn is that they think they’re so easy to maintain.  While you don’t have to mow the grass  you do get the pleasure of blowing off or raking up pine needles, leafs, and other debris that is always falling on your yard. You can’t just run the mower over the surface to pick this up, you either need a turf vacuum or blower.  Once everything is removed from the turf you still have to throw all the material away instead of mulching it up and reducing the amount of waste. What happens to the animal urine and pet waste? Yes you can pick up the waste but I wouldn’t exactly call it sanitary to have my pet pee on plastic on then have my kids play in the same area. I am pretty sure that no one likes when their dog pees on the floor in their house because you have to live on it and it smells. The same applies for your yard. 

How can a plastic surface that includes ground up rubber tires be considered safer for the environment, and for the people that use them? Did you know that because of the toxic nature of most of these surfaces you cannot dump the turf in a landfill when it gets worn out? Should you decide to replace this lawn, how are you going to dispose of it?  Plus, the EPA is currently doing several studies citing concerns of human exposure to silica dust and cadmium particles from ground rubber tires used to maintain artificial surfaces. I cannot see how this makes it safe for the environment or for our families.

There are numerous benefits to using real grass at your house.  Did you know that turfgrass removes dust and dirt from the air which aids in pollution control, or that the front lawn of eight houses has the cooling effect of 70 tons of air conditioning.  I don’t think the producers of the artificial turf are going to tell you that, and I am sure they will neglect to tell you that 2500 sq. ft. of natural grass absorbs carbon dioxide, and releases enough oxygen for a family of four to breath.  I could write for days on the benefits of using a natural grass over an artificial surface, but I think you get the idea.

Artificial turf is not the environmentally responsible solution for your yard. As we are told when we are young when something seems too good to be true, it probably is, and this is the perfect example. I want to leave you with one last thought…. I have often heard of the cost savings of using artificial turf in water, maintenance, and life span, but how does anyone know this to be true when most of these companies selling their product haven’t even been around as long as their expressed warranty? Just as we had the bubble burst on the housing market, it is easy to see why the bubble is bursting on the artificial market.  Have a good week, and please send me your thoughts and questions.  If you would like to read more articles on this subject please visit www.synturf.org.