We could have eased into this article with a nice, but unnecessary, introduction that talked in circles about nature and homeownership before finally zoning in on lawns and gardening. But instead, let’s address the burning question head-on. Why on Earth would anybody get rid of their grass? Really, that question answers itself: it’s because we’re on Earth. It turns out maintaining a lawn is actually murder on the environment. But the fact an entire continent is doing this kind-of-sort-of makes the problem enormously worse. A lot of it is about water consumption, but not entirely. There are also the matters of gasoline being burned in lawnmowers and pesticides getting into the groundwater and poisoning everything. Also, grass contains no pollinators for plants but can harbor weeds and invasive plant species. Beyond this, lawns simply do not contribute anything to the ecosystem: a lawn is a living ornament. The water thing, however, is still a major factor, too. If you’re looking to cut back on your water bill, this may suddenly all sound intriguing now.

Just Imagine It

What would a yard with no grass look like? For one thing, you don’t have to completely eradicate your grass; you can just curtail a fraction of it. That said, there are six major options with varying levels of intricacy:
  • Put in low-maintenance grass that may not look pristine, but will be healthier, more natural, and require less mowing.
  • Put in native wild grass and just let it go nuts without mowing it.
  • Plant a garden of native plants that can more or less hold their own (and maybe add a stone walkway so you can still navigate through it).
  • Plant a fruit and veggie garden; proceed to consume these foods and save money on groceries. Again, add a walkway in there, too.
  • Gravel; this is probably best for desert climates.
  • Install artificial grass.
Go ahead with any of these routes that may seem appealing to you. But if you aren’t big into gardening and your chief concern is money, #6 is probably your best bet. Let’s run with that for a moment. If you replace your lawn with artificial turf, not only are you saving water (on your bill as well as for the environment), but you aren’t spending money on other lawncare products, you aren’t spending time cutting the grass, and you aren’t going to track mud when you walk inside. Oh, and AstroTurf is designed for rain to just run right off, so don’t worry about absorption. So far, it seems pretty enticing, right? What could possibly go wrong?

What Could Possibly Go Wrong

It’s not that there are more downsides to putting in fake grass. They just take longer to explain than it takes to say, “less water, less money!” Firstly, if you like the idea of helping the environment, this option isn’t nearly as good for Mother Earth as the “install a small jungle in your front yard” option. You would be replacing something natural-but-wasteful with literal plastic. While it is often made from recycled tires, it often can’t be recycled again, which is actually an issue since AstroTurf will not last forever. You’ll be lucky to get 25 years out of it, but some need to replace it after only 10 or 15. Is your main frustration with your current lawn more about weeds than about water? Actually, here’s a better question: have you ever seen a weed growing in cracked concrete? That can happen in an artificial lawn, too. Remember, the turf comes in squares that connect like puzzle pieces; there’s space for weeds and other invasive species to peek through. Artificial turf is not completely maintenance-free. Since it’s essentially an outdoor rug, you need to clean it. If you have a pet who needs a place outside to relieve themselves, then… you can see where we’re going with this. Fake grass is also not as soft and cuddly as it may seem. It’s much tougher than grass and taking a tumble on it may hurt more than you’d imagine. Speaking of comfort – and this is a big one – how shady is your lawn? If you’re currently having trouble getting grass to grow because a natural canopy blocks out the light, then artificial turf may be a great option. But if your yard is in direct sunlight, more often than not, turf may be a legitimate hazard. Because it’s plastic, fake turf can get somewhere near 100° hotter than grass in the sun. Don’t get too enamored with the idea of leisurely strolling barefoot on your new lawn on a sunny summer day.

What About Those Other Options?

If all that scared you off getting an artificial lawn, you can try to cultivate a new landscape from scratch, though the required maintenance will probably mean saving money is off the table. Even then, those routes have their own problems. Whereas some jurisdictions will actually pay you to replace your wasteful lawn (either with turf, gravel, wild-grass, or a garden), others will ban you from doing so. These bans might seem uptight, but there are some legitimate concerns. Beyond a strict HOA being annoyed that one house in the neighborhood looks like a game of Jumanji was played inside, an extensive garden could house rodents, foster weeds and invasive species, and might even be a fire hazard. Have we even mentioned the process of removing your current lawn? Oh, we apologize, it just slipped our minds amid all this. But between time and money, getting rid of your current grass is going to cost you a lot no matter how you do it. You could be practical and smother it with newspapers or woodchips over the course of several weeks, you could be pragmatic and pay some professionals to uninstall it, or you could be nihilistic and just cut it out with a shovel while screaming at the top of your lungs because you’re frustrated that, whether you keep the lawn or kill it, every option seems to be a bad option. Nobody would blame you for feeling that way either.

Now What?

You tell us. Replacing your lawn can have many upsides and just as many downsides. Honestly, a lot of variables boil down to your local geography. An option that’s a no-brainer for someone in Arizona might be downright foolish for someone in Ohio, and what might work perfectly for someone in Oregon might be disastrous for someone in Texas. Like most things in life, everything has its downsides. But you know your situation better than we do, so you need to assess your surroundings and see what would work the best in your corner of the world. The ball’s in your court. (Oh, and that’s another option: put a basketball court over your lawn. The neighbors might call it an eyesore, but they’ll really all be jealous.)