Why lawns are pretty much the worst, and what these Nebraskans are doing about it.

Have you ever thought about how much time and money you put into maintaining your lawn without getting anything back?

Grass lawns are so ubiquitous in America that they often — no pun intended — blend into the landscape. We rarely take time to consider how much of our personal and global resources lawns absorb — or why we even have them to begin with.

Lawns are actually an out-of-date cultural hangover from French aristocratic societies, a status symbol used to prove that one could afford to tend to a completely useless crop.


Photo via iStock.

Though we rarely realize it, lawns are an exorbitant expense. The water consumption numbers alone are astronomical: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that lawn care accounts for nearly 9 billion gallons of our national usage per day.  Beyond water, an average American spends 73 hours on lawn and garden care every year. We also spend about $40 billion on our lawns annually while spilling over 17 million gallons of fuel refilling our equipment and using almost 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre than farmers use on crops — nearly 80 million pounds a year. All of the effort we put into our lawns makes Americans some of the world's most fastidious farmers. We're obsessed with growing a crop that yields nothing.

In the Hawley neighborhood of Lincoln, Nebraska, one resident decided to do something about all of that wasted lawn space: He tore it up.

In 2009, Tim Rinne was having second thoughts about his grass lawn — and about the possibility of food scarcity as climate change intensifies. Relying entirely on his local grocery store for food made him uncomfortable, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.

"My wife and I converted our entire property into an edible landscape. We got rid of every blade of grass and planted it with edibles or pollinator-friendly flowers," says Rinne.

After some trial and error ("a lot of it," Rinne laughs), the couple was growing potatoes, strawberries, peas, and lettuce in their home garden. They then decided to purchase two foreclosed properties on their block to expand their efforts. Thus, their new communal gardening project (affectionately dubbed the "Hawley Hamlet" after the neighborhood's name) was born.

Nearly 10 years later, more than 20 families have vegetable plots in their own yards and contribute to the community fruit plots on the Rinnes' shared property.

Photo courtesy of Susan Alleman/Hawley Hamlet.

Hawley Hamlet is proof that edible landscaping is something anyone can do.

When asked for his best advice to those considering growing edible plants, Rinne says simply: "Start. Just get out there and try."

Even if you're not quite ready to tear up your entire lawn and go full-food on it, cordoning off a small section of your property to try your hand at an edible landscape can be just as rewarding. "Plant potatoes," says Rinne. "Just stick them in the ground and they'll grow." Or you can plant red lettuce, which thrives easily and will blend right in with the rest of the decorative plants in your front yard. "And it looks beautiful in the bowl!"

In Hawley, every trial and error along the way helped bring residents together to try something new, which was its own reward. As for making mistakes, Rinne recommends doing a modicum of research before getting started to find out what will grow best in your area. "But then again," he says, "that is why there are instructions on the seed packages."

If sustainable gardening isn't your thing, there are alternatives to lawns that require significantly fewer resources and are much friendlier to the environment than grass.

Switching a grass yard for an edible garden repurposes lawn maintenance efforts for crops that produce food. But you can also replace grass with landscaping that requires almost no maintenance. Xeriscaping is outfitting a yard with non-grass plants that subsist on very little water or even on rainfall alone.

Succulents and other dry-weather plants can be interspersed with decorative rocks as a water-efficient alternative to grass lawns. Photo by Tom Hilton/Flickr.

As spring approaches, it's time to turn a critical eye on our own lawns.

For decades, Americans have accepted lawns as part of suburban life simply because it is what we've always known. But as our climate continues to change and we're required to change with it, it may be time to bid goodbye to our backyards as we know them. As Hawley Hamlet has shown, there's a fun, energy-efficient alternative waiting for us just as soon as we're willing to give it a shot.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Image by 5540867 from Pixabay

Figuring out what to do for a mom on Mother's Day can be a tricky thing. There's the standard flowers or candy, of course, and taking her out to a nice brunch is a fairly universal winner. But what do moms really want?

Speaking from experience—my kids range from age 12 to 20—a lot depends on the stage of motherhood. What I wanted when my kids were little is different than what I want now, and I'm sure when my kids are grown and gone I'll want something different again.

We asked our readers to share what they want for Mother's Day, and while the answers were varied, there were some common themes that emerged.

Moms of young kids want a break.

When your kids are little, motherhood is relentless. Precious and adorable, yes. Wonderful and rewarding, absolutely. But it's a LOT. And it's a lot all the fricking time.

Most moms I know would love the gift of alone time, either away at a hotel or Airbnb or in their own home with no one else around. Time alone is a priceless commodity at this stage, especially if it comes with someone else taking care of cleaning, making sure the kids are fed and safe and occupied, doing the laundry, etc.

This is especially true after more than a year of pandemic living, where we moms have spent more time than usual at home with our offspring. While in some ways that's been great, again, it's a lot.

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Courtesy of CeraVe
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"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

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