Landscape Sustainability

Economics of Synthetic Turf

December 11th, 2012  |  Published in Landscape Sustainability, ROI of Sustainable Landscaping

We know what you are thinking; get out the plastic pink flamingos and brightly colored beach chairs. But not so synthetic turf Economics of Synthetic Turffast!  We’ve decided to give synthetic turf a serious look and do a cost comparison to see if it is a worthy alternative to their water-loving counterpart.

Synthetic turf, better known by the pioneering brand Astro-Turf, a product first developed and mass produced by Monsanto, became readily available in the 1960’s.  But up until the 1990’s synthetic turf was used primarily as a replacement for athletic fields for sports which were typically played on grass surfaces because of it’s durable qualities allowing more games to be played and less maintenance time involved.

Landscapers and homeowners have slowly caught on and today synthetic turf products are made by countless different manufacturers which have vastly improved their overall appearance and durability.

To illustrate synthetic turf’s viability and cost effectiveness we have broken down the expenses to install and maintain a 2,000 SQ.FT. lawn using both alternatives.  The numbers might surprise you.

lawncost maintain year one Economics of Synthetic Turf

lawncost year one cost1 Economics of Synthetic Turfartificial turf year one cost1 Economics of Synthetic TurfSo argument settled right? Natural grass lawns win!  Not quite.  The below graph illustrates your return on investment (ROI) for a 20 year period. As you can see the initial installation costs of a synthetic turf lawn is considerably more expensive but the ongoing maintenance costs and water bills for a traditional grass lawn quickly add up while the synthetic turf costs remain unchanged.  Also, for those of you who already have a lawn and don’t want to change anything, you’ll see that just before 20 years you will have spent the cost of synthetic turf on maintenance.

synthetic turf ROI Economics of Synthetic TurfAs you will note from the above graph, if you were to install synthetic turf in place of natural grass you will see a return on your investment in roughly 5 years and every following year thereafter you will have saved approximately $750 on a 2000 SQ.FT. lawn.  After 10 years, you could save over $3,500.

The savings in costs, however, are just the icing on the cake.  A typical 2,000 SQ.FT. grass lawn can consume up to 7,000 gallons of water per year to keep it looking green and healthy.  That’s enough water to quench your thirst for 40 years!  And not only is synthetic turf water conserving and fertilizer-free, but many Eco-conscious brands utilize recycled petroleum products for the majority of their turf systems meaning hundreds of pounds of plastic waste will be saved from the landfills and go directly into making your landscape more beautiful. In the proper setting, synthetic turf really does have a place in our drying landscapes.

Should you feel bad if you’re still not completely sold on the idea of  replacing your beloved grass lawns?  Absolutely not.  After-all, this study is simply meant to suggest one more sustainable alternative to traditional grass lawns. It’s our hunch, however, that as water becomes more scarce and synthetic turf products become increasingly indistinguishable from their natural living counterparts, the demand for synthetic turf lawns, minus the pink flamingos and beach chairs, will increase dramatically.

Study of Lawn in Our Gardens: Part II

April 22nd, 2011  |  Published in Landscape Sustainability, Water Conservation

Alternatives to Conventional Turf

turf alternative 001 Study of Lawn in Our Gardens: Part IIIn Part I of this article, we examined lawn and its place in California’s landscape.  And for a variety of reasons, it is clear the ubiquitous use of lawn in California is inappropriate (perhaps borderline irresponsible) because of a host of negative environmental impacts.    But does this mean there is no place for lawns in our landscape?  Absolutely not!

It is vital homeowners and landscape professionals closely examine the rationale for maintaining or installing a new area of lawn.   The following list is a series of helpful questions to ask when considering the environmental and financial appropriateness of lawn in your landscape.  After answering these questions, jot down a list of the pros and cons.  Often times, decisions to tough questions can be more easily answered when scrutinized on paper.

Do I enjoy maintaining my lawn?

For many, the act of tending a lawn is rather tedious, time-consuming, and incredibly repetitive.  Would you rather be doing something else on your weekends? Read the rest of this entry »

Does Rainwater Harvesting Make “Cents” in Dry California?

February 25th, 2011  |  Published in Landscape Sustainability, Water Conservation

Each winter, California’s weather patterns shift.  Stagnant, high pressure systems that bring heat and dry are dislodged by powerful low pressure fronts.  This change brings cool weather and welcomed precipitation.

The window in which the precipitation falls is generally very short:  beginning in November and extending through March.  During this time, our native and ornamental landscapes soak up and use as much water is available to them.  The rest is rapidly evacuated through our urban and rural storm water management system, picking up impurities on its way to the nearby creek, river, lake, or ocean.

The rest of the year when natural rainfall isn’t enough to rain harvesting 001 Does Rainwater Harvesting Make Cents in Dry California?sustain our landscapes, we import water from points beyond while expending enormous amounts of resources doing so.  The cost of that water running out of our hoses and faucets is heavily subsidized by local and state agencies.  Seemingly unattached to the cost per gallon of water are all the direct and indirect costs that no one has yet been able to quantify.  How can one really put a price on environmental costs such as habitat degradation and salinization?

From a hypothetical viewpoint, harvesting and storing rainwater makes perfect sense.  Save what you get for free (rain) and use it when you need it (warm months).  But a common first question one asks about rainwater harvesting is “What is my return on investment?”  However, what they should really ask is “What are all of the benefits of harvesting rainwater?”.   Read the rest of this entry »

Simple Rain Storage Techniques

February 25th, 2011  |  Published in Landscape Sustainability, Water Conservation

California rejoices with rain.  Much of our agriculture, development, and industry rely heavily on the snowpack, reservoir levels, and winter precipitation totals.  A “good” year for California is a wet one.

So it is rather ironic when the rain does come to our cities and towns, we treat the water like an unwanted guest and remove it from our sight as quickly as possible.  We direct it to drains and gutters and don’t know or wonder where it goes from there.

But as the water is directed elsewhere, it brings all of the surface pollutants and trash with it on a journey through the watershed, contaminating aquatic habitats and ruining natural spaces along the way.

los angeles river Simple Rain Storage Techniques

The mighy LA "river".

Read the rest of this entry »

Key Tenets of Sustainability in the Landscape

January 27th, 2011  |  Published in Landscape Sustainability

To help further define “sustainability” in the landscape, Landscape Resource has compiled four basic tenets to be treated as the guiding framework for sustainable landscapes.  To be truly sustainable, the design, construction, and maintenance of a landscape must answer to these tenets.  By doing so, such a landscape will offer compelling inspiration for others to emulate.

cyclical integration Key Tenets of Sustainability in the LandscapeCyclical Integration:  Many typical landscapes are linear:  Take, Make, Waste.  In contrast, energy and resources must be circulated and renewed through natural processes.


waste free Key Tenets of Sustainability in the LandscapeWaste Free:  All of the natural resources added to a landscape must enrich the soil, air, and water.  Man-altered resources integrated into the landscape should be capable of rapid and natural renewal by the earth (decomposition) or be candidates for re-using, re-purposing, or recycling.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sustainable Garden Design – 10 Ways To Green your Garden

January 12th, 2011  |  Published in Landscape Sustainability, Landscape Tips

Out of the countless ways a conventional landscape can become more “green” and sustainable, we’ve compiled ten California landscape ideas and suggestions to implement over time.  Most of the below can be done in a few hours, cost little or no money at all, and provide tangible results.  Others will require an investment that will pay for itself over time.  There is no time like now to get motivated!
10.  Grow Food

grow food 002 Sustainable Garden Design   10 Ways To Green your Garden

Our private gardens, in general, are enormous, untapped resources for producing food to feed our communities.  We pour water and resources on often neglected lawns, shrubs, and perennials.  Why not re-direct those same resources to your kitchen table?  There is undoubtedly space in your landscape to install a small veggie plot, plant a dwarf fruit tree, or at least create an herb garden in an old container.  Remember, you don’t need a large space to have a bountiful harvest.   Read the rest of this entry »

Sustainable Lawnmowers

December 14th, 2010  |  Published in Landscape Sustainability

goat sheep 001 Sustainable Lawnmowers

As urban boundaries continue to creep into open space, fuel management is becoming a term homeowners, not just fire personnel, are having to understand and implement. In essence, fuel management is maintaining a landscape to reduce its fire carrying capacity. In practice, this is commonly accomplished with controlled burns or with hand crews. As controlled burns often don’t have much application for the individual property owner, hand crews seem to be the best option. This generally consists of string line trimming tall grass, thinning shrubs and wooded areas, lifting tree and shrub skirts, removing dead and dying wood, and any other maintenance that lessens a fire’s potential to spread into developed areas. Read the rest of this entry »

Landscape Sustainabilty Defined

September 19th, 2010  |  Published in Landscape Sustainability

As Californians, we live in a time and place that demands radical thinking and sustainable action if we are to preserve and improve the quality of life for future generations.  Daily, we are confronted with ominous issues such as global warming, pollution, drought, habitat loss and a host of other problems that feel as if they are beyond our control.

But at Landscape Resource, we believe countless solutions having an immediate and measurable impact to these pressing issues can be implemented right in our front and backyards.

So what is Sustainability?

Since “green” and “sustainable” have become overly-commoditized in the recent years, much of the emphasis has been lost when the average person runs across these terms.  As market competition becomes tighter and fiercer, companies have had to adopt these terms in attempt to set their business apart form the rest of the crowd.  A touch of “recycled this” and pinch of “re-purposed that” are the essential ingredients of this tasteless trend.  But with critical observation, it becomes glaringly obvious in some cases that the “greening” of a company is little more than a sleight of hand and clever market re-branding.  However, it should be noted that scores of companies have fully embraced and integrated sustainable and green practices into their business.  These companies should be applauded for their efforts. Read the rest of this entry »

Kill Your Lawn, Here’s How

August 30th, 2010  |  Published in Landscape Design, Landscape Sustainability

by Tree of Life Nursery

Removing or reducing the amount of turf you have on your property to make way for a native landscape is a wonderfully rewarding experience! Say goodbye to the maintenance headache, high water use, and lawnmower hum of your tired lawn and prepare to welcome the sound of songbirds and the sight of hummingbirds and butterflies in your landscape.

TOLN Kill Lawn Sticker wGrass320p Kill Your Lawn, Heres How

Why should you ‘Kill Your Lawn’ ?
By removing some or all of your turf you will:
• Reduce water use dramatically
• Reduce or eliminate fertilizer and associated polluted runoff
• Eliminate weekly maintenance labor and expense
• Free up square footage for more attractive and beneficial plants!


Identify the type of turf you have
• Cool season grass: Fescue, Marathon, Bluegrass and grass blends that stay green in the winter
• Warm season grass: Bermuda, St Augustine, Zoyzia and any rhizomatous grass that is brown in winter


• Grass type
• Season of removal
• Timeline


• Smother with mulch, no plastic
• Strip and flip using a sod-cutting machine, mark and avoid sprinkler heads that may be retrofitted for the new garden.
• Rototill, only if no rhizomatous weedy grasses are present
• Herbicide- typically not necessary with cool season grasses

• Hand removal by weeding, digging out roots (difficult)
• Herbicide- controversial but effective, each gardener needs to make their own cost/benefit analysis of this method

• Glyphosate-based herbicides (Roundup, Rodeo, others) low toxicity, short residual
• Non-selective herbicide, tailor application method to site conditions to avoid damage to desirable plants
• Seasonal- most effective and fastest when plants are metabolically active, warm season for these grasses
• Exhaust stored food reserves in their extensive root systems by repeated cycles: water, grow, spray, kill.
• Dormancy resembles death. Premature planting of your new garden will mean years of follow-up hand pulling. Patience and diligence are required to eliminate these types of grasses.

Study of Lawn in Our Gardens: Part I

February 5th, 2010  |  Published in Landscape Sustainability, Water Conservation

lawn 003 Study of Lawn in Our Gardens:  Part I

How did lawns, indiscriminate guzzlers of precious resources, become such a welcomed and customary feature to our arid, western landscape?  Although many books and no fewer articles have thoroughly and justly documented the rapid rise and firm reign the lawn culture holds root in America, far fewer have provided creative and compelling reasons for homeowners and designers to question the installation and continued maintenance of lawn. Read the rest of this entry »