Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping blog

16 Aug

Help bring back bicycle-powered landscaping DATE HAS CHANGED!

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Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping

Early days of our Tread Lightly Service

Save the new Date

Friday, October 17th 2014

6:00 to 9:00 pm
Kick-off party for the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for the ‘Tread Lightly’ service
At the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center
35 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, CA

Apologies for the date change!  We needed more time to prepare an awesome party for the community to help relaunch the ‘Tread Lightly’ service. 

The ‘Tread Lightly’ bicycle-powered landscape service was an authentic, profoundly ecological approach to landscape care. The service was on the road in the Santa Cruz area for over twenty years up until 2012. This funding campaign will help the ‘Tread Lightly’ rubber meet the road again.    


Kick-off event:  For our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. Catered by India Joze Restaurant, tables with information from sponsorsblue grass music by local musicians, and the premier of a short video about the ‘Tread Lightly’ service.

Purpose: To revive Terra Nova’s ‘Tread Lightly’ service. There will be many opportunities to contribute to the campaign by sponsoring a piece of ‘Tread Lightly’ equipment, from brooms to rakes and bikes to trailers.

Tickets: Advance sliding scale tickets  $15.00 – $25.00 + are available at Brown Paper Tickets
$25.00 at the door

Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping continues to be open for business!


Please join us in bringing this unique service back to Santa Cruz.

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05 Aug

Terra Nova is Bringing Back Bicycle-Powered Landscaping!

 The community is invited to help relaunch Tread Lightly, the pedal-powered landscaping service, with an Indiegogo kickoff party at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center on Friday October 17th, 2014 6:00 – 9:00 pm.

Starting a bicycle-powered landscaping service more than two decades ago, Ken Foster was truly a man ahead of his time. Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping’s “Tread Lightly” service invited the community to think differently about their yards—and more importantly, to act differently. For more than 20 years Terra Nova landscapers pedaled around town towing trailers full of tools, implementing permaculture designs, creating edible landscapes and building food forests.

Ken and Dan King on the ‘Tread Lightly’ route, 1991.

The full 'Tread Lightly' crew 1995

The full ‘Tread Lightly’ crew 1995


“Tread Lightly was an authentic, profoundly ecological approach to landscape care,” Foster says, “and the Santa Cruz community saw the service as a local symbol of innovation and hope.”

Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping continues its good work today, installing water catchment and graywater systems, drought tolerant landscapes, and providing low-impact landscape care service. But the Tread Lightly service, never a big profit maker, was discontinued one year ago. The equipment had aged and deteriorated, and it was hard to justify buying new trailers and bikes.

With a new business plan and marketing strategy in hand Terra Nova is confident that new bikes, custom landscape trailers and the appropriate equipment will ensure that the ‘Tread Lightly’ service gains the success it deserves.

Now Ken, along with friends and sponsors, is asking the community to help bring this valuable service back online.

Terra Nova logo

The Terra Nova Tread Lightly Indiegogo Kickoff Party

On Friday, October 17th, Terra Nova is launching a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo with a goal of raising $50,000 to get the Tread Lightly service rolling again.

Ken, along with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center, invites the community to join them at a celebratory event launching the Indiegogo campaign. They will screen the Tread Lightly Indiegogo video. Food will be provided by another legendary Santa Cruz institution, India Joze; wine will be provided by Vino Cruz and the Stockwell Winery; Uncommon Brewers will be there with their uncommon brews; and a local bluegrass band will be providing the music.

Individuals and businesses are invited to contribute to this good Santa Cruz cause by becoming a sponsor and setting up a table at the event.

When: Friday October 17th, 6-9pm.

Where: Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center, 35 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz.

Cost: $25 contribution requested at the door with $20.00 advanced tickets available at Brown Paper Tickets.

For more information, contact Ken Foster at (831) 425-3514 or ken@terranovalandscaping.com.

18 Feb

Grey is the New Green! Terra Nova brings 20+ year history with ecological water projects to bear from green landscaping to greywater.

Back in 1991 Terra Nova installed it’s first graywater system. The Santa Cruz Sentinel published the article below highlighting Terra Nova’s landscapes to resist cold and drought damage.

This article was published before the advent of the internet so no online version is available.

As drought visits us again we can recall lessons learned from the past. Time to pull out the stops! Time for graywater, planting drought resistant plants, rainwater catchment, drip systems, rain gardens, bio-swales and plenty of mulch!

Another article in the Sentinel from 2004 about being Water Wise.


While attending college Ken did a report for a landscaping class on Graywater.

Here is a photo of Ken with fellow student Craig Labby.

Ken Foster and Craig Labby 1991

A photo of a mulch basin shut off valve in the system they installed.

Please visit the San Jose Green Home blog to learn the basics on one of the smartest water conservation solutions for times of drought. Here is a link to Ken Foster’s new graywater article posted on the San Jose Green Home blog.


31 Jan

Graywater discount! $50.00 off ‘Laundry to Landscape’ system installed by Terra Nova through the month of March, 2014.


News, special offers and events that are of interest to our subscribers, delivered in a mobile-friendly format.
Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping

Save water and money with a ‘Laundry to Landscape’ graywater system

Laundry to landscape image

Make your landscape more resilient even with water restrictions

Laundry to landscape is exactly what it sounds like, piping the laundry water out to the landscape, using the water twice, once to wash laundry and twice to water your landscape and garden plants. Even though the Governor of California has declared a drought emergency and water restrictions are in place you will still be able to water your landscape with a graywater system.

Act now and receive $50.00 off a graywater system that includes:

  • Three way valve, allows you to direct water to the landscape or to the sewer.
  • Shut off valves in the landscape can be opened or closed as desired.
  • Mulch Basins allows water to infiltrate safely into the soil.

We design your graywater system to ensure the appropriate amount of water is available to landscape and garden plants. Terra Nova is a certified graywater installer providing systems that meet code requirements.

To schedule a free onsite estimate:

Call 831-425-3514 or email ken@terranovalandscaping.com 
(mention “Graywater Special”)
For more information, visit our website:www.terranovalandscaping.com

Rules: $50.00 off offer available through the month of March, 2014.

Help save your landscape with graywater today!

Mulch basin shut off valve image

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P.O. Box 677

Santa Cruz, California 95061


28 Jan

Terra Nova offers Permaculture Design services.

The owner of Terra Nova, Ken Foster is a certified Permaculture designer and teaches this design science at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California. Ken has been studying Permaculture after first hearing about it while an apprentice at the UCSC Farm and Garden back in 1985. He took his first Permaculture Design Course in 1996 and has since completed two advanced Permaculture courses. Ken has been teaching Permaculture since 2004. He has taught with the Regenerative Design Institute during their ‘Four Seasons Permaculture  Design Course’ and with Larry Santoyo of EarthFlow Design Works.

PERMACULTURE DEFINED: Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Permaculture design is a system of assembling conceptual, material, and strategic components in a pattern which functions to benefit life in all its forms.

One of “Permaculture is a design system that reconciles human communities with the ecological imperatives of a living planet.” Ben Haggard

Edible Landscaping is a good example of Permaculture.

Give us a call for a free estimate on a Permaculture Design for your site.



21 Jan

The new Terra Nova video just out!

Kory McAdam, Terra Nova Landscape Installation Manager

Lawn alternative

Urbanite walkway


08 Jan

Graywater systems look better and better with water restrictions on the way.

This is what a ‘laundry to landscape’ graywater system looks like. Laundry to landscape is just what it sounds like, piping the laundry water out to the landscape. Using the water twice. Once to wash laundry and twice to water  landscape and garden plants. Now you can feed two birds with one scone.

Santa Cruz begins early planning for deeper water restrictions

By J.M. Brown

Santa Cruz Sentinel

POSTED:   01/03/2014 05:04:42 PM PST
Click photo to enlarge

the San Lorenzo River is at its lowest level since 1991. (Dan Coyro/Sentinel) ( Dan Coyro )

SANTA CRUZ — Receiving just 10 percent of average rainfall since July, the Santa Cruz Water Department announced Friday it has begun planning for the possibility of water rationing for the first time in nearly a quarter century.

With the San Lorenzo River, the primary water supply, flowing at low levels unseen since 1991, Santa Cruz faces the potential of a third consecutive dry year. Average rainfall, recorded from July to June, is typically 12 inches by this point of rain year, but so far only 1.3 inches has been recorded.

“Weather conditions can change quickly in winter, but it will take a lot of rain to make up for not only this recent dry spell but the two previous years, as well,” said Toby Goddard, administrative services manager and head of the water conservation program.

In late January, the Water Department will issue an initial supply outlook for 2014, offering a forecast that takes into account expected weather patterns, stream flow conditions and reservoir levels.

Officials will revise the report in late February before finalizing the assessment in late March. The department may then ask the City Council to take steps to further cut water use.

The council agreed last year to extend restrictions on daytime irrigation and other measures put in place in May 2013 to reduce water use among customers by 5 percent. The city also now asks customers to shut off automatic irrigation systems.

Goddard said the Water Department is working to modify its billing system should rationing be required. He cautioned it is too early to say whether rationing is a real possibility, but said the cutbacks, if necessary, would take place by setting a water-use limit for households and businesses that, when exceeded, would trigger a price increase per unit of water.

The last time the city rationed water was toward the end of a six-year drought in 1990. It has a range of voluntary reduction levels it can put in place depending on the seriousness of the water shortage.

The dryness in Santa Cruz is representative of a statewide problem.

On Friday, the California Department of Water Resources released its first winter snow survey. Readings of the snowpack statewide, which when melted each spring provides critical stream flow, indicates water content is a fifth of the average typically seen this time of year.

The snowpack has no bearing on the water available to Santa Cruz because all of the city’s sources are driven by local rainfall. But the readings confirm 2013 is the driest year on record for many parts of the state.

“While we hope conditions improve, we are fully mobilized to streamline water transfers and take every action possible to ease the effects of dry weather on farms, homes and businesses as we face a possible third consecutive dry year,” said the state’s water resources director, Mark Cowin. “And every Californian can help by making water conservation a daily habit.”


The specter of rationing comes as the city is on the cusp of major developments in its long-term supply planning, including the expected release of findings from a yearlong master conservation planning process. The city’s Water Commission could discuss the plan in February.

At 7 p.m. Monday, the commission will discuss its role in the 14-member Water Supply Advisory Committee approved by the council in November to lead a public exploration of options for the city, which serves 90,000 customers from the North Coast to Live Oak.

The city created the panel after suspending its pursuit of a controversial seawater desalination project amid growing public opposition. Although the city will not pursue an election in 2014 on whether to proceed with the project, it has left desal on the table as a potential solution for the committee to consider.

Applications to serve on the committee are available at www.cityofsantacruz.com, and the deadline to apply is Jan. 13.

Meanwhile, neighboring Soquel Creek Water District also is considering rationing for its 35,000 customers from Capitola to La Selva Beach.

The city’s partner in the stalled desal project needs to reduce groundwater pumping by about 30 percent for 20 years to restore a basin threatened by saltwater intrusion. The governing board voted last year to implement rationing if a new supply isn’t found, but staff has encouraged a closer examination of the financial implications before committing to that path.

The board will discuss rationing at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Capitola Council Chamber, 420 Capitola Ave. During the past few months, the board also has explored the potential for interagency water transfers, wastewater recycling and other measures for supplementing supply.

Follow Sentinel reporter J.M. Brown at Twitter.com/jmbrownreports


WHAT: Discussion of commission’s role on new Santa Cruz Water Supply Advisory Committee
WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday
WHERE: Council Chamber, 809 Center St.
INFORMATION: www.cityofsantacruz.com

16 Dec

Terra Nova was recently re-certified as a green business!


21 Oct

Here is a collage of awards and certificates given to Terra Nova over the years.



02 Sep

Synthetic Turf, Artificial Grass or Stepford Lawns? An update

Since the early part of the 21st century there has been a large trend towards installing the new generation of synthetic turf. This is a (2013) update of an article I wrote in 2009. We have learned a lot and we have plenty more to learn on this subject that will be debated for years to come. This new generation of Astro Turf with names like ‘Eco Turf’’ and ‘Omni Turf’ is being touted as the newest in ‘green’ landscaping. To be sure, there is an impressive list of ecological and access concerns that this turf addresses including:

• no need to water or mow

• no need to install irrigation

• no need to use pesticides to control weeds

• no need to fertilize

• no need to haul away grass clippings.

Some synthetic turf is even made from recycled plastic and is recyclable at the end of its life.

In addition to these benefits synthetic turf fields are used in New York City parks because they:

• Provide even playing surfaces

• Have padding that helps prevent injuries

• Can be used year-round and in most weather

• Do not need to be closed to protect or re-sod grass

• Last a long time with little maintenance


That’s the ‘Pro’ list and if I stopped here we might all run out and buy us some plastic grass because it looks like we have solved a bunch of issues all with one product, so what’s not to like?

Stepford Lawns =  pseudo green product

Remember the movie, The Stepford Wives? There’s a part in the movie 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.

I’ll start 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 hot day plastic turf smells like, well, plastic.

The Cons: The downside of fantastic plastic

I have ridden my bicycle past synthetic playing fields on a warm day and the whole neighborhood reeks of melting, off-gassing plastic. Not an enjoyable smell. It certainly is not aromatherapy unless of course you’re from the town of Stepford.

Synthetic turf often includes crumbled automobile tires called ‘infill’ to mimic the look and feel of soil. The “grass” is held upright and given some cushioning by adding a layer of recycled tire rubber. This infill is made up of particles 3 mm in diameter or smaller. Cool, a new way to recycle tires? Not so fast.

Chemicals of Potential Concern

The crumb rubber used in synthetic turf systems is made primarily from recycled waste tires. The tires themselves contain several chemicals of potential concern COPCs, and undergo minimal processing to become crumb rubber. Direct and indirect methods have been used in studies to determine the presence of these COPCs in the crumb rubber. These studies have found polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs), benzothiazole, and certain metals. Studies have also identified phthalates, alkylphenols and benzene, which likely become bonded to tires during their use. Direct analyses confirming the presence of these COPCs in crumb rubber have used vigorous extraction methods. Some COPCs have been identified through indirect methods including analysis of leachate in the environment near where recycled tire products were used or in controlled laboratory studies. Because crumb rubber is a recycled material, the presence and concentrations of COPCs is expected to vary between products and even among batches from the same manufacturer.*

For the COPCs in the crumb rubber to be a health concern for users of the fields, users would have to be exposed to high enough concentrations to increase the risk for health effects. The three possible routes of exposure for COPCs from crumb rubber are inhalation, ingestion and dermal absorption. Crumb rubber, or the dust generated from crumb rubber, may be accidentally ingested by placing fingers in the mouth or not washing hands before eating and after playing on the fields. Young children on the fields may eat the crumb rubber itself. Dust may be breathed in from playing on the field, or vapors that volatilize from the turf may also be inhaled. Some COPCs may also be absorbed through the skin by direct contact.*

Children, especially very young children, have many characteristics which make them uniquely vulnerable to environmental exposures. Children breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults in the same environment and physical activity adds an additional factor to exposure through inhalation. Children also engage in hand-to-mouth behavior and very young children may eat nonfood items, such as rubber crumbs while on the fields. The protective keratinized layer of the skin is not as well developed in children and increases dermal absorption of COPCs as well as increasing evaporative loss of water on hot days. Children also have many more years to develop diseases with long latency periods after exposure. Risk assessments looking at inhalation, ingestion, dermal absorption and the risk for heat stress would have to combine these considerations to be as conservative as possible.*

Patti Wood, executive director of the nonprofit Grassroots Environmental Education, argues, “This crumb rubber is a material that cannot be legally disposed of in landfills or ocean-dumped because of its toxicity. Why on earth should we let our children play on it?” ** 

Guinea Kids

Our kids are now expected to play on a low level toxic surface. During strenuous activities they breathe in these toxic off gasses. Because plastic is not an inert substance, it both leaches and off-gasses pieces of itself. Plastics are known to contain xenoestrogens (zeno estrogens) that are endocrine disruptors. Exposure to xenoestrogens, which are found in pesticides, plastics and other industrial chemicals has been linked to breast and ovarian cancers in women and to decreased testosterone levels and prostate cancer in men. The damaging effects have been found in birds, fish, reptiles, rodents and humans. Exposure to even small amounts of environmental endocrine disruptors concern scientists because hormones such as estrogen act in the body at very low levels measured in parts per billion. This endocrine disruptor, xenoestrogen, can wreak havoc with the puberty cycle in the human body. With synthetic turf, there is direct and close contact with the lungs and skin of the growing bodies of children. This would not seem to me to be a great combination. When will we know if there is a detrimental effect on human health from synthetic turf? Unfortunately the jury is out and won’t report back for years to come. Just call our kids guinea kids.

There is some evidence to suggest that synthetic turf may harbor more bacteria than natural turf. For example, an industry study sponsored by Sprinturf, a maker of synthetic turf, found that infill containing a sand/rubber mixture had 50,000 times higher levels of bacteria than infill made of rubber alone. To address this, the company markets synthetic turf that is “sand-free” as a safer alternative and offers sanitation for those fields already installed. **

The low maintenance myth

The inconvenient truth about athletes is that they fall, spit, sweat and bleed. Since there is an absence of biological life as there would be with growing plants and living soil the sweat and blood or heaven forbid the dog pee does not have the checks and balances of a living system. Consequently Synthetic turf fields have to be doused with antimicrobial solution and washed down.

Proper maintenance of synthetic turf requires that the fields be sanitized to remove bodily fluids and animal droppings; manufacturers market sanitizing products for this purpose. According to Synthetic Turf Sports Fields: A Construction and Maintenance Manual, published in 2006 by the American Sports Builders Association, some synthetic turf owners disinfect their fields as often as twice a month, with more frequent cleanings for sideline areas, where contaminants concentrate. ** 

 The ‘heat island effect’ increased

Because the stuff is not living and breathing, the cooling effect is absent and thus the phenomenon known as the heat island effect is increased. The ‘heat island’ refers to urban air and surface temperatures that are higher than those of nearby rural areas.

One drawback that both fans and critics of synthetic turf agree on is that these fields can get much hotter than natural grass. Stuart Gaffin, an associate research scientist at the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University, initially became involved with the temperature issues of synthetic turf fields while conducting studies for another project on the cooling benefits of urban trees and parks. Using thermal satellite images and geographic information systems, Gaffin noticed that a number of the hottest spots in the city turned out to be synthetic turf fields.** 

The images below comparing air, water, bermudagrass, sand, asphalt, and synthetic turf surface temperatures illustrate how hot a synthetic field can reach during a warm day.

Synthetic Turf copy.jpg

Direct temperature measurements conducted during site visits showed that synthetic turf fields can get up to 60° hotter than grass, with surface temperatures reaching 160°F on summer days. For example, on 6 July 2007, a day in which the atmospheric temperature was 78°F in the early afternoon, the temperature on a grass field that was receiving direct sunlight was 85°F while an adjacent synthetic turf field had heated to 140°F. “Exposures of ten minutes or longer to surface temperatures above 122°F can cause skin injuries, so this is a real concern,” said Joel Forman, medical director of the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, speaking at a 6 December 2007 symposium on the issue. **

In addition to heat control, the International Hockey Federation requires that college teams saturate with water synthetic turf fields before each practice and game to increase traction, according to an article in the 19 October 2007 Raleigh (North Carolina) News & Observer. The article, which examined why local universities were watering their synthetic turf fields in the midst of severe ongoing drought in the U.S. Southeast, noted that Duke University received a business exemption to water the fields.**

According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, only 8 states have no restrictions on placing tires in landfills. Most of these restrictions have to do with preventing pest problems and tire fires, which release toxicants such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel, polyaromatic hydrocarbons PAHs, and volatile organic compounds VOCs.**

The storm water runoff from synthetic turf is considered toxic leachate leaching chemicals and toxin’s such as PAH’s, COPCs, cadmium and lead. Where does it go? Straight into our rivers, creeks and oceans.

Soil Food Web Deprived of Oxygen

Synthetic turf lawns are one more non-porous surface that disallows rain to soak into the soil. This causes some serious drainage problems. Because of the toxic runoff and drainage issues, this is a product that is not healthy for the watershed. The soil food web, the vast ‘web’ of life in the soil beneath our feet is under extreme duress under synthetic turf, primarily because this soil is deprived of oxygen. No oxygen, no life and since it is not real soil the ‘infill’ is basically lifeless. Much of the current product being installed today in playing fields is made from virgin plastic, a petroleum product that adds to global warming in its manufacture.

Divorcement from nature

There is a spooky similarity between fake grass and those perpetually perfect Stepford wives. Most of us moviegoers where appropriately horrified to watch the men in the town of Stepford cuddling up to their synthetic spouses. Our response was calculated by Hollywood and the punch line, “I thought we where friends” in the movie was a kind of reverse Judas kiss in the plot line. Of course having a perfect wife had its upsides but it was at the expense of a real life. Therein lies the rub. Synthetic turf is yet another salvo in our separation from nature and natural systems. We may not see this downside right off the bat blinded as we are with all the supposed low maintenance upsides. Nature deficit is a disorder that has snuck up on us as our artificial systems have developed over the years. Living in cities we are surrounded by the built environment. Inside we are in the clutches of the right angles of four walls and a roof, we send our children outside to play on artificial turf that never changes and our divorcement from nature is complete.

Intangible benefits to a field of grass.

William Crain of the City College of New York Psychology Department presents the idea that replacing grass with synthetic turf can hinder children’s creative play and affect their development. “Today’s children largely grow up in synthetic, indoor environments,” he says. “Now, with the growing popularity of synthetic turf fields, their experience with nature will be less than ever.” **

Natural grass does offer tangible benefits. According to Turfgrass Producers International, these include increased

  • pollution control
  • absorption of carbon dioxide
  • a cooling effect
  • water filtration
  • prevention of soil erosion. ** 

One of the great joys in my own life is to witness the cycles of nature, to revel in the changing of the seasons. While it is true that ‘natural’ turf is no shining example of a natural system, synthetic turf takes a giant step in the Stepford direction. Grass that is always the very same shade of green, never grows or changes and is off-gassing toxins instead of exhaling life giving oxygen in no way connects us with the patterns of nature.

Finally it must be asked what happens to synthetic turf fields when they are no longer usable? Industry estimates that synthetic turf fields have a lifespan of 10 to 12 years, whereupon the material must be disposed of appropriately. Rick Doyle, president of the Synthetic Turf Council, says the infill could be cleaned and reused; put to another purpose, such as for rubber asphalt; incinerated; used in place of soil to separate landfill layers; or otherwise recycled. Typically, however, it is landfilled. **

Honest assessment of the issue

This account of the Pro’s and Con’s on the topic of synthetic turf vs. natural turf is by necessity a work in progress. My bias must be more than obvious from the title of this article yet I have made an honest attempt to find the primary Pro’s on the side of synthetic turf and then bring in the primary Con’s from my own and others experience. Every community must make their own determination hopefully after an honest assessment of the issue.

Sorry, image not available
Adi Talwar/City LimitsSoccer players examine the turf at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

NYC’s Fake Grass Gamble: A 300M Mistake?

In 1998, New York City began installing synthetic turf fields in parks and playgrounds, saying the artificial material would be more durable than grass. But a City Limits investigation finds that many turf fields are falling apart, including this one at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Triple bottom line really?

A final thought in this realm is to follow the money. Are there entities making profits from the manufacture and installation of synthetic turf that are less than congruent with the common good? This is worth asking. It wouldn’t be the first time product sales where driven by concern for corporate financial bottom line above the social and ecological bottom lines.

There is an alternative

The debate leaves many on the fence. Orlando Gil an assistant research scientist at New York University and soccer coach, is weighing both alternatives: “We want children to play outside, exercise, and play sports, but with pesticides and fertilizers in grass and chemicals in artificial turf, I don’t know which to choose.” **

My response to Orlando is that there is an alternative: organically managed natural turf fields. In general as a ecological landscape contractor I would rather install a food forest than a lawn any day yet when it comes to the essential function of play fields I believe there’s nothing like the real thing.

Our Children’s Trust

Our children trust that we are providing them with a safe place to play. Our challenge is to live up to that trust amidst all of the marketing hoopla about synthetic turf. It is easy to be fooled by the alluring language of this supposed ‘green’ product.

- Ken Foster


Prepared for

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene New York, NY

** Excerpts from Synthetic Turf: Health DebateTakes Root by Luz Claudio

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