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New environmental movement may get you out of moving your lawn

(CBS) - Two women in Connecticut have started an environmental movement that might get you out of mowing your lawn.

Louise Washer and Donna Merrill showed CBS News a yard in Norwalk, Connecticut, that they admit is a mess, but all the leaves, brush, and weeds serve a purpose. "It's got all the beebalm and the milkweed that the butterflies and the bees need," says Washer.

Those native plants give insects and birds a place to gather and transfer pollen to help the ecosystem thrive, even in towns and cities. In 2017, Washer and Merrill created a non-profit called the "Pollinator Pathway," encouraging others to let their lawns go wild, stop mowing so often, and avoid using pesticides. "People read about the insect apocalypse and the bee declines and the monarch butterfly, and this is something positive. This is something you can do," says Washer.

After signing up online, you can purchase a butterfly marker to let your neighbors know why your yard might not look picture-perfect. The movement now includes members in over 300 towns across the country. "It's seeding all over the United States. It's moving into the Midwest, into the Northwest, into the Southeast," says Merill.

Pollinators are so important "because 80% of the flowers and plants on Planet Earth require an animal vector for reproduction," says University of Montana pollinator ecologist Scott Debnam. He hopes the pathway will one day expand to unused farmland and the sides of roads and highways. "That's miles and miles and miles of available forage," Debnam says.

Washer and Merrill are just getting started. "I think we're really changing something. I don't think this is stoppable at this point," says Merrill. Washer and Merrill realize some towns have ordinances prohibiting unkempt lawns. They say if that's the case in your community, mowing around the perimeter of your yard will help it look neat while letting some of the grass get longer.

CBS News

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Mercedes Martinez

Mercedes Martinez joined the KSWT team as anchor/producer in October 2020. You can catch her on 13 On Your Side at 4:00pm.

Reach out to Mercedes at mercedes.martinez@kecytv.com.

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