Sheep

Now that we’re all spending more time in our yards grazing under the summer sun, let’s talk about how grass fits into this more enlightened, eco-friendly equation. A lush, living emerald carpet surrounding one’s homestead may be inarguably easy on the eyes and cooling on bare feet, but maintaining it requires the utilization of extensive resources – copious amounts of water, toxic fertilizing chemicals and lawnmower fuel – with the unfortunate consequence being noise, environmental and atmospheric pollution.

You’ve probably heard that, in lieu of using grass in your landscaping plans, xeriscaping with native, drought-resistant plants can be a far greener option – and installing an edible front yard garden is even more practical since the fruits of your labor can be utilized in a healthy diet. But what options are available to those who long for the traditional, well-maintained look of grass without suffering from a guilty eco-conscience?

Ditching your gas-guzzling lawn mower in favor of a retro-throwback push-style option is a decent choice (and will certainly give your bod a freebie workout), but even that isn’t nearly as green as letting Mother Nature take her course. No, I’m not talking about letting your lawn get all wild and wooly, but rather about renting – or even adopting! – a perpetually hungry, grass-grazing animal to do your lawn maintenance for you.

Does it really sound like I’m kidding? Many of nature’s ruminant creatures are truly giddy about gobbling up greenery, with the natural by-product of their consumption being… well… insta-fertilizer that you might normally pay close to $10 a bag for at the local garden supply center. In effect, these dutiful vegetarians can eliminate the need for not only a costly mower and fuel but fertilizing chemicals, as well. Hey, it sounds like you just got your Saturday afternoons back!

GEESE

White, black and grey long-necked water-loving fowl – yes, even swans! – are expert foragers, often joyfully supping on the weedy invaders that commonly infiltrate the typical urban lawn (including clover, bromegrass, bluegrass, timothy and orchard grass). They happen to love grass so madly, truly and deeply that many municipalities have taken to spraying their turf with grape-flavored chemicals in order to deter the birds from feasting since what goes in must ultimately come out. If, however, you have a modest-sized piece of property, a pair of child-friendly, edible egg-bearing geese will enthusiastically mow with pretty much no overhead costs and minimal mess while also taking on the role of watchdog when strangers come a-knockin’ on your door.

COWS

Whether male or female, these icons of our once agrarian society are all too often bred to live out their abbreviated days in a resource-intensive factory farming system – which contributes significantly to our planetary global climate change – when in fact they should be lazing away in open pastures. They do their very best work in the midst of grass, diligently chewing every last blade until it is immaculately trimmed to perfection, and the pesticide-herbicide-free clippings do wonders for their coats, too.

SHEEP

You don’t have to be a resident of New Zealand or Australia to take on a pet sheep, and your new family member will reward you with an oddly endearing form of companionship, plenty of natural fiber (great for knitting enthusiasts) and a deep-seated passion for organic landscaping. Making the most of the agile jaws of a wooly creature is nothing new… in fact, one Pennsylvania school system has chosen to employ the naturally green skills of a modest flock to trim their sprawling grounds at a significant savings of $15,000 annually. Just in case you were wondering, several sheep dispenseries abound, including Livestock For Landscapes and Wooly Weeders – both of which happily dispense hungry herds on overgrown plots – since the critters tackle noxious plant invaders like it’s nobody’s business!

GOATS

From Rent-A-Ruminant and Rent-A-Goat to The Goat Lady, there are plenty of green-minded vegetation management organizations getting in on the eco-friendly goat mowing action. Even if you think that this idea is more than a bit wacky, Google – the search engine leviathan – chooses to maintain their California acreage with a herd of Mother Nature’s finest choppers, which isn’t terribly surprising given their deep affection for everything from grass and out-of-control blackberry vines to English Ivy and Scotch broom. Beyond their perpetual hunger, goats are quite clever, curious, good with children and can even be trained to use bathroom facilities, so what are you waiting for – get thee to a goatery!

Image: amandabhslater 

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