Synthetic turf can look just as real grass from a few feet away but does it hold water with its new eco claims?
Installing synthetic turf has become all the rage recently. It was even featured on some Bay Area local channels. Commonly known in the past as astro turf, it has been reinvented, repacked and now called ‘eco turf.’ It is being touted as the latest in green landscaping. There is even a striking list of ecological “solutions” that this product addresses. Those include no mowing, no watering or expensive irrigation systems, no weed control, and no other maintenance headaches like fertilizing and hauling away grass clippings.
The latest synthetic turf is even manufactured from recycled plastic and is recycable at the end of its life. Your kids can play on it in the rain and won’t get muddy. It is wheel chair accessible. So it seems like we have solved a horde of environmental issues with one product, so what’s not to love?
Do you recall the part in the movie, The Stepford Wives where one of the Stepford wives gets stabbed and it messes with her wiring and she starts repeating “ I thought we were friends, I thought we were friends? That’s what I imagine synthetic turf is saying when I stab it with my accusations of it being a pseudo green product. Like my friend Owen Dell would say, it’s kind of like organic heroin, organic or not it is still fundamentally a bad idea.
Aromatherapy it’s not
I’ll begin with the deceptively simple argument that my primary distrust of synthetic turf is based on the fact that it is not alive. It does not breathe and therefore it offers no oxygen as a byproduct. On a warm day the entire area around a synthetic playing field reeks of melting off-gassing plastic, not an enjoyable smell. It certainly is not aromatherapy. Again because the stuff is not living and breathing the cooling effect is absent and thus the heat island affect is increased. The ‘heat island’ refers to the phenomena in which urban air and surfaces sustain higher temperatures than nearby rural areas.
The images below comparing air, water, bermudagrass, sand, asphalt, and synthetic turf surface temperatures illustrate how (more…)