Brothers Arijeet and Rajvarun Grewal, students in Hanford, CA, helped forward a bill that would subsidize synthetic turf in California. The bill, AB 603, was introduced by Bakersfield assembly member Rudy Salas in February. If passed, the bill would grant a subsidy to those who replace their natural grass lawns with artificial grass.
Ari and Raj, students in Hantford at Pioneer Middle School and Sierra Pacific High School, thought of the idea and suggested it to Mr. Salas via a letter. Mr. Salas liked the idea, and now it's being put into motion. The brothers created a Facebook page for their project called Saving California Farms One Drop at a Time.
Ari and Raj agreed to speak with us in this interview, and Global Syn-Turf is honored to have them.
Where did the idea come from?
Raj: Last summer, we decided to redo our landscape. My brother and I became interested in finding out if we could install synthetic grass, which will help conserve fresh water. My father explained that synthetic grass is expensive, and he further explained that we could go for it if it was subsidized like solar panels. This encouraged us to propose legislation.
What motivated you to pursue this endeavor so seriously?
Ari: Living in the Central Valley, one cannot escape drought news. We learned that more than 60% of fresh water is wasted on lawn maintenance in California. Therefore, we wanted to do our part to conserve fresh water.
When did you realize that the potential of synthetic grass as a drought-tolerant option wasn't being fully utilized?
Raj: After researching extensively on this topic, we learned that many cities in California did provide rebates for homeowners and businesses that purchased and installed synthetic turf. However, we learned that there was not a state-wide program that provided state-wide incentives, given that some of the cities and counties do not generate much tax revenue and cannot afford to provide incentives to its residents.
What do you think will be some of the long term effects of the popular adoption of synthetic grass in residential areas?
Ari: Primarily, the adoption of synthetic grass in residential areas would help conserve a lot of fresh water that can be used for our Central Valley agriculture. It would also decrease the chances of another severe drought to occur in California.
Do you think synthetic grass has any advantages over other drought-tolerant alternatives, such as xeriscaping?
Raj: Synthetic grass and drought- tolerant alternatives both have advantages. They both help reduce the wastage of fresh water. However, grass is a part of our natural lives. Xeriscaping, on the other hand, takes away that naturalness.
On your Facebook page you say that "One day, water may lead to the division of California." Could you expound on that?
Raj: It is a politically hot subject. Several times in the past, a division of California has been proposed. More than any other political reason, water was the main issue. Recently, there is zero water allocation from the Sacramento--San Joaquin River Delta due to smelt fish. The majority of Central Valley residents believe that Big Brothers on both sides (North and South) control most of the legislative processes due to their population and, hence, influence and control of the flow of water.
On your Facebook page you say that you "would like to propose a clause in the bill allocating a percent of subsidy to provide vocational and trade education for those who may get negatively impacted so they can rebuild a better and brighter future for themselves and their families." Could you expound on this idea?
Ari: We wanted to make sure that our proposal does not negatively impact anyone, especially hardworking Californians in the landscape industry. Therefore, we proposed a portion of incentives to train them in synthetic grass installation.
On your Facebook page you say that popular adoption of synthetic grass will "bring economic prosperity to the state of California." Could you explain this a bit further?
Ari: In the beginning, lot of people were against Internet or online shopping, and now we can see how many jobs it has created in terms of software, e-commerce, and logistics (warehouse and transportation) jobs. Along the same lines, we strongly believe that the synthetic grass industry will also contribute in creating jobs (i.e. manufacturing, installation, and maintenance).
What has it been like working with Bakersfield assembly member Rudy Salas? Are there any lessons you can impart to us that you learned from working with him?
Raj: It was a wonderful experience. We have learned more about the other projects and bills that are being proposed in the Assembly Session. We have learned to become more active in our community.
Did you have a specific strategy for pitching the Bill to the Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation, Mr. Phil Ting?
Ari: It was a great pleasure to meet Mr. Phil Ting and asking for his support in person. We believe we have already reached the masses via TV and newspapers. We have also requested the local city council and county Board of supervisors to write to Mr. Ting in our bill's support. We also encourage the industry (including your company) to support and lobby our bill.
What was the experience like traveling to Sacramento to introduce AB 603? Did anything occur that was unexpected? What was the most surprising thing you learned about during your trip introducing the bill?
Ari: It was an amazing experience. We were honored and delighted to be invited by Mr. Salas to be a part of history in the making. We still have goose bumps from being on the assembly floor submitting AB 603 and seeing "Grewal Family" name on the notice board in the assembly hall. As a visitor you are just allowed to be in the gallery, but being there, on the assembly floor, just feels great!
Raj, according to a report, you are interested in pursuing a career in politics because of this experience. Is there a specific area of politics you are interested in?
Raj: I have not fully chosen my field; however, whatever job I do take, I would love to give back to my community. Going through this adventure has definitely opened my eyes to the endless career paths from which I could choose.
How does this experience fit into both of your long-term goals?
Ari: Our community has instilled in us the will power to give back to our community. Proposing this bill has given us the opportunity to help our neighborhoods. Also, we have learned that the sky has no limit in defining our own destiny.
Is there anything else either of you would like to talk about?
Raj: We highly appreciate you reaching out to us. Once again, we strongly request your company's leadership team to engage law makers in California (especially Mr. Ting and Mr. Salas) and support our bill....
Companies that manufacture or install artificial lawns are experiencing a boom in business, due to the drought-like conditions and watering restrictions in many North Texas cities.
But the synthetic lawns today aren't the same plastic AstroTurf made popular in the 1970s. The products on the market now, are not just used for putting greens and football fields either.
Tim Dvorak, owner of the company Synthetic Grass Pro, and gets calls every day from homeowners inquiring about artificial grass.
"I discussed this with many turf manufacturers, that's a big thing they notice. As soon as there are drought restrictions, watering restrictions, or an ordinance like the City of Dallas two-days a week restriction, it really just makes this industry explode," said Dvorak.
Today's synthetic lawns are made to stay cool underfoot, drain water well, and last for 10-15 years. The products come in different shades of green, different textures, and mimic different varieties of natural grass. Choosing artificial can be expensive upfront: prices range from $7.50 to $15 a square foot.
Many homeowners with artificial grass installed in their yards feel that the investment was worth it.
"The initial cost is expensive, but it's already paid for itself over the four years. Not having to re-sod it, not having to water. The yard guys[come less often]. So it's more than paid for itself," said Dvorak.
Many homeowners can be skeptical at the beginning, until they see the fake grass first-hand.
Not all cities in North Texas are on board with artificial grass, though.
Frisco does not allow artificial turf at this time, and many homeowners' associations have rules.
Highland Park passed an ordinance restricting artificial turf to back yards.
Other cities, however, have no rules in place limiting synthetic grass. Those cities include Dallas, Arlington, Denton, and University Park....