The popularity of artificial grass has increased steadily over the past few years with many homeowners opting for the convenience and consistent appearance of fake grass over the natural variety. It’s even proved popular with some high profile celebrities, including John Terry, captain of Chelsea FC, who is reported to have installed synthetic lawns at both his current and former homes in Surrey. But despite the many time-saving and amenity benefits of a synthetic grass lawn, there is one particular question that seems to keep popping up – is it an eco-friendly option? Synthetic lawn provider, Dayco Artificial Grass, considers the answer here.
The primary criticism made against synthetic grass is that it reduces habitat for a wide range of insects and other wildlife that live, breed or feed in and around our lawns. Bees, in particular, are singled out as a source of worry, as many lawns harbour clover, buttercups and other wild flower plants which bees and other pollinators use as a source of nectar.
How much habitat you are actually sacrificing will depend on the overall design of your garden and what else is in it. If grass is currently the only plant life in your garden, then you will certainly be removing some wildlife habitat by replacing it with an artificial lawn. But, as an established synthetic lawn provider for more than 20 years, this is rare in our experience. In most gardens, the lawn is just one element and is surrounded by a variety of other planting and landscaping features, including patios, paths, flower beds, veg patches, shrubs and trees.
A fake lawn surrounded by borders can still provide a useful amount of wildlife habitat. Even a selection of containers with the right planting can provide significant help to bees or other insects (for instance the Royal Horticultural Society sell a “Perfect for Pollinators” seed range which can be planted in beds, border or containers). In short, replacing your lawn can be offset with some clever planting elsewhere in your garden.
For many London homes in areas such as Muswell Hill, Finchley, Barnet and Edgware, a synthetic lawn is not, in fact replacing real grass, but is being used as a more appealing alternative to other urban ground cover such as gravel, paving stones, decking, tarmac or even concrete. In these circumstances, using artificial grass clearly is not reducing the amount of foliage or habitat – but it is helping to create a more attractive environment for urban dwellers.
Water usage is a big eco-issue and, in general, plants which require significant amounts of water are seen as environmentally unfriendly, even when used for growing useful crops such as fruit and vegetables. While the UK is blessed with generally good rainfall, most lawns, particularly in the drier London and South East regions, will require a good dousing over the summer to keep them in shape. The more water you use on your lawn the less eco-friendly you are being.
Having an immaculate, weed-free lawn is the goal for many, but this cannot be easily achieved except through a lot of manual labour, i.e. diligently digging up weeds as soon as they come up, regular scarification and so on. This can be a Herculean task if you are starting with a poorly maintained lawn which is already more weeds than grass. Even in a moderately weedy lawn, some weeds like buttercups are almost impossible to get rid of by hand as the roots grow sideways and just a small amount of root left in the ground will turn into another plant eventually.
Then there are the lawn killing pests such as Leatherjackets – the larvae of the Crane Fly – which can all but destroy a lawn if not controlled. Or, at the very least result in unsightly patches where the growing larvae have chomped their way through the grass, including the roots.
Understandably, many lawn owners turn to chemical weed killers and pesticides to solve these problems – all of which can be distinctly unfriendly to the environment and other wildlife.
Unless you use only hand mowers and tools, there will be a carbon footprint associated with maintaining a natural lawn. The more often you bring out your electric (or even oil powered) mower, strimmer and leaf blower in an attempt to keep your lawn looking perfect, the less eco-friendly you are being.
Our Verdict: Eco-Friendly or Not?
There is in fact no clear answer to this question, as it depends on a number of factors, including whether you are looking to achieve an immaculate lawn or are content with the weedy, patchy, mossy kind.
While many gardeners love having a natural, wildlife friendly lawn which spontaneously turns into a wildflower meadow in July (because it’s barely seen a lawnmower since April), the majority of London property owners do not, preferring instead a lawn which looks neat and tidy all year round and provides a practical surface for relaxing. As we’ve seen, achieving the “perfect” lawn can involve a host of distinctly anti-eco practices including lots of water, chemicals and energy usage.
So, while it’s true that replacing natural grass with synthetic will reduce some wildlife habitat, your overall damage to the environment can be offset with planting elsewhere within the garden and by the reduction in the non-eco-friendly usage of water, chemicals and energy.
Synthetic Lawn Provider Edgware – Find out more about our range of artificial grass products.