Sustainable Lawn Care

Ideas for greening up your lawncare program from the City's Sustainability Committee. Also view the Committee's best practices recommendations for using pesticides (PDF).

  1. Spring & Summer
  2. Fall & Winter

Untitled designRethinking Lawn Maintenance

Shaker Heights was developed during the Garden City urban planning movement with expansive green lots and low-cut lawns encircling homes. This was seen as an escape from the inner city and a retreat to more pastoral beauty and elegance. Today that dominant aesthetic is changing. Lawns have become the most expensive “crop” in America as efforts to maintain them consume a disproportionate share of human and natural resources. Here are suggestions about more sustainable ways to manage your lawns.

  • Consider alternatives to a lawn or reduce lawn space by planting native groundcovers, plants or trees. You will conserve water resources, absorb stormwater runoff and help create a pollinator pathway for insects and birds. Perennial native species can withstand summer heat and winter cold and they can reseed, unlike non-native annuals that require repurchasing and replanting each year. Many resources are available online to get you started.
  • Do not use pesticides or herbicides on lawns. These products may harm your health, your children’s health and your pets’ health (wildlife, too). Plus, the run off into our local waterways also causes problems. Choose organic services and products. Organic lawn care providers are easily available. If you’re doing the work yourself, organic lawn care products made by companies such as Espoma are widely sold. Organic products and services cost no more than those containing pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers and pose less danger to the environment and human and animal life.
  • If you have lawn to maintain, allow it to grow tall (but not in excess of Shaker’s six-inch grass ordinance) in the spring before the first cutting. This will allow root systems to become more established and you will need less frequent watering throughout spring and summer. This saves money and natural resources.
  • If clover is growing in your lawn, do not eliminate it as if it were “undesirable” ground cover. Clover fixes nitrogen in the soil and can keep a lawn green throughout summer drought conditions. Did you know that prior to the 1950s, grass and clover seed mixes were sold together for lawns? When companies that produced chemical lawn treatments could not make herbicides that did not also kill clover, they began marketing clover as a weed.
  • If using a lawn mower, use a push mower as first choice (great exercise) or a battery-powered electric mower with a 100% renewably sourced electric supply. Gas-powered lawn mowers emit 20 times more pollutants per hour of operation than cars (based on standards in effect in 2011). Their engines emit the principle ingredients of smog, particulate matter that is damaging to the respiratory and vascular systems, toxic carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming. Electric alternatives to gas-powered lawn care equipment can eliminate many emissions and pollutants and reduce your carbon footprint. You will be doing your part to combat climate change!
  • Exchange your gas-powered lawn mower for a new electric-powered lawn mower.  Electric battery-powered lawn mowers are no more expensive than gas lawn mowers. They save you money through reduced maintenance costs. They improve air quality through reduced emissions. They are safer because they are quieter and the blades rotate more slowly, throwing up less debris. Lastly, they eliminate the need to store flammable fuel and oil.
  • Join the City’s new 100 percent renewably sourced electric aggregation program and use only e-powered lawn care equipment when necessary. You will be doing your part to share more sustainable land management practices in our community.