Environmental Benefits of Managed Yards, Parks & Green Spaces

By Fred Haskett

In recent years, the use of turf in landscape has received increasing criticism because of a number of concerns relating to water use and contamination of groundwater supplies. Contrary to these beliefs, turf plantings can actually be conservers of water and energy to help reduce pollution rather than contributing to it.

While most turf area are is maintained for ornamental and recreational purposes, there are additional functional components that are often overlooked when assessing the relative merits of turf. Below are listed some of the more notable environmental benefits provided by turf grass plantings.

Environmental Benefits of Managed Landscapes

Noise Abatement – Excessive sound is an increasing problem in urban areas. Lawns and plants dramatically reduce noise pollution; they can reduce noise levels by 20 percent to 30 percent over hard surfaces like concrete and pavement.
Temperature Modification – It is a well-known fact that plants play an important role in controlling climate. A natural coolant – grass is much cooler than asphalt or cement. It acts as an “air conditioner” for the surrounding area. In fact, lawns can be 31 degrees cooler than asphalt and 20 degrees cooler than bare soil. But wait, there’s more. Trees shading homes can reduce attic temperatures by as much as 40 degrees.
Water Purification and Conservation – The biological activity that takes place in areas planted with turf makes them a good medium for degrading many kinds of Environmental contamination. The soils located underneath turf are populated by microorganisms that actively purify water as it leaches through the root zone by breaking down various organic compounds.
Environmental Cleaners – Grass plays a vital role in capturing dust, smoke particles and other pollutants, and it produces oxygen.
Water Protectors – Healthy turf absorb unhealthy runoff that might otherwise filter into bodies of water.
Air Cleaners – Grasses absorb carbon dioxide and break it down into oxygen and carbon. In fact, a 50’ x 50’ lawn produces enough oxygen for a family of four.

Benefits of Urban Landscapes

A growing body of research is demonstrating how important it is to incorporate tree canopies and parks into cities and towns. They provide a wide range of lifestyle benefits that improve the quality of life for residents.

• A recent study by the U.S. Forest Service found that neighborhoods with tree-lined streets and larger yard areas have reduced crime rates.
• Studies show that just looking at lawns and trees, even through a window, can reduce stress and lower blood pressure (Housley and Wolf).
• Walking in a natural environment with lawns and trees, even when located in the middle of a city, has been shown to improve attention and memory, according to a study by Marc Berman of the University of Michigan.

Benefits of Commercial Landscapes

Businesses are more successful when they provide clients with landscaped areas around buildings and plants inside buildings.

• A study found seven percent higher rental rates for commercial offices having high-quality landscapes.
• Shoppers indicate they will travel a greater distance and spend nine to 12 percent more for goods and services in central business districts that have high quality tree canopies.
• Companies that provide their employees with interactions with nature also benefit. Research conducted by Rachael Kaplan, Ph.D., showed that workers who could view nature from their desks had much better job and life satisfaction and better health.

Physical and Psychological Benefits

The benefits of human interaction with plants, trees, and turf are also well studied and documented Children with ADHD seem to focus better after being outdoors (Harvard Health Publications). Workers are more productive as well when working in environments with plants, and cognitive function is improved.

Research from the Husqvarna Global Garden Report 2012 showed that “63 percent of respondents reported being willing to pay more for an apartment or house if it was located in an area with good green spaces, compared with, for instance, 34 percent willing to pay more for an area with good shopping and 33% for good cultural venues.”

But, perhaps more important than what science tells us, is what people instinctively feel about the plants and green spaces in their lives–that the connection makes their lives better, and they want to make an effort to incorporate it into their lives.
The bottom line is that turf grass plantings make a substantial positive contribution to our quality of life and to the environment we live in today.

Fred Haskett is a business consultant and coach with more than three decades of management experience in the green industry. He is currently working with The Harvest Group.