As It Happens

Seeing green: California 'lawn painter' doing big business during drought

It is the worst drought California has seen. Home owners used to lush green lawns are now getting used to a new normal: dry and yellow. Some communities have even gone so far as to launch an ad campaign declaring "Brown is the New Green." But for those in the Long Beach area who aren't ready to give up their...

It is the worst drought California has seen. Home owners used to lush green lawns are now getting used to a new normal: dry and yellow. Some communities have even gone so far as to launch an ad campaign declaring "Brown is the New Green." But for those in the Long Beach area who aren't ready to give up their viridescent lawns, "lawn painter" Drew McLellan is out making green. And we're not just talking about the vegetation.

"I was over at a friend's house and he was having problems with his grass and I was tellin' him, 'Why don't you just paint it green?'" McLellan tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

That conversation led to McLellan to quit his job as a hair stylist and join his wife and a friend in creating a lawn painting business.

"The technology's been around a long time," he says. "It's more in the recent years that it's actually been done residentially."

  McLellan at work on a lawn. He first outlines the lawn and once that's completed, fills the insides in with "paint." (Photo: Courtesy of Drew McLellan) 

Just two months in, he says business went from two lawns a week to two lawns a day.

"To get a good lush lawn, it takes a lot of work and a lot of water. With what we do, we're able to give people what they're looking for. As you know, California is in a drought... people are going to drastic measures to get what they want their front lawn to look like without risking paying big fines and using up all our resources."

He says the average lawn is about 46 square metres, which would cost $175 to spray. During the summer each application should last about three months, and during the California winter, about six months.

"It's not actual spray paint, it's a flower-based pigment paint," he continues. "It's non-toxic. Once it dries -- it takes about two hours to dry -- the dogs, kids, the whole family can go out there and roll around in it and everything."

What about stains?

"It is stain-resistant, so if you're walking around in it and stuff like that you won't get any stains. But just like real grass, if you're running and sliding in it, you're gonna get stains on you."

  Before (top) and after a lawn is "spray painted." (Photo: Courtesy of Drew McLellan) 

Ironically, to get a richly painted green lawn, a full lawn is needed first.

"People with really thin yards or yards that are mostly dirt, there's really nothing that you can do about it. There actually does need to be grass to be there to paint it."

But why isn't the state's water crisis inspiring residents to give up their lawns in favour of more drought-resistant crops?

"I grew up playing in the front lawn with my sisters... I would like to give my kids that same thing, I wouldn't want them to have to worry about going outside and stepping in rocks and worrying about rolling into cactuses and stuff like that."

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