Monday Reads: The Landscaping Goat Edition

Invasion of the goats, coming to a weed-choked lot near you

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It’s finally happened. The job outsourcing phenomenon has moved to another level. Forget outsourcing jobs to other countries—now they’re being outsourced to other species.

Portland, OR, is just the latest urban area to join the hip (and sensible) species outsourcing trend. Quiet the noisy, gas guzzling, carbon polluting lawn mower. Leave those toxic herbicides on the store shelf. It’s time to call in the goats.

Here’s looking at you, kid. Credit: William A. Clark.

Here at Earthjustice, we’re all for reducing carbon pollution and protecting people and wildlife from toxic chemicals. Which might explain why we find so charming the growing use of Mother Nature’s original weed whacker: goats.

One city’s overgrowth of weeds and brambles, is another goat’s mouthwatering buffet. Against a herd of goats, weeds don’t stand a chance. The ruminant’s professional qualifications for green landscaping are impeccable:

  • They’ll (happily) eat just about anything, clearing fields and reducing fire danger
  • They’ll (happily) poop anywhere while they munch, providing all-natural fertilizer
  • All those hooves till the soil
  • They easily amble into steep areas that are difficult for humans or machinery to access
  • They make the best kind of reality TV, fascinating both small children and adults alike

Little girl successfully distracts one of the Portland goats from his proper job. Scores of humans inadvertently helped the weeding process by pulling up vegetation close to the fence to feed the goats. Credit: Brent Wojahn / The Oregonian.

In Portland, the herd of 50 goats (many of whom were strays and rescues) contentedly munched their way through a vacant, 2-acre lot. They joined hard-working and hard-eating compatriots at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, CA, a golf course in Kentucky, Bear Creek Park in Colorado, and elsewhere.

It’s easy to forget that spraying that canister of weed killer or firing up the riding lawn mower has far reaching implications: chemical fumes drift off in the breeze to be inadvertently inhaled by passers-by; rain runoff carries chemicals into streams and oceans, poisoning wildlifetoxic pollutants which dirty our air and our health.

While one can’t exactly run out to adopt Billy the Goat and eagerly replace the lawn mower in the shed, the increasing urban use of this all natural (and infinitely more cute) large-scale brush clearing alternative is a wonderful sight to see.

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Shirley undertakes sous chef duties on Earthjustice’s website, serving up interactive online features for our advocacy campaign and litigation work.