June 14, 2011

Artificial turf????

Think fake. Some folks are looking to the newest generation of synthetic turf as their permanent solution to mowing, fertilization, and irrigation. Cooke's Garden Center (Williamsburg, VA) now carries it and it is water-permeable. I walked on some around a pool in Maine last summer (the perfect use for it) and didn't notice it was artificial grass for an hour. Can you see how I was so easily fooled?

The cost, however, is pretty steep, and most brands only carry a 10-15 year warranty. Of course, if you factor in the irrigation costs you do NOT incur, it might be a bargain.

Artificial turf proponents claim:

• Depending on the region of the country, one full-size synthetic turf sports field saves 500,000 to 1,000,000 gallons of water each year. During 2010, between three to six billion gallons of water were conserved through its use.

• For a multi-use field in Texas, where there is little rain, the water savings is much greater. School officials with the El Paso Independent School District stated that their 10 new synthetic turf sports fields will save more than 80 million gallons of water every year, or 8 million gallons of water per field.

• The estimated amount of synthetic turf currently installed has eliminated the need for nearly a billion pounds of harmful pesticides and fertilizers.

• In a July 7, 2007 article entitled Grass Warfare, the Wall Street Journal states, “The pesticides used in lawn-care products found on shelves nationwide are considered legal by government standards. But broader research on health risks from such chemicals has prompted general warnings. The EPA, which regulates pesticide use, notes on its own website that kids are at greater peril from pesticides because their internal organs and immune systems are developing.”

• The EPA has identified runoff of toxic pesticides and fertilizers as a principal cause of water pollution. According to that federal agency, approximately 375,000 acres of lakes, 1,900 miles of rivers and streams and 550 square miles of estuaries in Florida are known to be impaired by nutrient pollution, a primary source of which is excess fertilizer.

• Most of the current synthetic turf sports fields feature crumb rubber infill recycled from used tires, keeping more than 105 million used tires out of landfills.

• Synthetic turf helps reduce smog and noxious emissions. According to the EPA, “lawn mowers emit high levels of carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas, as well as hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides that contribute to the formation of ground level ozone, a noxious pollutant that impairs lung function, inhibits plant growth, and is a key ingredient of smog.”The EPA also reports that a push mower emits as much pollution in one hour as 11 cars and a riding mower emits as much as 34 cars.

• According to a 2010 BASF Corporation Eco-Efficiency Analysis which compared synthetic turf athletic fields with professionally installed and maintained grass alternatives, synthetic turf can lower consumption of energy, raw materials and solid waste generation depending on field usage. BASF also found that the average life cycle costs over 20 years of a natural grass field are 15 percent higher than the synthetic turf alternatives.

• Using synthetic turf can help environmentally conscientious builders and specifiers with LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) project certification from the U.S. Green Building Council in the areas of Water Efficient Landscaping, Recycled Content, Rapidly Renewable Material and Innovation in Design.

• From Disneyland and the Wynn Hotel to the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base and your neighbor’s yard, thousands of homes, businesses, golf courses, and public spaces have turned to synthetic grass to provide a lush, attractive landscape solution that requires minimal resources and maintenance.

• Water conservation is a necessity. In March 2011, Wharton published a report about the growing scarcity of water. It references a prediction by the 2030 Water Resources Group that by 2030 global water requirements will be “a full 40% above the current accessible, reliable supply.” Further, less than 3% of all available water is fresh and drinkable. Underground aquifers hold almost all the potable water available in liquid form, and their rate of depletion more than doubled between 1960 and 2000.[6] Yet, the EPA states that nationwide landscape irrigation is estimated to account for almost one-third of all residential water use, totaling more than 7 billion gallons per day.

• Synthetic turf promotes greater utilization of land, as you can do more with the same space than natural grass. Rooftops once deemed unusable for high-rises and residential buildings can now feature lush green areas. Hotels that had to restrict the overuse of the lawns can now schedule multiple functions year-long.

• The Southern Nevada Water Authority estimates that every square foot of natural grass replaced saves 55 gallons of water per year.[8] If an average lawn is 1,800 square feet, then Las Vegas homeowners with synthetic turf could save 99,000 gallons of water each year or about $400 annually. In Atlanta, homeowners could save $715 a year, not including much higher sewer charges.

• In its report, “Municipal Solid Waste in the United States, 2009 Facts and Figures”, the EPA estimates that 33.2 million tons of yard trimmings were generated in 2009, the third largest component of Municipal Solid Waste in landfills. As yard trimmings decompose, they generate methane gas, an explosive greenhouse gas, and acidic leachate.

• A June 2008 National Public Radio report called “Water-Thirsty Golf Courses Need to Go Green” reported “Audubon International estimates that the average American course uses 312,000 gallons per day. In a place like Palm Springs, where 57 golf courses challenge the desert, each course eats up a million gallons a day. That is, each course each day in Palm Springs consumes as much water as an American family of four uses in four years.”