The greenest, positive alternative to mowing a lawn is to do away with it by letting more green grow. I am not suggesting that you just stop mowing and let whatever is there just grow up, as if your place were abandoned. Land needs maintenance. Man is part of the ecosystem. Our responsibility since Creation has been to tend the earth. No, what I mean is replace the close clipped grass with bigger plants: bushes, flowers, trees, tall ornamental grasses and vegetables. Trees help clean the air; protect from and temper the weather; and attract rain. It is very important to choose plants that are appropriate for your climate. For the most part, avoid exotics, especially if they are invasive like kudzu and most bamboo. Plants that are native to a region will be easier to establish and maintain with minimal watering and protection than those that are not. Also native plants can many times be found and propagated with minimal cost. I subscribed to Mike McGroarty’s free e-newsletter to get tips on starting bushes and trees from cuttings. Another great resource is Mike McGrath’s “You Bet Your Garden” from WHYY-91FM in Philadelphia and syndicated nationally on NPR. He is a fount of information on all natural, non-toxic plant growing of all kinds.
An added benefit to growing more bushes, flowers and trees is that it provides more habitat for birds, butterflies and other creatures. These are fun to observe and beautiful and soothing to watch and hear. I had the thrill of watching an alley cat crouching behind our daylilies snatch a bird under the neighbor’s azalea. It was like a little National Geographic predators special, live, right here next to the driveway!
Vegetables and fruits have synergistic environmental effects. Replace some of your lawn with vegetables and you increase oxygen production, eliminate some lawn mowing pollution and reduce food miles. Instead of planting ornamental fruit trees, plant actual, fruit producing, fruit trees; and you may harvest some tasty fruit from your own yard. At the very least, you will provide added habitat and food for wildlife. You can plant edible cauliflower and cabbages, other vegetables and herbs as ornamental accents in your flower beds. A new specialty has even arisen among landscapers providing edible landscapes and planning.
If you really, truly enjoy a large lawn, get some sheep. I remember reading in the Mother Earth News, about thirty years ago, about a rent-a-sheep mowing service in West Germany.