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Is Artificial Turf a Good Idea?
Many of us are drawn to artificial turf because we care about the environment. We want to save water and time. We're tired of the grueling tasks of mowing and weeding, as well as applying fertilizers and pesticides. However, if your priority is caring for the environment, artificial turf is not going to be the best option. Here are ten reasons why artificial turf may NOT be the perfect answer.
1. IT'S A PLASTIC RUG
It looks perfect … at first. That's because the blades of grass are made of synthetic materials, typically polyethylene, polyester, polypropylene, nylon, or a hybrid of these materials. It's essentially an outdoor carpet, albeit one that has been meticulously designed to look like natural plant material.
2. IT ADDS TO THE URBAN HEAT ISLAND EFFECT
Because it is essentially made of plastic, it heats up, and doesn't offer any of the benefits of plants, such as abating the urban heat island effect. More on this later….
3. YOU WILL NEED TO CLEAN IT
It will collect pet and bird droppings, dust and dirt. You'll need to hose down artificial turf with water and rake it to fluff it up and straighten the fibers.
4. IT IS NOT AS SAFE AS YOU THINK
Why do sports fields in warm climates often install an irrigation system for artificial turf? Because it can get really hot. Surface temperatures of artificial grass are 20-50° F higher than natural grass and can reach the same temperature as asphalt pavement. The highest temperature measured was 200° F.
5. IT IS NOT AS SOFT AS YOU THINK
It's hard, and it can hurt if you fall while playing sports or tumbling around with the dog. Unlike grass, it doesn't give. Soil or sand underneath becomes compacted.
6. IT WILL NEED TO BE REPLACED
Eventually, you will need to replace the artificial turf. Some companies claim a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years, while critics estimate closer to 8 years. Take into consideration that the Arizona sun is known to rapidly break down plastics.
7. IT'S EXPENSIVE AND UNTESTED
Installation costs can range from $5 to $20 a square foot. Consider how willing you are to risk this investment. Research both the company and the product to ensure it is high quality. The Synthetic Turf council has minimum specifications for turf grass
8. IT'S NOT ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY
It is difficult to recycle and reuse, and while manufacturers promise recyclability, it is likely to end up in a landfill. When components break down, it's possible for the chemicals or plastic materials to escape into the rest of the environment.
9. IT DOESN'T SWEAT
Plants don't sweat - they transpire. Artificial turf does neither. Plants have pores on their leaves that take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen (air we breathe) and water molecules. These water molecules evaporate, cooling the environment.
10. SERIOUSLY, IT'S NOT A PLANT
Living plants provide more than aesthetic value. They help improve water and air quality, reduce temperatures, reduce storm water runoff, and provide habitats for animals, insects, bees, and birds.
So…. What should you do instead?
Depending on your goals for your landscape, a functional amount of artificial turf might still work for you. For guidance, consider designing with xeriscape, a creative approach to landscape design with water in mind. The principles of xeriscape help you plan and maintain a landscape that meets your family's wish list while also conserving water and contributing other environmental benefits. Don't miss Water - Use It Wisely's 10-part video series on transforming your landscape from drab to fab .