Grass

By Kerry Healey

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"I confess that I’m a horrible gardener—I’ve always considered it the outdoor equivalent of doing dishes—and I don’t usually do infomercials, but brace yourself because my goal in the next 3 minutes is to convince you to buy yourself some nice new grass.

It all started last week on Fan Pier, where Mass Challenge announced the winners of its business plan competition. There were all kinds of cool high tech entrepreneurs and then in the middle of it all I saw Pearl’s Premium Grass Seed. Not even a fancy bio-engineered grass seed, just an old fashioned, plain native type plant seed. Pearl’s founder and CEO, Jackson Madnick, is a humble, but determined man who, like me, apparently didn’t like yard work.

He set out on a personal mission to find a kind of grass that needed mowing only occasionally—say once a month—and he found one. And it didn’t need water, either, or fertilizer. He named the beautiful wonder-grass after his environmentalist mother and her namesake granddaughter, Pearl.

Along the way, Jackson found out some disturbing things about our American obsession with grassy, golf-course-like lawns. Here are some of the highlights: Did you know that on the East Coast we use 30% of our clean water on our lawns? Out West, fully 60% of the drinking water goes to the grass. And no wonder: there are more than 20 million acres of grass planted in residential lawns across the US. All in all, that’s half the drinking water in America devoted to lawn maintenance. As someone who spent four years listening to municipal officials fret over dwindling water supplies, that got my attention!

But as they say on wee-hour TV, “But that’s not all!” Each week some 54 million Americans mow their water-hungry lawns, generating 5% of the nation’s air pollution. In fact, the EPA estimates that one hour of mowing on an older gas mower is the polluting equivalent of driving 350 miles in a new car. All this mowing also contributes to our dependency on foreign oil, consuming over 800 million gallons of gas a year.

But wait, there’s more! Some 67 million pounds of synthetic pesticides also grace our lawns, much of which runs off into ponds and ground water, playing havoc with our health and sickening our pets.

""So come September, I'll be making some changes to my lawn--perhaps some new grass, or, given my history with gardening, perhaps I'll go straight for the astro-turf or ornamental rocks!"""

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