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Should Your Grass Clippings Go Up in Smoke?

New research turns grass into environmentally friendly fuel for your fireplace. But is that a good thing?

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Fire logs made from glass clippings

These fireplace logs are made from grass clippings, providing a use for natural yard waste. Image: Peggy Greb/USDA

What’s going up in smoke in California these days?

If you answered “grass,” you’re right — although in this case it’s the kind you cut with a lawn mower.

Researchers at the Agricultural Research Service in Albany, Calif., have come up with a way to turn ordinary grass clippings into environmentally friendly fireplace logs. The goal of the ARS has been to find a way to use the tons of clippings from yards, ballparks, schools, and golf courses that every year go into landfills instead.

ARS chemist Syed H. Imam says the clippings are abundant and available free of charge, and that using them helps existing landfills “free up more space for other waste.”

The ARS takes dried grass clippings and mixes them with plant-derived waxes and oils that burn cleanly and help the logs retain their shape. The binders are specially formulated to emit few potentially polluting VOCs.

The team is also working on forming little nuggets that can be used to fuel pellet-burning wood stoves. The technology can be applied to other biomass leftovers, such as straw, corncobs, and corn stalks.

So if you’re wondering whatever becomes of those grass clippings you gather up and bag for pick-up, now you have an idea.

While the environmentalist in you may be pleased at the thought of reusing natural waste, remember that grass clippings left on your lawn will turn into free, nitrogen-rich mulch that feeds your yard.

Instead of bagging your clippings, let them dry in the sun, then spread them around your garden. Your plants will love it that you didn’t let all those soil nutrients go up in smoke.

What should the ordinary home owner do with grass clippings — bag ‘em or leave ‘em?

John_Riha John Riha

has written seven books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. He’s been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Follow John on Google+.

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