Astroturf and xeriscaping–part of the solution or the problem?

Natural or artificial? That is the question.

Several weeks ago, Daniel Vasquez of the Sun-Sentinel wrote an article about Lesia DeFelice, a homeowner in an HOA in South Florida who replaced her lawn with Astroturf.  DeFelice argues that the turf is a necessary adjunct of xeriscaping, a manner of landscaping that reduces the need for irrigation.  Her HOA disagrees, for one basic reason–the covenants of the community prohibit homeowners from installing Astroturf in their lawns.  After the article ran, the comments were overwhelmingly in favor of the homeowner and against the HOA, although, in fairness, the bulk of Internet comments tend to be anti-association to begin with.  In this case the posters, and even the author of the article, seem to feel that the objection to Astroturf is just another example of shared ownership communities run amok.

But is that the whole story?  A little investigation shows that Astroturf is a touchy subject.

It turns out that Astroturf, which is made from crushed up tires, is filled with carcinogens and dangerous chemicals, and there are a number of advocates who fear that those chemicals will leach into our water table and pollute our drinking water.  Sure, lawns require dangerous pesticides to keep them green and happy, but the argument is that we’re better off researching ways to reduce our dependence on pesticides, rather than expose everyone to the known dangerous chemicals found in all kinds of turf.  For a couple of thoughts on this issue, see the following articles:

Global Healing Center
Environment and Human Health
Environmental Headlines

Now, I’m not in any way suggesting that these articles PROVE that Astroturf is dangerous–but it is a question that is being legitimately debated and one that should be investigated further.  The question itself, however, demonstrates that the “obvious” answer to many problems isn’t always that obvious.

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2 Responses to Astroturf and xeriscaping–part of the solution or the problem?

  1. viborus says:

    I would be remiss if I did not point out a few things with this article:

    1. The HOA documents for the DeFelice has no restrictions whatsoever on artificial turf. The association is over 30 years old and the original documents from 1979 were last amended in 1986. It exists nowhere in the document that you cannot have turf (there’s a detail blog on this matter published elsewhere).

    2. Artificial Turf and compressed rubber mulch used in landscaping comprise of the same ingredients. There is no fight against rubber mulch as the industry lobbyist machinery is much larger than that of artificial turf. Local governments and HOAs (a few states are coming around) are ‘afraid’ if they okay AT there would be a huge switch, which is not necessarily true. In places like Nevada where turf is more or less protected by state and local statutes, there has not been that big of a switch. Fear is driving the turf war. The bigger fear is water is not unlimited. Also lawn fertilizer, lawn clippings, lawn mowers, gas trimmers and all those items used to maintain ‘lawns’ contributes more harm to the environment than AT ever can.

    3. The bulk of internet comments are anti-association because that is the only place the captives who live under terrorism daily are truly free to speak out. You speak out in a hoa meeting against a board and you are in the bull’s eye. There is no government to protect you from this type of assault. If only we could once have operation American Freedom!

    4. Also I MUST point out that the yard in question only have artificial turf in 18% of the required landscaping area, a little over 100 square foot. That is putting some perspective on the whole argument. There are several matured trees (http://vividtoy.wordpress.com/2009/04/24/butterfly-ballots-and-missed-opportunities/) That is the yard you are talking about. A picture is worth a thousand words.

    5. Lawsuit was only brought after an altercation with a board member.

    Sorry I’m local and I love to follow up on a story!

  2. Fair enough, thank you for your comment!

    Ryan

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