As drought dries up lawns across Europe, one Swedish municipality is choosing to boost its water conservation efforts and change social norms with a “ugliest lawn” contest.
To help win over the community, a “Gotland’s Ugliest Lawn” contest was launched to make the brown lawn proud. Contest judge John Mattison called it “a fun way to change the climate’s green lawn ideal” in a statement.
Such efforts apparently work: Water use has been reduced enough that the irrigation ban will be lifted on September 1, competition judge Johan Gustafsson told The Washington Post.
There is a water crisis. Why do we still have lawns?
Entries for the competition were taken through Instagram.
“Following and ultimately crowning the year’s ugliest lawn on Gotland was a fun assignment over the summer months,” Mattison said in a statement. “No grass and only a carpet says a lot about this year’s winning entry.”
Among many truly ugly entries, the eventual winner was Markus Norström, dedicated to protecting water. Norstrom didn’t water his lawn all summer, changing the exact opposite of what society defines as a picturesque lawn; His lawn is sparsely covered with grass, the few remaining blades a shade of yellow.
In a statement, the judging team said the winner was “a really bad lawn that meets all of our expectations for Gotland’s ugliest lawn and stands a good case for more sustainable improvement.”
The contest prize was a gift from local gardener Sarah Gisted, who was also a contest judge. She will help Norstrom plan a drought-resistant garden.
According to a 2022 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OCED), more locals in Gotland will need to consider planning drought-resistant gardens, as climate change continues to create water shortages on the already dry island.
“Water availability for Gotland is projected to decrease by 13.3% between 2021-50 compared to 1961-90, and demand is projected to increase by more than 40% by 2045,” the report said.
Data from the European Drought Observatory (EDO) shows that much of Sweden, including the island of Gotland, is facing drought conditions that have reduced soil moisture, meaning plants will struggle to grow.
Dry conditions are not very localized in Sweden this summer. Most of Europe is facing some degree of drought conditions with above average temperatures. Across the continent, rivers are at their lowest levels in centuries and farmers are struggling to meet expectations.
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Abnormally dry conditions in Europe’s potato belt – which includes parts of France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium – could lead to the worst potato harvest in the European Union, according to Reuters, with prices of the staple likely to rise.
There is also a risk of change in wine production. According to the Associated Press, farmers in Italy, Spain and Portugal expect yields to drop by up to 20 percent in some areas due to extreme heat and a severe lack of rain.