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Artificial turf debate picks up green steam

The benefit of utilizing artificial turf as a standard feature on high school football fields across the nation is a debate gaining  momentum – mostly because it cuts down on the cost of replacing or patching natural turf, watering it and lining it with chalk and/or paint. But the artificial turf question is relevant for businesses, airports, and as a general part of any landscaper’s plans.

The dramatic money savings in water and other maintenance, as well as artificial turf’s environmental benefits, can offset the thought of a little less natural green in our world. Granted, athletic departments at high schools operate with budgets that make it entirely impractical to consider the actual watering of a dry football or soccer field on a regular basis — but it’s that lack of water that can deteriorate a field. Or, it can be too much water during a rainy football season that renders a field a muddy swamp – eventually torn up and in need of major replanting and watering.

Some 40 years ago, when artificial turf made its debut at the Houston Astrodome, the surface was criticized because it could become as hard as concrete in an outdoor setting during the cold winter months, and it didn’t look like natural grass.

Today, the turfs being used are much softer and last up to 15 or 20 years. School districts and sports boosters are quick to point out how much water, turf and other maintenance costs can be saved over that period of time – with some estimates being close to $2 million over that 20-year time frame.

Landscapers are starting to realize the benefits of artificial turf in some settings, pointing out that when strategically placed it can aid in controlling surrounding soil erosion.

In airport settings, artificial turf is now being considered as a way to minimize erosion from aircraft maneuvering, which cuts down on asphalt and concrete and any run-off into nearby soils.

Conservationists who see the benefits of artificial turf in certain circumstances generally point to three major environmental aspects – no need for watering, thus protecting natural resources; no need for pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides and fungicides; and most importantly a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions from mowing, weed-whacking and edging.

Artificial turf has had its place in modern life, but its benefits in saving money for school districts and businesses, while also conserving resources and reducing air pollution, is increasing the desire for a closer look.


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