Pick any suburb, any Sunday afternoon, and the sound you’ll mostly likely hear is the irritating buzz of lawn mowers, blowers and other gardening power tools.
Yesterday I watched the guy across the street use a blower to blow every leaf in front of his house over to a stretch of curb in front of his neighbor’s house–an unbelievable waste of time and energy–polluting the air with a cacophony of the most grating buzzes and whirring.
Who can enjoy a quiet afternoon when every dad on the block is competing to have the most manicured lawn?
And that’s just the noise. All of our lawns should be brown. We are under severe water restrictions here in Southern California and in many other parts of the country. Don’t even get me started on the weed killer. I’ve reached the point where Astroturf is actually starting to look good. And I’m not alone.
With water emergencies and mandatory restrictions in place in southern California, Texas, Florida, Georgia and other water-starved areas, fake grass is starting to look a lot more attractive to homeowners than it once was. In fact, it’s starting to look more attractive–period. Suburbanites are increasingly opting for synthetic grass, rather than resign themselves to a dull brown lawn (although the dandelions seem to able to survive no matter what) of the real stuff.
Synthetic turf came on the scene much fanfare in the 1960s, but it wasn’t until the 1980s, when the industry introduced a vastly improved second-generation product, that it gained more widespread popularity.
According to the Association of Synthetic Grass Installers, a trade association based in Sacramento, sales of artificial turf for landscapes and putting greens–a category that includes residential lawns– landscape use has grown 35% annually for the past five years. [overall market growth (which would include sports fields) has been a steady 20% per year] States where sales are highest are Georgia, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and, of course, California. Environmentalists were in favor of the water savings resulting from a lawn of artificial grass, but worried about toxic chemicals contained in it, like lead. (In April, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission looked into the possible health hazards of lead in artificial turf installed at schools, parks and stadiums across the country.) But the industry insists synthetic turf is safe and as demand for the stuff grows, the more stylish it becomes.
Manufacturers have heard consumers and are working to make artificial grass far more real looking and esthetically pleasing. They now offer complimentary colors for the natural grasses of different regions. In Southern California, for example, a lighter, Kelly green sells well; in Florida and Georgia, a dusty green-gray is popular. The grass is less shiny than what you’re used to seeing on the sports field and now there’s even a new product–called “thatch”–to help the blades stand up straighter.
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