Last week I walked to see a friend who was in the hospital. As I got closer to the place, the air had a sting to it and the sidewalks were covered with weed-killer infused pellets. Joggers dashed by me, kicking up pellets as they went. The trail of pesticides went right to the front of the hospital. It looked as if some pellets had even been tracked in on the carpet. Lawn chemicals are associated with breast cancer and erectile disfunction. You thought I was making it all up in Mixed In. No, it’s all plausible. My unhealthy path to the hospital was Pella’s toxic push to get rid of dandelions. But the hospital is not the only place with killer values. Today I walked across a campus dedicated to sustainability. A worker was applying lawn care products. He was wearing a mask and rubber boots but I wasn’t as I crunched across the sidewalk covered with materials that any chemist would call hazards. This green lawn look is way too costly health wise and financially. As one blogger points out, as a nation, we spend more on lawn care than we do many aspects of the national budget. Face it, even Crayola doesn’t like dandelions. But they’re wrong, so wrong.
I’ve already written about the joys of dandelions. Now there’s more to love about these sunny flowers. They may be a sustainable source of rubber. Rubber that we use today comes from a tree –Hevea brasiliensis-the rubber tree -that grows exclusively in the hottest parts of the globe. Rubber plantations are forcing out native trees. Plantations use arsenic to control pests. Rubber production is nasty and we can’t grow rubber trees here. Bringing raw rubber to North American manufacturing plants is costly and contributes to global warming. Dandelions fit in perfectly with our climate. They are an exciting new possibility for agriculture. Tire manufacturers are already experimenting with dandelion rubber–particularly Continental Tires of Germany which has issued the following statement:
“In agricultural terms, dandelions are an undemanding plant, growing in moderate climates, even in the northern hemisphere, and can be cultivated on land not suitable for food production. This means that rubber production is conceivable near our tire factories, for instance, and the significantly shorter transport routes would also reduce CO2 emissions.”
Furthermore, we need to change our mindset about what our lawns should look like. We don’t want poison ivy or brambles, but a diverse lawn is a healthy one. As with most things sustainable and ecological, dandelions are an opportunity, not a threat. Within ten years, you could be riding the roads on dandelion tires and perhaps we will look at a beautiful lawn and see the diversity that belongs there.