Climate-Savvy Alternatives to Lawns

Learn how communities and local environments benefit from replacing expensive-to-maintain lawns with natural meadows, rain gardens, and community gardens.


Churches, schools, businesses, municipalities, states, and other larger land­owners often possess huge swaths of unneeded and unused lawn. If home­owners can make a real difference by replacing most of the lawn on their own small properties, imagine the multiplied effect if land managers changed their status quo from large lawns to something else. We'd have less pollution, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, reduced stormwater overflow, and at the same time we'd have richer habitat, more food production, and a cooler environment.

Landowners also stand to benefit from the switch. In addition to being better stewards for their land, large landholders could save money that could be spent elsewhere. Also, if the community becomes involved in the project in some way, they could generate goodwill and positive publicity, which might influence even more homeowners and other businesses to follow suit.


Large landholders may wish to replace the majority of their expansive, uninteresting, and expensive-to-maintain lawns with community gardens, butterfly gardens, vegetable gardens, fruit orchards, rain gardens, or wildflower meadows.

Use new plantings to cool buildings and reduce energy consumption. Strategic plantings of trees and shrubs on the southern and western exposures of buildings can reduce the need for air conditioning. Plantings around air compressors produce shade that can help the machines to operate more efficiently.

Replace some lawn with rain gardens. Businesses and commercial parks looking for ways to be more efficient and to contribute to the community could use more sustainable landscape practices around their buildings. Installing rain gardens to capture their stormwater runoff before it goes into retention ponds will improve the quality of our waterways.

6/3/2019 8:01:15 PM

Thank you for this thoughtful article. The acres of mown lawn and begonia 'parks' our city maintains at great expense to the taxpayer are desolate and uninviting on the increasingly suffocatingly hot days of summer. Imagine how wonderful the spaces would be forested or as meadowlands or with fruiting shrubs and trees. Why not?

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