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Why Spray-Painting Your Lawn Is an Act of Patriotism

California’s drought demands a new form of greenwashing.

Illustration by Tyler Hoehne

For the last three years, California has been drier than a stale saltine cracker. After two years of poor rainfall and depleted reservoir levels, this is being called the worst drought in California’s history, updated by the U.S. Drought Monitor to “severe” status three months ago, and still getting worse by the day in many areas of the state. Every effort is being made to raise awareness of the bleak situation and reduce local water consumption as the real-world effects of the emergency set in.


Since about half the country’s fresh fruits and vegetable come out of California, the drought means higher produce prices nationwide and unemployed agricultural workers locally. Dry conditions also lead to dangerous wildfires, which have been ripping through southern parts of the state, creating massive damage to life, business and personal property, and occasionally even erupting into terrifying, apocalyptic imagery like May’s fire tornadoes. Pretty scary stuff.

Of course, in trying times we should always take a second to think about the real victims: in this case, wealthy property owners with important lawns to maintain. These insolent yardbirds defiantly put their patches of vanity grass before the well-being of their fellow Californians, liberally watering their shitty squares of Bermuda lawn with no regard to the worsening situation at hand. That’s right, many people don’t give a crap about California’s drought, but after the state imposed a $500 fine on flagrant sprayers, a few creative thinkers have figured out a way to keep their lawns a glowing Fukushima green while still preserving the Golden State’s precious water supplies. These patriotic Americans are painting their lawns.

Slapping a fresh coat on your front yard might seem a little weird to people who have never considered the option, but it’s really no more ridculous than say, fertilizing your house, or mowing your car. You can kick back on your porch in a Hawaiian shirt, drink one of those umbrella-bedecked cocktails, and pull a Weekend at Bernie’s on your dead lawn, as your neighbors look on in greenest envy at your emerald slab of suburban heaven.

For some pitiable families, lawn painting is the only way out; certain snotty subdivisions and moronic municipalities in California are still actually fining residents for keeping brown lawns, meaning they’ll be charged by the state if they water, and by the local powers if they don’t. Realities like these mean that the dying technique, which has been used on golf courses and football fields for years, is likely to become more and more popular, creating a boom for turf tinting businesses as the drought worsens.

Source: epa.gov

Source: Earth Institute at Columbia University

But many Californians are just set in their stubborn ways, wildfires be damned. Like a bunch of zombified horticultural creepers, they set their alarms for 3 A.M., lurching out of bed in the dark of night to do their dirty irrigation business. Others turn to tried and true liquid concealment methods like brown-bagging—I saw the guy down the block pretend to pour out 112 forties for his fallen homies this morning. Some environmental hot-doggers prefer to leave their lawns a nice desert beige, letting the whole neighborhood know what responsible citizens they are. But real heroes don’t need recognition to do the right thing, and they certainly don’t need to maintain extravagant ornamental grass in the middle of a water crisis; real heroes spray-paint their lawns.

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