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“Backyarding” in the U.S. and Canada: Our landscapes take center stage

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The TurfMutt Foundation and spokesdog Mulligan help promote the benefit of outdoor spaces. “No one knows your yard like your dog. And so as an informed source, your dog knows it as well as anyone,” says Kris Kiser. (Photo: OPEI)
The TurfMutt Foundation and spokesdog Mulligan help promote the benefit of outdoor spaces. “No one knows your yard like your dog. And so as an informed source, your dog knows it as well as anyone,” says Kris Kiser. (Photo: OPEI)
The TurfMutt Foundation and spokesdog Mulligan help promote the benefit of outdoor spaces. “No one knows your yard like your dog. And so as an informed source, your dog knows it as well as anyone,” says Kris Kiser. (Photo: OPEI)
The TurfMutt Foundation and spokesdog Mulligan help promote the benefit of outdoor spaces. “No one knows your yard like your dog. And so as an informed source, your dog knows it as well as anyone,” says Kris Kiser. (Photo: OPEI)

When the pandemic hit in 2020, people struggled with the repercussions of being stuck at home. Spending time in backyards and community green spaces became critical for health and happiness. During this time, the TurfMutt Foundation, the environmental education program founded by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), was on a mission to remind people to get outside into nature, just beyond their back door.

“The world was shutting down, but our backyards were always open for business,” says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the TurfMutt Foundation. “The natural, proven benefits of green space gave everyone — adults, kids and pets — a break from being cooped up inside during the pandemic. Our message was clear: Get outside, mow your lawn, trim bushes, plant a butterfly bush and enjoy nature. By becoming a steward of your yard, you are helping preserve not only your own health and well-being but also your own corner of the overall ecosystem.”

Here to stay

By 2021, “backyarding” was a way of life as people moved many indoor activities such as working, entertaining, exercising, studying and even vacationing to their own backyards and community parks. Kiser says the TurfMutt Foundation knew the interest in backyards was here to stay, and landscapers and contractors made record profits as backyard improvements soared.

“People realized that a backyard isn’t something you have, it’s something you do,” Kiser explains. “The backyard is nearly limitless with possibilities, and homeowners got very creative as they expanded and enjoyed their yards during the pandemic. We knew that backyarding was now a way of life.”

Recognizing that backyards have a different purpose for every individual, the TurfMutt Foundation introduced personality types as a way for individuals to hone in on their preferred practices. These personality types range from a work-from-home pro who uses their backyard as a video call background to an entertainer extraordinaire whose backyard is the neighborhood hot spot.

“In order to create a more purposeful outdoor space, people first needed to identify what type of ‘backyarder’ they are,” Kiser describes. “Then, they could get to work in their yard with that idea in mind — that’s what the ‘backyarding’ personality types are all about.”

TurrMutt’s “backyarding” message really caught on and has been shared extensively by top media outlets in the U.S. and Canada, including Good Morning America, Parade magazine, Good Housekeeping, The Toronto Sun and the National Association of Realtors, to name a few.

Time well spent

Recent surveys conducted by The Harris Poll for the TurfMutt Foundation underscore the importance of backyards and community green space as an extension of our homes and lifestyles. More than 3/4 of Americans who have a yard (76 percent) say the family yard is one of the most important parts of their home. Nearly 1/4 of Americans who have a yard (24 percent) spend more time in their yards now than before the pandemic.

And they are really enjoying the extra time outside. More than 3/5 of Americans who have a yard (63 percent) say they enjoy doing more activities in their yard since the pandemic began. The survey also shows 68 percent of younger adults aged 18-54 and 73 percent of parents of kids under 18 say they are more apt to feel this way. The yard has also become a place to relieve stress, with more than 2/3 of Americans who have a yard (69 percent) saying doing yard work, such as mowing, trimming or planting, is one of the ways they like to de-stress.

According to the results of a Harris Poll recently conducted in Canada, enjoying managed landscapes — including yards, parks and other green spaces — is quite common among Canadians (89 percent). In fact, many Canadians (24 percent) spent more time in managed landscapes, including yards, in 2022 compared to 2021.

Additionally, “backyarding” activities such as spending more time outdoors appear to be important as the majority of Canadians who owned a yard in the past two years (76 percent) said they have invested in it recently. A majority of Canadians (82 percent) also say if they were looking for a new home, a spacious yard would be at the top of their wish list.

Now the backyard is part of our daily lives and the TurfMutt Foundation is once again advancing the concept by declaring 2023 the year of the master backyarder.

“Master backyarders have taken backyarding to a new level, and their skills are elevated and inspirational,” explains Kiser. “Time to relax? They go outside. Have a web call? They set up their laptop on their deck or patio. Have a party to throw? They entertain in their backyard.”

As “backyarding” continues to evolve, so will TurfMutt’s messaging around it, promises Kiser.

“The TurfMutt Foundation has always promoted the benefits of working in and using our yards and community green space for the health of people, pets and the planet,” he says. “As we like to say, nature starts at your back door, which means its benefits are right at our fingertips.”

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