Lawns are an American obsession. Since the mass proliferation of suburbs in the 1950s and '60s, these pristine carpets of green turf have been meticulously maintained by suburbanites, with grass length and other aesthetic considerations enforced with bylaws and by homeowner associations.
But for nature, lawns offer little. Their maintenance produces more greenhouse gases than they absorb, and they are biodiversity deserts that have contributed to vanishing insect populations. Residential lawns cover 2% of US land and require more irrigation than any agricultural crop grown in the country. Across California, more than half of household water is used outside of the house.
If attitudes toward lawn care are shifted, however, these grassy green patches represent a gigantic opportunity. In 2005, a NASA satellite study found that American residential lawns take up 49,000 square miles (128,000 square km) -- nearly equal in size to the entire country of Greece.
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