This week, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works considers new “cap and trade” legislation, which would limit carbon emissions by industry, and allow the purchase of carbon credits to offset excess emissions. This potentially places a new value on green space, above its acknowledged benefits for our physical and mental health. In time, carbon-sequestering green space may have a value on the open market.
In an article in October’s Lawn & Landscape, scientists at NC State posit that an average homeowner could offset 40% of their annual automobile emissions just by maintaining a healthy, well-vegetated home landscape. (Being a Tar Heel transplant to Boston, however, I can say that their assumptions about lot size and driving distance could both be scaled down for our region!) According to their calculations, a lawn takes in three times more carbon than is released even by frequent mowing.
Homeowners can further reduce their carbon footprint (and maintenance costs) by reducing lawn areas and planting a higher proportion of trees, shrubs, and perennials. These more naturalistic plantings require fewer landscaping visits — i.e. less driving — and no gas-powered machines for maintenance.
You can check out your footprint using one of several carbon calculators. If you find one that actually takes landscape into account, let us know!