Lawns and toxins: An ecology of the city

Paul Robbins, Annemarie Polderman, Trevor Birkenholtz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper surveys the problems of contemporary urban ecology through the lens of lawn chemical usage, exploring the difficulty of explaining and managing urban ecological dilemmas that, though built from the disaggregated choices of individuals, aggregate into large and serious issues. Introductory discussion surveys the seriousness of lawn chemicals as urban non-point pollution sources and suggests why the issue, and problems like it, is understudied. Analysis proceeds with a case study from the United States city of Columbus, Ohio, utilizing formal survey techniques and analysis of county assessor's data. The results suggest lawns and lawn care chemicals are expanding with urban sprawl and that users of high-input lawn chemical systems are more likely to be wealthy, well-educated, and knowledgeable about the negative environmental impacts of the actions than non-users. Further investigation demonstrates the instrumental logics of homeowners in pursuit of property values but also points to the moral and community-oriented institutions that enforce and propel high chemical use. The conclusions point to policy options for dealing with the lawn chemical dilemma but suggest the difficulties of circumventing the deeply structured roots of the problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-380
Number of pages12
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Consumption
  • Political ecology
  • Urban ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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