I’m going to say the tree captures more. A tree can capture approximately 50 pounds of Carbon dioxide per year. The problem with lawns, at least in the U.S., is that many times the grass grown isn’t native to the region so people end up using a lot of water and fertilizer to bring the grass into existence. The fertilizer and chemicals are responsible for more carbon emissions than the lawn offsets. Now, if the lawn consists of plants native to the environment, that’s another story, and would be more beneficial ecologically.
I’ll agree with americalibre on this one. In according to a 2010 Live Science article that cites research published in Geophysical Research Letters states that though lawns may have the potential to act as carbon sinks, the emissions caused by the maintenance that most undergo are “similar to or greater than” the amount of carbon that is sequestered by lawns.
An article on NASA’s Earth Observatory website states that lawns have the potential to be carbon sinks, as they absorb more than is released by the processes of the grass itself:
However, the article does not address the emissions caused by maintenance as mentioned above.
americalibre and sdasher both make a really good point about lawn maintenance. You may find that trees are a better option for you if you have hot summers because they will also shade your home and reduce or entirely eliminate the need for air conditioning. Deciduous trees that drop their leaves in the fall will allow sunlight to reach your home during the winter to warm your house.
Another option that you can choose instead of a lawn is to plant some native shrubs. Native plants that are adapted to your local climate and soil will require a lot less maintenance than anything else you can imagine. My family got a short, native shrub that has silvery leaves similar to the ones that Lamb’s Ear has and planted it in a corner of our front yard. It requires no water other than what it gets from rain, and it is slowly spreading over our lawn and taking over the grass. It does not require any trimming, and we love it! So, I recommend finding out what plants are native to your region and seeing if you can find one you like for your front yard.
Trees definitely capture more carbon. They are much larger than grass, and if native to the environment, they will require much less maintenance. A lot of people also mow the grass in their lawns daily, or even weekly, and I can’t see this being productive in terms of storing carbon.
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