On Simpler Living and Transcending Worship of the Perfect Lawn

My recent lifestyle changes have translated into daily walking between three and eight miles, depending on my schedule, and I find the time useful for thinking. Among the subjects that I have been mulling over is that of voluntary simplicity, or the conscious embrace of simpler living.

Following the above link will direct you to an earlier essay I wrote on the subject, though my thoughts have been crystallizing on more practical ideas of late than the esoteric thinking in that piece. Such ideas formed the basis of a presentation I gave at a local Sierra Club meeting the other day, and I am refining them down to a shorter essay that I plan to post soon.

Anyways, one of the more useless and unsustainable behaviors that our consumerist culture promotes is that of the so-called "perfect lawn." By regularly pumping potent fertilizers, noxious weedkillers, and of course copious amounts of water onto the turf, we too can have the sort of lush green carpet depicted by the manufacturers of the aforementioned products.

Okay, so most of us have still have municipal water, but bear with me.

I am even setting aside the unnatural amounts of external supplements a lawn needs, and focusing simply on the amount of human labor that a large lawn requires to maintain this biologically unstable "perfect" state. How much simpler would life be in a yard full of easy-to-maintain perennials, shrubs, and trees!

Pictured on your left is a neighbor whose yard I admire during my daily walks. He spends little time on maintenance, and while his yard is a bit busier and denser than I would prefer, he has much more time to spend on other pursuits. I estimate that less than 10 percent of his average-sized city lot consists of traditional lawn, and he has flowers in bloom from March through November.

I think I will stop and talk with him some day about his plants, and it looks like he spends the majority of his enviously small landscaping time on transplanting cuttings since I never see shipping boxes or other evidence of purchased plants. The property contains a great deal of plant life that requires little watering and even less pruning.

That is, I'll speak with him if I can actually catch him working. Most of the time his yard takes care of itself.