Natural vs Artificial Grass: Environmental Cost and Benefits

We look at the pros and cons of natural and artificial grass lawns, including the long-term environmental effects, the potential health risks and benefits, the cost, aesthetics, and carbon footprint.

By Jennifer Williams of Festival Turf. Photography courtesy of Festival Turf

There is a discussion to be had about whether artificial turf can actually reduce your carbon footprint. Some people assume that this isn’t possible, but actually, when you weigh up the pros and cons, it is fair to say there are a lot of environmental plus points to using artificial turf rather than the grass that naturally grows in your garden.

What is a Carbon Footprint

Carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, that are emitted into the atmosphere as a result of human activities, such as driving a car, heating a home, or producing goods and services.

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere, contributing to global warming and climate change. The carbon footprint is measured in units of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e), which includes all greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases.

Carbon footprint can be calculated for individuals, organizations, events, and products. By calculating their carbon footprint, individuals and organizations can identify ways to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and minimize their impact on the environment. This can be achieved through adopting sustainable practices, reducing energy consumption, using renewable energy, and reducing waste. Reducing carbon footprint is an important step towards mitigating climate change and preserving the planet for future generations.

A walled-in backyard with cleared ground and some pots again the side wall

What are the Positive Impacts of Artificial Grass on the Environment?

There are many different types of artificial grass out there now, and plenty is responsibly made. What are the positive impacts they have?

It Conserves Water

Water is a precious resource,it is even rationed at certain times and natural lawns can consume significant amounts of it. According to estimates, an average-sized lawn in a dry climate can consume up to 70,000 gallons of water per year. This water usage not only strains local water resources but also requires energy for treatment and distribution, leading to greenhouse gas emissions. In contrast, artificial turf requires no watering, reducing water usage and conserving this valuable resource. By switching to artificial turf, you can significantly reduce your water usage and contribute to environmental benefits, including reduced strain on local water resources, reduced energy usage, and reduced environmental damage from irrigation runoff and groundwater depletion.

Reduced Use of Fertilizers and Pesticides

Fertilizers and pesticides are commonly used on natural lawns to maintain their appearance and health. However, these chemicals can have harmful effects on the environment, including polluting waterways and harming wildlife. In contrast, artificial turf requires no fertilizers or pesticides, reducing the need for these chemicals and their negative impact on the environment. By switching to artificial turf, you can significantly reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides, contributing to environmental benefits such as reduced pollution of waterways and less harm to wildlife. Additionally, reducing the use of these chemicals can improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with their production and transportation.

Reduced Emissions from Lawn Mowers

Gasoline-powered lawn mowers are a common tool used to maintain natural lawns, but they can contribute to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. According to estimates, one hour of mowing with a gasoline-powered lawn mower can emit as much pollution as driving a car for 45 miles. In contrast, artificial turf requires no mowing, eliminating these emissions entirely. By switching to artificial turf, you can significantly reduce emissions from lawn mowers, contributing to environmental benefits such as improved air quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, this reduction in emissions can have health benefits for individuals, particularly those with respiratory issues.

The Test of Time

Artificial turf has a long lifespan compared to natural lawns, with some types of turf lasting up to 20 years or more with proper maintenance. In contrast, natural lawns typically require frequent reseeding or replacement due to factors such as weather, foot traffic, and disease. By choosing artificial turf, you can avoid the environmental impact associated with frequently replacing natural lawns. This includes reduced waste from discarded lawn clippings, reduced use of fertilizers and pesticides associated with reseeding, and reduced carbon emissions associated with transportation and installation of new sod. Additionally, the longer lifespan of artificial turf means fewer resources are required over time for lawn maintenance, further reducing the environmental impact of your property.

The same backyard, now with artificial grass laid over the entire flat base, pots still seen at the side, dappled light from trees above

What are the Negative Impacts of Artificial Grass on the Environment?

There are some downsides to artificial grass, it has to be said, and there is always going to compromise with this sort of decision.

The Use of Plastic

Plastic use needs to be kept to a minimum, and at the moment all types of artificial grass do require some plastic. The plus side to this is that it is not single-use, and if you treat the grass correctly it can last you many years, so it is not just wasting plastic for its sake.

Concerns About Heat

Artificial grass designs are improving all the time, but there are some models that can get very hot. This can cause a potential hazard and you may need to take steps to keep the temperature down. Fortunately, a lot of the new models are better at dissipating this heat.

Wildlife Habitat Loss

All grass provides a habitat for natural wildlife. Even tiny bugs and insects can live within grass and soil, and birds and bees also feast upon the surface. It’s important to remember this and to take care of the wildlife that is around us. The grass isn’t the only way to do this, though, so artificial grass doesn’t mean that there is no habitat for the animals.

What are the Pros of Natural Grass?

Let’s look at the positives of natural grass. There are obvious plus sides to having this natural organic material nearby.

Stormwater Management

Natural grass stops some pollutants from getting into the water supply or from getting into runoff surface water. They’re better at redirecting the water and even stopping the flow of water through.

Air Quality

We know that grass is a plant, and as a plant it does a crucial job of turning Carbon Dioxide into Oxygen, boosting the air quality as a result in a way that artificial grass doesn’t. This is something that trees and other plants also do, and you may already have plenty in your yard.

Grass Absorbs Sound and Reduces Noise Pollution

This isn’t a benefit too many people think of, but grass actually absorbs the sound and helps to prevent noise pollution. If you live in a neighborhood where noise is constantly getting in or out of people’s homes, you may find natural grass can help with this.

What are the Cons of Natural Grass?

There are also some downsides to natural grass.

High Maintenance

Maintaining natural grass can be quite labor-intensive, requiring a significant investment of your time and energy. This includes activities such as mowing, watering, and fertilizing the grass to keep it looking healthy and lush. In addition, you may need to use gas-powered mowers or electric equipment to maintain the grass, which can further add to your energy consumption. However, it’s important to consider ways to reduce your environmental impact while maintaining your lawn, such as using renewable energy sources or opting for manual lawn care methods.

In addition to being a time and energy-intensive task, maintaining natural grass also requires proper plumbing to prevent water waste and harm to the environment. High-quality plumbing ensures that water is being distributed efficiently to the grass, reducing the amount of water wasted through leaks or inefficient irrigation systems. This not only conserves water, but also helps to maintain a healthy lawn without the need for excessive watering. By investing in high-quality plumbing, you can ensure that your natural grass is not only well-maintained, but also sustainable and environmentally-friendly.

This is why natural grass requires not only environmental responsibility but also financial responsibility. While natural grass can provide numerous benefits such as improved air quality and increased property value, it also requires ongoing expenses such as maintenance and water usage. Proper planning and investment in high-quality plumbing systems can help to reduce these costs over time, while also promoting sustainability and reducing environmental harm. By balancing environmental and financial responsibility, you can ensure that your natural grass is not only beautiful and healthy, but also economically viable for years to come.

The Environmental Impacts of Natural Lawn

Natural grass uses a lot of water, but there are also plenty of other products people tend to apply to their grass such as chemical fertilizers and weed treatments that can also have a negative effect on the environment, this doesn’t occur in the same artificial grass patch. Some chemical fertilizers’ impacts include algae blooms causing the depletion of oxygen in surface waters, pathogens and nitrates in drinking water, and the emission of odors and gases into the air.


In conclusion, artificial turf offers a range of environmental benefits that can help reduce your carbon footprint. By requiring less water, fertilizers, and pesticides, artificial turf conserves resources and reduces harmful emissions associated with lawn maintenance. In addition, the longer lifespan of artificial turf reduces waste and the need for frequent replacements. By considering artificial turf as an eco-friendly option for your lawn, you can take an important step towards reducing your carbon footprint and contributing to a more sustainable future. We encourage you to explore the many benefits of artificial turf and consider making the switch to this environmentally friendly alternative.

Further Reading

The Environmental Impact of an Artificial Lawn – Green Matters

Just How Eco-Friendly is Artificial Grass? – Biofriendly Planet

Why are artificial lawns bad for the environment? – Plymouth University

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