Celebrating ugly lawns of the world

A 2023 Gotland lawn entrant. Image: Gotland's Ugliest Lawn

The Swedish island of Gotland is inviting garden owners to share their ugly lawns with the world, as part of a unique water-saving campaign.

The World’s Ugliest Lawns celebrates the conservation efforts of those who do not water their lawns and aims to “change the green lawn standard”.

The island’s municipality launched a competition called Gotland's Ugliest Lawn during a drought in summer 2022, when it encouraged residents not to water lawns for aesthetic reasons, to protect groundwater resources.

The island’s efforts to conserve water resulted in a 5% reduction in consumption compared to the previous summer. Despite a small budget, the campaign reached 788 million people – with many wishing for a similar competition in their own communities.

As a result, Gotland has launched the World's Ugliest Lawn competition for 2023, with the aim of changing the norm for green lawns to save water on a global scale.

Mimmi Gibson, Region Gotland's chief marketing officer, explained the motivation behind the initiative stems from Gotland’s unique geographical location as an island in the Baltic Sea, often boasting the highest number of sunshine hours in Sweden.

The island also has a distinctive geological composition and limited groundwater resources while being a popular tourist destination. Consequently, during the summer months, it collectively needs to conserve water resources which usually results in restrictions on garden watering.

"We transform those who refrain from watering their lawns into climate heroes. Instead of tending to their lawns, they could relax and inspire others to think about water conservation."

Mimmi Gibson, Region Gotland
Instead of tending to their lawns, residents can relax. Image: Gotland's Ugliest Lawn

Mimmi says, “Not being able to water one's lawn has been a source of shame and frustration for many. In response, we decided to turn this around and transform those who refrained from watering their lawns into climate heroes.

"Instead of tending to their lawns, they could enjoy their lives, relax, and, hopefully, inspire others to think about the importance of water conservation.

“Climate anxiety can often render us passive, which is counterproductive in every way. This campaign is one of the solutions that activate people, and many can participate in it.

"Hopefully, it can spark a conversation about our most vital resource and inspire people to think differently and contribute to a greater purpose—with a smile on their faces.”

Gotland's 2023 winner Stina Öhman has already been announced. Judges said her lawn "has a commendable display of both laziness and great concern for our shared groundwater. A truly ugly and in no way usable lawn - unless you're a sparrow."

Stina Östman Gotland's ugliest lawn winner 2023. Image: Mimmi Gibson

Global entrants have until 25 December 2023 to submit images of their ugly lawns taken during the year, with some details about yourself and the lawn. Share the picture on Instagram with the hashtag #worldsugliestlawn or email it to uglylawn@gotland.se

The winner will be announced in the last week of 2023 and will receive a one-off pre-owned t-shirt with the text "Proud Owner of the World's Ugliest Lawn".

Global entrants have until 25 December 2023 to submit photos, like this one. Image: Gotland's Ugliest Lawn