82 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 394 (2013-2014)
Banning Lawns

handle is hein.journals/gwlr82 and id is 428 raw text is: 



                          Banning Lawns


                             Sarah B. Schindler*

                                  ABSTRACT
         Recognizing their role in sustainability efforts, many local governments
    are enacting climate change plans, mandatory green building ordinances, and
    sustainable procurement policies. Thus far, however, local governments have
    largely ignored one of the most pervasive threats to sustainability-lawns.
    This Article examines the trend toward sustainability mandates by considering
    the implications of a ban on lawns, the single largest irrigated crop in the
    United States.
         Green yards are deeply seated in the American ethos of the sanctity of the
    single-family home. This psychological attachment to lawns, however, results
    in significant environmental harms: conventional turfgrass is a non-native
    monocrop that contributes to a loss of biodiversity and typically requires vast
    amounts of water, pesticides, and gas-powered mowing.
         In this Article, I consider municipal authority to ban or substantially limit
    preexisting lawns and mandate their replacement with native plantings or pro-
    ductive fruit- or vegetable-bearing plants. Although this proposal would no
    doubt prove politically contentious, local governments-especially those in
    drought-prone areas-might be forced to consider such a mandate in the fu-
    ture. Furthering this practical reality, I address the legitimate zoning, police
    power, and nuisance rationales for the passage of lawn bans, as well as the
    likely challenges they would face. I also consider more nuanced regulatory
    approaches that a municipality could use to limit lawns and their attendant
    environmental harms, including norm change, market-based mechanisms
    such as progressive block pricing for water, and incentivizing the removal of
    lawns.

                            TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION       .................................................    395
     I. L AW NS   ..................................................   400
        A .  H istory ..............................................   400
        B .  Benefits  .............................................   403
        C.   H arm s  ..............................................   405

    * Associate Professor of Law, University of Maine School of Law. I am grateful to Dmi-
try Barn, Marya Baron, Jason Czarnezki, Keith Hirokawa, Stephen Miller, Tim Mulvaney, Dave
Owen, Aaron Perzanowski, Christopher Serkin, and Jennifer Wriggins for their helpful com-
ments. Thanks also to the participants of the Sabin Colloquium on Innovative Environmental
Law Scholarship at Columbia Law School, the University of Washington Young Environmental
Scholars Workshop, the Local Government Law Works-in-Progress Conference at Marquette
University Law School, the Colloquium on Environmental Scholarship at Vermont Law School,
and the Scholarship Development Workshop at Albany Law School. Special appreciation to
Ciera Dye for excellent research assistance.

April 2014 Vol. 82 No. 2


394

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