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5 Low-Maintenance Lawn Alternatives That Will Make You Say Goodbye to Grass

Keeping up a beautiful grass lawn requires a lot of work—and resources. Opt for these sustainable lawn alternatives instead.

sustainable lawn alternatives
Written by
Jenna Mignano
The upkeep involved with maintaining a perfect lawn is quite the handful when it comes to resource usage.
According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) partner
, American households on average use approximately 96 gallons of water outdoors daily—and as much as half of that water use is the result of inefficient usage.
Altogether, that adds up to a staggering 8 billion gallons of water a day being used outdoors residentially in the United States alone—quite the
water footprint
. Not to mention the emissions and gas usage it can take to mow a large lawn routinely.

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When thinking of resource usage for lawns, let's take golf courses as an example. Endless, expansive pieces of land with vibrant green grass cut extremely short. Pretty much every time you visit one, you'll see sprinklers going off and people zipping around on lawn mowers doing everything in their power to tame the land and give the patrons the view they're expecting.
According to the
U.S. Geological Survey
, golf courses use up more than 2 billion gallons of water per day. When it comes down to the serious droughts areas across the world are starting to face, the resources that go into this level of lawn care are pretty serious to consider.
Places like California—which are already experiencing substantial droughts—have already put regulations into place that ban residents from overwatering their lawns. They're also looking into allowing more alternative plants and grasses that would require fewer resources to maintain. We can only expect this type of regulation to increase in the near future.
Strict homeowner associations and local laws enforce that lawns must be kept by a well-defined set of guidelines. But what will lawns look like in a time where we must account for the wasted resources that go into cultivating them? Hopefully, systems of regulation will become more open and allow more variation.
We'd like to explore the movement of alternative lawns that have been popping up in recent years and see if any of them could be feasible solutions for those looking for a change in their outdoor upkeep.

5 Sustainable Lawn Alternatives Worth Trying

1. Permaculture Lawns

sustainable lawn alternatives
Permaculture describes the incorporation of many plants that will thrive on their own without major maintenance. These lawns usually center around the use of local and native plants in order to function sustainably. This incorporation of thriving native plants also deeply benefits the continuation of ecosystems of insects and animals in the area.
Permaculture design might not be everyone's cup of tea, but some environmentalists are huge proponents of them and can build beautifully designed, maximalist, natural landscapes. It's a great option for plant lovers that live in spaces with lots of wide-open land.

2. Clover Lawns

Clovers are a fantastic alternative to typical grass lawns. They don't grow tall, they're resilient, and they maintain that uniform look that a traditional lawn would give you. They stay vibrant in color without all the constant watering and maintenance.
White clover seems to be a popular choice, and the budding flowers really add to the unique nature of the lawn. It can handle sun or partial shade. We could really see this option exploding in popularity in the near future.

3. Garden Lawns

sustainable lawn alternatives
One option that's becoming more popular in a suburban setting? Garden lawns. These gardens are often in the form of raised beds or in-ground layouts taking up real estate in the front or back yard.
Proponents argue that this is a wonderful use of land that will provide food for their families and the local community. Brightly staffers have seen neighbors with an expanse of fresh berries for anyone to come and pick. Communities like
have even incorporated edible landscaping into development plans.

4. Moss Lawns

sustainable lawn alternatives
Moss is yet another low-maintenance alternative to grass. It will grow in most conditions, regardless of soil quality and pH levels, as long as there's some level of moisture and shade. Try to choose a native moss that's sure to work well in your environment.
A plus side is that moss is extremely low to the ground, often even more so than clover, so you'll never have to mow. Moss lawns do need some water, but not nearly as much as a traditional lawn. They're also drought-resistant.

5. No Lawns

sustainable lawn alternatives
If it's an option that suits your lifestyle, choose a way of living that requires lower amounts of property upkeep. This can be anything from an apartment with no lawn to maintain personally, to simply choosing a property with less acreage when it comes time to rent or buy.