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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Monday, September 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Our View: Not too early to take stand on lawn controversy

Anti-lawn activists believe that lawns waste precious water, use health-endangering fertilizer and contribute bad chemicals to community rivers, lakes and water sources. Pro-lawn activists argue that lawn alternatives – wildflowers and native plants – look ugly and devolve into weed fields.

Wait a minute. You didn’t know about the great lawn debate? Communities throughout the country are discussing how much lawn is too much lawn, considering potential water shortages and worries about pesticides and fertilizer.

In July, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner proposed that the city outlaw the use of sprinklers from noon to 6 p.m., May through September, and devise a watering schedule based on street addresses. The water restrictions would likely prompt homeowners to rethink their huge lawns.

In our letters to the editor section, community members vigorously debated Verner’s proposal. But in general, the pro-lawn vs. anti-lawn debate is a slowly developing one.

“The anti-lawn movement has been around now for several decades,” explains Elizabeth Kolbert in a recent New Yorker article. “In that time, thousands of American families have dug up their lawns and put in wildflowers or meadows or vegetable gardens. In that same period, however, millions more have put in new lawns. … Change is hard. People have been trained to expect lawns, and this expectation is self-reinforcing.”

If the anti-lawn faction prevails, it could change in dramatic ways the look and feel of neighborhood yards. But at this point in the debate, home dwellers have the power and the options. They can choose to scale back lawns or landscape with alternative plants and wildflowers. Or they can keep their lawns as they are now.

Three decades ago, when recycling was a new concept, some households embraced it, while others refused to consider it. Now it’s commonplace. A 2007 Spokane Regional Solid Waste System study showed that 78 percent of those surveyed consistently recycled.

Slowly developing issues don’t make for dramatic headlines, but they do allow for informed community discussion. Next time you’re chatting with your neighbor over the back fence, imagine together what those backyards might look like if the lawns were smaller – or gone altogether. Anti-lawn or pro-lawn? Start talking.

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