On today’s episode of turning lemons into lemonades, residents of Gotland, Sweden’s largest island, have done something extraordinary with their water crisis. Instead of gloating over their water shortages, the municipality came up with a strategy to increase awareness about their water situation. They named their exciting idea—wait for it—the Ugliest Lawn Competition.
The Ugliest Lawn Competition is just as it sounds—a contest that rewards the resident with the most unkempt lawn. It is in response to the imposed irrigation ban that prevents them from watering their lawns due to reduced water availability. This year’s competition was the second one in a row and had Stina Östman emerging as the winner.
“It was the easiest competition to win; I didn’t have to do anything. It’s always nice to win, even if you are the worst,” Östman told The Guardian. She celebrated the victory with her dog, who she said “loves to dig in the dust.” This means that “there are a lot of holes and bumps, so at least he’s very happy.”
The common trend is to ensure that lawns are as green and lush as possible. However, this would require regular watering, which wouldn’t be a wise choice in the face of extreme water stress. So, they decided that a change in attitude was a better approach, encouraging homeowners to find joy in keeping their lawns as they were.
In the words of Johan Gustafsson, the organizer of the competition, “We wanted to make sustainability communication positive — it’s common to see negative headlines that make you feel bad. This is the opposite — the competition made people smile, and they didn’t have to do a thing to participate, they could just relax and have a cup of tea. We think that also made it a success.”
Sweden has experienced a significant increase in the number of tourists over the past few years. While this may be good news for the country’s economy, it has also put an increased strain on local water resources. To make matters worse, the island also has less groundwater due to decreased rain and snow. For these reasons, Gotland is projected to experience a 13% reduction in its water supply between 2021 and 2050.
Östman, who won a T-shirt and a diploma for clinching the first position in the contest, says there’s nothing to be ashamed of. “We shouldn’t be embarrassed if our lawns are not perfect or green. I don’t feel ashamed — I’m happy to show the world — or at least Gotland,” she said.
In our view, Östman is absolutely right. Given the island’s condition, it’s only proper that water should be channeled to better purposes than keeping a beautiful lawn. Instead of feeling embarrassed, the residents should be proud of themselves for their ingenuity in promoting sustainable practices. Hopefully, this competition will also make the largest island in Sweden more prominent on the world’s map.
Would you love to participate in the fun and spread awareness of what’s going on in Gotland? Then take a photo of your ugly lawn and post it to your Instagram page with the #worldsugliestlawn hashtag.