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Category 1: The California Front Lawn

California Context: Mediterranean climate…summers without rainfall. Periods of drought mean even less rain, perhaps only two or three months out of the year. Summer heat and dry winters necessitate continuous use of supplemental irrigation. As environmental historian, Ted Steinberg, methodically argued in American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn, high expectations and said obsessiveness (and imbalances in irrigation causing poor performance), might woo lawn caretakers to use fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides to an excess. Fertilizers might induce more growth requiring greater water consumption, continuing the mowing, trimming, and weeding cycle of the high maintenance lawn.

The Postage Stamp

Nominee Eligibility:

  • The Postage Stamp: Disproportionately small relevant to the scale of adjacent structures, such as a home or business. Also included are lawns used in the small strip between the street and public sidewalk.

  • Uselessness: Typically associated with smallness, the front lawn is incapable of supporting active game play by people and/or pets, even for toddlers and chihuahuas.

  • Misuse: Lawn as pathway, driveway, patio, etc... where heavy use by feet, wheels, and furniture cause excess maintenance.

  • Inappropriateness: Choosing the wrong grass for specific purposes. An example: fine textured sod for active sports, or shade loving species planted in full sun.

  • Disconnect: As in a floating island surrounded by a sea of harsh sun exposure and pavement.

  • Water: Overhead spray that runs off into other areas, particularly onto concrete and other impervious surfaces. Carrying chemicals, that runoff could find its way into streams and rivers.

  • Maintenance Worth: If the nominee is expending time and resources on mowing, watering, and chemicals for a return that is exclusively aesthetic.

The Floating Island


  • Native Turf: Use of native sod or seed replacing non-native species.

  • Usefulness: Active game play by people and/or pets on a regular basis.

  • Practices: Caretakers focus on integrated pest management and compost over chemical fertilizer applications. They might let the lawnmower blade cut the grass a little taller, too.

  • Water: Use subterranean watering systems such as in-line drip irrigation. The irrigation is managed by a “smart” controller that takes into consideration big word concepts with local impact: evapotranspiration, hydrozones, and more simply, changes in weather.

  • Registered Historic Sites: Lawns might have played a role in the context of a historic property, but proof via a local historic preservation commission, state or federal historic registry required.

Merit Awards: For lawn owners that seek to become ineligible for the Pink Flamingo Award by replacing sod with alternative native species, ornamental plants, or other permeable surfaces for different uses. Some local city and county agencies offer rebates for lawn replacements!

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