Suburban Lawns: Dimensions of Meaning, Activities, and Environmental Concerns Reported by Homeowning Couples in Georgia and Michigan

Shern, L. C. (1995). Suburban lawns: Dimensions of meaning, activities, and environmental concerns reported by homeowning couples in Georgia and Michigan. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 56, 3-B,

Mounting evidence points to detrimental effects to the environment and human health from the overuse and misuse of fertilizers and pesticides. Of increasing concern in the United States is the use of these chemicals on the lawn. A biohistorical, ecological conceptual approach provided the framework for pursuing the objectives of the study. Differences and commonalities of meaning, use, and care of the suburban lawn were explored through in-depth interviews with husbands and wives who currently used or did not use a chemical lawn care service. Responses revealed many commonalities and few differences between spouses, geographic location, and chemical lawn service use-nonuse. They support the view that contemporary American values, attitudes, and practices regarding the lawn are deeply rooted in historical antecedents and unquestioned by homeowners. Very few family activities were reported occurring on the lawn. The primary activity related to the lawn was maintenance. Respondents value their lawns for aesthetic, psychological, normative, and economic reasons. A lawn is considered a source of beauty, pleasure, and economic value; an integral part of one's home, sending a clear message to others about the kind of people who live in the house. Respondents consider the use of lawn chemicals to be necessary to maintain an ideal lawn. The use of lawn chemicals is not perceived as a threat to the environment because one's lawn is so small and minimal amounts of chemicals are used. None of the respondents had ever considered their lawn as a potential source of environmental pollution. A second objective of this study was to determine homeowners' reactions to protective clothing and equipment that could be worn when applying pesticides. Respondents did not perceive a need to wear protective clothing themselves. However, while respondents viewed the respirator and the total protective clothing outfits as 'scary,' when asked what a lawn service technician should wear, the mask.

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