… and the day has come when a synthetic product is greener than its natural equivalent.While the question of whether artificial grass is actually as environmentally friendly as its manufacturers claim, there are some tried and true reasons lawns everywhere are sporting the lush, year-round gorgeousness of fake turf, only one of which is the fact that it looks natural enough to fool even the most intrusive neighbor.
One of the disadvantages of replacing your lawn with artificial grass however, is the initial cost of installation, which can be seen as an investment once you make a quick pros and cons list- better yet, check out ours!
The Pros: Advantages of a Synthetic Lawn
Save Time, Money & Water
Saving water and time (also money, if you outsource labor) on lawn maintenance are two of the top advantages home and business owners cite as the reason for replacing their lawns. These reasons are not unfounded, since statistics show that synthetic turf saves up to 55 gallons of water (per square foot) a year and that the average natural lawn owner will spend 2.8 hours a week on lawn maintenance. This is more than farmers spend on growing crops like sugarcane, corn, or even rice. This is some serious lawn labor.
While synthetic lawns are not one-hundred percent maintenance free, keeping them clean is a simple matter of raking or rinsing with water (if you have pets) occasionally.
In some places, the maintenance of a lawn includes much more than time & money- there’s also the frustration of a patchy, discolored lawn that hardly ever shows the maintenance cost.
Poor soil, pests, an uneven terrain and irregular shade can create a lawn that is most definitely not greener and since lawns serve an almost exclusively aesthetic purpose, why not opt for a really good-looking lawn and save some time, money, and water while you’re at it?
The main reason most people are completely flabbergasted when they find out a lawn they’ve been admiring is actually fake is the bright green legacy of AstroTurf. The first generation of the stuff clearly looked (also smelled and felt) like plastic, but the advances made since then not only make artificial grass look uncannily real, but also function like natural grass.
Available in a variety of styles (bluegrass, bent grass, pet grass, winter-rye and fresh-cut, etc.) lengths, weights, thicknesses, color combinations and even thatch or moss additions (to amp up the realness), you can have a truly beautiful lawn year-round.
Synthetic Turf is Water Permeable
Artificial grass functions like real grass in that it is permeable to water (and other liquids such as dog urine), but in a convenient way whereby mud is never an issue.
Synthetic turf is made with a lining material with thousands of tiny little holes that allow the grass to drain, preventing runoff and nasty puddles, so I guess we can add “clean floors & carpet” here. Another great thing about the water permeable feature is that grass dries quicker.
Immunity to Pests & Bacteria
Artificial grass is not natural, which means that ticks, fleas, bacteria, and other crawling critters find it to be an unattractive host- which is an amazing relief if you have children and/or pets.
Artificial Turf Is a Friend to the Environment
An artificial lawn can coexist with natural plants and trees; it creates no fumes or spills from gas-powered lawnmowers; produces no environmental damage or safety hazard from fertilizers and pesticides, and saves 55 gallons of annual household water consumption.
A tell-tale sign of something environmentally unfriendly is its inability to coexist with something organic. Studies have found that artificial turf is non-toxic to humans, pets, and organic plants. It is entirely possible (by installing drip systems) to have a synthetic lawn and real trees and plants living side by side.
Another huge red flag waved by sprawling real-grass lawns are the lawn-mowers. These machines consume 17 million gallons of fuel annually and lawn mowers create a lot of pollution; the push-kind can rack up in one hour, the pollution of 11 cars combined, while a riding mower emits the equivalent of 34 cars, also within one hour.
Pesticides, weed killers, and fertilizers are yet another area of concern. Home-owners alone (we’re not talking about farmers) are using 70 million pounds of herbicides and insecticides and an additional 3 million tons of synthetic fertilizers annually. While the safety concerns from pure contact with treated natural grass are as inconclusive as concerns for synthetic fillers in artificial grass, the real concern is coming from what these chemicals do when they make their way into water systems- and between 40 and 60 percent are currently doing so.
While water consumption is a popular reason people are making the switch to artificial grass, it is actually one of the smallest contributors to the environmental impact of growing and maintaining a natural lawn. The others have been listed- an artificial turf creates zero of these concerns.
The Cons: Disadvantages of a Synthetic Lawn
The Cost of Installation
Installing artificial grass involves a lot of expenses; from delivery, the cost of labor, dumping fees and then the cost of a good-quality turf, you’re looking to spend between $7 and $25 per square foot.
While the average homeowner will plunk down a few thousand dollars for a full lawn, keep in mind that this is a long-lasting investment (most artificial turfs last between 15-20 years, and higher qualities up to 30 years). Also, given that you are saving on a lawn-mower (or lawn service), a sprinkler system (plus water costs), and fertilizers, weed-killers, and pesticides, you will make up that cost within 3-5 years.
Anti-shock Layer and Infill Must be Replaced
Artificial grass requires very little maintenance after installation, but if you installed an anti-shock layer (which is what makes it cushiony to the touch) and/ or infill (for stability), those features will need to be replaced every few years.
Residential lawns usually require an anti-shock layer, which is a material that is placed right underneath the turf. This layer gives the lawn a natural feel and is recommended for people with children and/or pets. Infill is also an extra, used to stabilize the turf and increase the efficiency of its draining capabilities. Infill also helps keep artificial grass looking lush and perky.
Since these materials lay near the surface of the turf and serve a comfort function, they must be replaced/ refilled a few times throughout the turf’s lifetime.
Should You be Concerned About Chemical Fumes?
Scandalous and terrifying reports have been published claiming that artificial grass, since it is synthetic, contains harmful chemicals that may cause cancer or other illnesses. These claims are not backed by scientific evidence and studies have shown synthetic turf to be less harmful to the human body than what we encounter on a regular, day-to-day basis in our normal environment.
It Can Get Hot in Direct Sunlight
Artificial grass is notorious for hotness- not in a good way, but it’s getting better than its pioneer days as a blazing green carpet made of molten plastic. This is precisely where this the ambiguity arises from this argument- the newer stuff is accounting for this defect.
In direct sunlight, the surface of artificial grass can range between 120 and 165 degrees, which is significantly hotter than aphsalt. That being said, synthetic turf does cool really fast and is not affected when it is laid in areas with ample shade. Also, since this has been one of the most criticized features of the product (especially since it is used widely in professional sports), manufacturers are now making artificial grass with cooling technology.
Artificial Grass is Not Natural
The last disadvantage of replacing your natural lawn with artificial grass is that you’re replacing something natural with something that is in all simplicity, fake. This means that if you were fond of the smell of freshly mowed grass or watching your cat (or dog) chew on the crunchy green blades, these experiences are not an option for someone with a synthetic lawn.
There’s also the question of organic material. This can be both an advantage: no fleas, ticks, ants, snakes, etc., or a disadvantage: the guilt you feel when you think about all the earthworms you dislocated.