Pomona Environmentalists Should Lay Off the Grass

By this point in the school year, I have been involved in many conversations about the watering of the Pomona College grass. Too many environmental crusaders have announced to me that Pomona’s grass-watering practices are not environmentally friendly. They excitedly point out that Pomona is located in a desert, and that grass clearly isn’t native to such a place.

This strikes me as spoiled. We have been given a perfectly-maintained, wonderful-looking campus, and we show our gratitude by complaining about water efficiency? Pomona’s grassy meadows offer an idyllic location for sports and recreation, and the many naysayers have not clearly thought out the alternatives.

Pomona, in fact, should take offense at this criticism. The Office of Facilities and Campus Services strives to be an environmentally friendly organization. Extensive measures have been taken for sustainability, and these often don’t get the acknowledgment they deserve. 

In the past decade, Pomona has managed to cut its water consumption by over 30 percent, according to Pomona’s Water Impacts and Trends page on the college’s website. New measures have been taken to simultaneously decrease three-year average water use. New buildings are constantly metered for water consumption, and 2020 objectives will require all Pomona buildings to be metered for water by 2014, according to Pomona’s Sustainability Action Plan. In addition, half of the water Pomona consumes comes from one of two local wells.

The benefits of grass clearly outweigh the downsides. Picturesque lawns are an ideal place to toss around a Frisbee on a lazy Sunday or plop down for an outdoor study session. 

Grass fields are a hallmark of American landscaping. Red brick houses with watered yards and white picket fences are a quintessential part of the American countryside. To me, they are a stroke of landscaping genius often taken for granted. Lawns represent a harmony of practicality and simplistic beauty.

The environmental benefits of grass are often overlooked. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asserts that grass lawns help to reduce dust and other air pollution while simultaneously stopping erosion and the runoff of dangerous chemicals into local water sources.

While one might argue that grass is an invasive species in an arid environment, there is no better alternative. Local fauna and plants aren’t capable of creating such an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere. They also aren’t conducive to sports and recreation.

If Pomona replaced its current grass with the local coastal scrub ecosystem, problems would arise. The many people who use the fields for relaxation and casual athletics would be forced to find new venues for their events. Equally important, a key part of Pomona’s beautiful campus would be compromised.

Such environmental consciousness certainly has its place at Pomona. I’m glad that students are examining their school, and their sentiments are admirable. But let’s try to channel our comments into more realistic goals. There are other ways to make our campus more environmentally friendly—clubs we can join, and specific individual efforts we can make. Action is always more valuable than a passing remark. Pomona students have their priorities in order, but maybe we can leave the grass alone.

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