Festive get-togethers, friendly backyard sport match-ups, or just lazing on a hammock as the breeze blows. These outdoor activities are all made more aesthetically pleasing by a beautiful green lawn. Lawns, though, require a lot of care and maintenance which can cut into the time you get to enjoy more leisurely pastimes.

For homeowners who want a yard that look goods but no longer want to put in the effort it takes to keep its appearance up, artificial grass can be an excellent solution. You’ll save on water use and:

  • Eliminate the amount of air pollution caused by gas-powered mowers, which is 11 times more that a car produces!
  • Reduce your home’s carbon footprint.
  • Be one less home on the block that contributes to the noise pollution that seems to happen every day of the week.

Artificial Grass The environmental impact of natural lawns has caused some counties in California to put water and lawn size restrictions into place. In Sonoma County, drought relief programs urge people to limit their water consumption. In Windsor, where we’re located, the town’s Water Efficient Landscape Rebate Program offers financial incentives to residents willing to remove turf grass. Head a little south and you’ll find places like Mill Valley restricting lawn size in new projects to 500 square feet of new grass. It’s an idea that may catch on elsewhere.

Should you replace your natural lawn with artificial grass? Like most things, there are pros and cons to making the switch.

Why Artificial Grass is Gaining Ground

It has a reputation for being eco-friendly, doesn’t need watering or fertilizing, and never has to be mowed. Plus, the latest technologies in artificial grass have made it look good enough to fool people into thinking it’s real. They’ll only know it’s fake if you tell them!

Natural lawns are beautiful, too, but come at a cost to the environment and your bank account. In California, it’s estimated they’re responsible for using 40% to 60% of landscaping irrigation, or about 5% of total statewide water use. In the big picture, landscape irrigation accounts for a whopping 50% of annual statewide residential water consumption!

Based on these facts alone, it’s easy to see why artificial grass should be considered as one of your landscaping options.

The Pros of Artificial Grass

A true “outdoor carpet,” artificial grass now comes in a variety of options that make it look remarkably natural. If your only experience with the synthetic version is the bright and shiny emerald green stuff you used to see in window displays, you’ll be stunned with just how “real” it looks today.

Benefits include:

  • You can toss the lawnmower because you no longer need to mow your lawn. What will you do on your weekends instead?
  • There’s no need for fertilizers, weed killers, or other toxic products, a boon to the health of your family and the environment.
  • It doesn’t develop bare patches from pet urine and is less likely to be dug up by dogs.
  • You can save about 55 gallons of water per year for every square foot of natural grass you replace with artificial grass.
  • Comprehensive drainage systems promote optimum drainage on par with natural grass.
  • Your lawn will truly be evergreen and will last anywhere from 15 to 25 years.

Some manufacturers are going even greener by partially making artificial grasses with recycled materials. Most infill options are non-toxic with some like those made from natural cork being used more often.

If you’re concerned with the upfront cost, keep in mind that once installed, you won’t have any additional costs until it needs replacement. Most experts say a mid-sized installation pays for itself within three to five years.

The Cons of Artificial Grass

While it’s true that the newest versions of artificial grass look and feel like the real thing, some people have a difficult time with the idea of putting plastic in their yard. And even as it’s praised for its water-saving benefits, artificial grass has some environmental shortcomings.

  • It’s a petroleum-based product that generates pollution and waste during production.
  • Even if it contains some recycled materials, it is not biodegradable. So, though it has a long life, eventually it ends up in a landfill.
  • For some people, old habits die hard. They continue to use water to “wash” their lawn and use powered blowers to remove leaves, etc.
  • Because it absorbs heat and sometimes feels hot to the touch, it can be an “environmental heater.” Some types of infill also raise the heat factor. Natural grass has a cooling effect when temperatures rise.
  • It deteriorates under UV radiation and the bits and pieces of plastic that fall off drift into surrounding foliage and waterways. It can, however, be repaired.
  • Some people complain of an odor build up from the grass or infill. This is usually due to not cleaning up pet and other messes after they happen.

Environmentalists point out that artificial grass does not encourage healthy soil, something that’s vital to the earth’s survival. There’s a vast empire of creatures in soil—one tablespoon of soil contains billions of microorganisms that remove carbon dioxide natural grass pulls from atmosphere and then turn it into life-giving soil carbon. For this reason, some people choose to use a combination of natural and artificial grasses in their landscaping. There are several other lawn alternatives you can choose that also require less maintenance but maintain your yard’s natural environment.

  • Wood mulch, or playground chips, are a great option for kids’ play areas.
  • Consider one of the 31 Sonoma County native ground covers that reduce or eliminate mowing, watering, and fertilizing. Creeping snowberry, for example, can tolerate both shade and intense sun. Another benefit of using native plants is that they provide shelter and nourishment to local wildlife, birds, insects, and butterflies.

Which Option Should You Choose?

Modern artificial grass lets you choose a lawn that is summer-fun long, putting-green short, or somewhere in between. Color options range from light to dark green and those made with variegated strands look especially real.

As you consider these pros and cons of artificial grass, keep in mind that product quality and professional installation are just as important as which color or material you choose. In fact, they may be more important, as they determine how well your new landscaping will perform and how long it will last.

Before making up your mind, take some time to do your research and then speak with a landscaping pro with experience in installing artificial grass. Facts in hand, you’ll be better prepared to make the right ground cover decision for your Sonoma County home.