Voices of Youth: Questioning the need for the grassy front yard

This story is being published to lift up and support local youth as part of the program “Voices of Youth Battle Creek," sponsored by On the Ground Battle Creek, part of Southwest Michigan's Second Wave, and financially supported through coalition underwriting. This story is written by Andre Bastian Ibarguengoitia a junior at St. Philip High School.

The grass lawn is a much-loved American tradition of waste. 

Jeremy Andrews, founder of Sprout, here in Battle Creek, says, “It was initially a value signaling thing: ‘I am so wealthy that I have all this land that I don't need to grow food on.’”

On average, Americans will spend over 384 hours of their lifetime mowing their lawn—that’s 16 days.

“I thought to myself as I was driving around in circles, how utterly futile that process is, and how utterly absurd it is that we all have lawns,” Andrews says.

One of the only reasons lawns have continued to exist according to Andrews is that we care too much about what our neighbors think. 

“My former home I got rid of my entire lawn and planted vegetables in my front yard, and my neighbors freaked out and told me I couldn't do that, and I was not allowed. That's how brainwashed we are that lawns are the way.”

“When I talk to people about gardening in their front yard they always say: ‘Oh I wouldn't do that, what would the neighbors think?’”

“A lot of times people don't do things because they are worried about what other people think. When in fact, no one is thinking about you at all. They are thinking about what other people think of them. It's a really nasty vicious circle.”

But neighbors and residential lawns are not the only culprits of the grass lawn. 

Roadsides, parks, schools, and private businesses are all at fault. 

Retired landscape architect Ken Peregon says, “Part of the problem is that grass and trees are the easiest landscapes to maintain.” 

“So when I was working with schools and universities a lot of the time that's all they wanted,” Peregon continues. “Because they could hire people that didn't have much skill or knowledge or interest.”

The steps we have to take towards a more ecologically friendly environment are not easy, not only do we as a society need to recognize that the grass lawn might not be the way to continue but we also need to think more about our future. 

Simply because installing a grass lawn might seem more convenient or the right thing to do because all the neighbors do it, it doesn't mean it is. At most, it's a vicious cycle of waste and at least it's extremely uncreative. 

The way to go forward is to change, a flower blooms and wilts just so the next flower might bloom too. The trees lose their leaves just so they may spring back the next year round. 

But why do we keep a mowed loop that moves neither forward nor backward, when all of the flowers tell us to move forward, with them?