It has the color of straw and a similar texture. Completely devitalized, the real lawn imprisoned under an artificial grass dries up and breaks between the fingers. Because? “Why does a soil structure need water and air”, says Charlotte Howard, landscape architect and horticultural consultant.
“Worms and other organisms must be able to come and go from the surface. They bring dead leaves underground, many things that nourish the soil, as well as the air. If they can’t do this work, the ground will compact. There is no air or movement and nothing can pass through it. It is not far from the concrete. While the quality of the soil is essential for our survival “she says.
Influencer and reality show
It was in the United States, in the 1960s, that artificial lawns were born. Then, after paving the sports complexes where baseball and American football teams have played, the product takes on a more natural look at the twilight of the 20th century.And century and goes beyond sport. “But it is a business that exploded after the imprisonmentassures the landscaper. At home more often, people must have enjoyed their gardens more than usual. They wanted it to look like the hotels they went to, in Dubai or Spain. ”
In recent years, the sarcastic myth of “Great British summer“, Synonymous with periods of incessant rain, sweaters on the shoulders, umbrellas in the bag and temperatures below 20 ° C, begins to fade. The heat wave did not spare the UK this summer, where temperatures above 40 ° C were recorded for the first time on 19 July. The British are therefore spending more and more time outdoors and companies that produce their butter on the false lawn have announced, since 2019, an increase in sales of around 60% to 200%.
According to Charlotte Howard, the main focus would be “young families who aspire to a kind of social elevation and have little money to spend”. Many Britons in their thirties would then follow the recommendations of influencers such as Mrs Hinch, a lady who loves the foundation, and post photos of her house. “Very clean, which always cleans”while promoting its own line of cleaning products.
“He had a synthetic lawn laid by a company called LazyLawn [«gazon flemmard», ndlr] and everyone wanted a garden of Mrs. Hinch “, says the landscape architect. Artificial grass is also an integral part of the decorations of The island of love, very popular reality show in England and comparable to Marseille in France.
More nectar for
“For these people, gardening is an old thing., summarizes Charlotte Howard. It is trivial. They seem totally disconnected from nature. My hairdresser is like that. She is in her twenties and explained to me that she likes makeup that looks expensive and artificial. She is a whole class of people who like fake things. “
Others simply appreciate the ease. Especially the young parents. “At the moment there are many new properties under construction with very small gardens and poor land, inform the expert. People don’t know what to do with it. ” And this is where marketing comes in: “Do you have kids? A dog? Is your life tiring? Do you work all day before taking the kids to play football and dance? Save the mud and gardening!”
These are all reasons why the fake lawn business is booming. In 2021, an estimated 8 million square meters of artificial turf were sold in the UK. And it is an understatement to say that it comes at a non-ideal historical moment: since the 1930s, 97% of flower meadows have disappeared from the English and Welsh countryside.
That’s three million hectares less for pollinating insects, whose population has been declining since the mid-1980s. Today, they use tiny drones to pollinate their flowers. “So much nature is being lost that individual gardens are becoming important to wildlife.”observes Charlotte Howard. Choking floors under plastic doesn’t help, but many don’t seem to care.
On August 6, about twenty Extinction Rebellion activists demonstrated in front of a McDonald’s sign in Harringay, in north London. Reason: The fast food chain had just cut down eleven trees to cover the ground with artificial grass. Counselor in Childwall, a suburb of Liverpool, Alan Tormey couldn’t believe it: McDonald’s said that by 2030 the group will have made sure it is no longer contributing to deforestation. They say they are working with farmers to improve soil health and they will cut down the trees! I heard it was a lie. “
A few hours later, he was filing a motion with the city council of his cityexplaining that artificial grass is a source of large volumes of plastic, which cannot always be recycled, that microplastics pollute the soil, which has a terrible carbon footprint, does nothing for wildlife and it can overheat to the point that it becomes unusable.
“One day, when it was only 26 ° C, a customer who wanted to remove the artificial grass from her home took my temperaturesays Charlotte Howard. It rose to 60 ° C. Plastic melts at 80 ° C, we are not far from it! So, to freshen it up, people water it… Let’s swim in the absurd.
Yes, that’s absurd. Especially when you know that by producing a square meter of synthetic grass would cost 3,750 liters of water, and the drought that hit Europe this summer does not seem to have heard of Brexit: on August 9, the English south-east had already lived one hundred and forty-four days with little or no rain in 2022, something not it had been happening since the 1970s.
“Grow your lawn!”
What to do? While the city of Newcastle decided to stop installing artificial turf in July, Alan Tormey is calling for a tax on laying and restrictions on its use, in his city and then across the UK. For her part, Charlotte Howard proposes that the installation of artificial grass be subject to a kind of permit similar to a building permit.
“Under certain circumstances, it can be authorized. Why not. They say it can be convenient for some people with disabilities and we can respect that. That said, there are other solutions also in case of disability. It costs around 3,000 pounds [3.400 euros, ndlr] to lay artificial grass that can last fifteen years. It is cheaper to pay a gardener to mow real grass. OR, let your lawn grow! Personally, this year I only mowed three times … “
In the UK, the No Mow May in fact, it invites cities and individuals to grow their lawns during the month of May, in order to make the plants flourish and thus offer enough nectar to the pollinating insects.
After clashing with a conservatism rooted in outdated traditions, the idea is gaining ground: in some neighborhoods, the bad neighbor becomes the one who mows his lawn, rather than the one who lets it grow. “We can hope that the fashion for artificial turf will pass quicklywants to believe Charlotte Howard. But it has to pass very quickly if we don’t want to end up with millions more hectares covered in green plastic. “