There is a constant desire for more green space in urban areas. However, growing these green spaces is often easier said than done, as getting this greenery can come at large, often prohibitive costs.

There are a variety of reasons why residents of urban areas like to have green lawns on their properties. For one, they are attractive, and add a calming feeling in the midst of urban sprawl. For this reason, they also add property value to a home, which is important especially for people who see their properties as an investment, or who wish to sell down the road.

However, grass lawns require a lot of water to be kept healthy, which, depending on where you live, can cost you quite a bit of money and also not be the greatest choice for the environment if you’re living in an area where water is scarce. There are frequent caps on water use in drought-ridden parts of North America, like the American Southwest, for example, where grass lawns are not a natural or necessary feature but residential and commercial properties decide to invest in them anyway.

The good news is there is a way to provide some greenery to your property without having to create the financial and environmental impact associated with lawns, and that is to plant trees instead.

Trees provide green while saving water

There are constant concerns in many urban areas about how to allocate water use. A study performed at the University of California Los Angeles revealed that trees use significantly less water than unshaded turfgrass, and that lawns in Los Angeles (which falls in a natural desert area) accounted for 70 percent of the total water used for landscaping—approximately 100 billion gallons a year for watering lawns alone in a rapidly growing area that deals with frequent drought issues.

Grass lawns can provide some natural cooling that allows buildings to rely less on their HVAC units to stay cool from the “urban heat effect” caused by the proliferation of blacktop, concrete and other materials that absorb solar radiation during the day. However, the environmental impact caused by this constant watering of lawns that simply would not exist in nature in the area otherwise has become far too large to continue, especially considering the constant need for water that exists for other applications in the area.

Both grass and trees are capable of effectively cooling surfaces. Trees can especially decrease temperatures in the summer and offer more shading for buildings, which promotes greater energy efficiency. Compare this to grass, which provides no shade. Surface shading is generally more effective than the evapotranspiration benefits provided by grass in cooling buildings and blacktop/concrete surfaces.

There are still some challenges associated with using trees—planting trees can be expensive, and it requires a little more planning and consideration to determine the best placement of trees to provide proper shading and maximize their benefits. However, researchers strongly believe trees to be the future of urban green spaces over grass, and new developers are strongly encouraged to investigate their use on their properties. For more information about saving water, contact Soil Advocates at or 289-221-0164.

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