Coulter Lewis wants people to care for their lawns in a scientific and nontoxic way.
“Lawn care is at least 30 years behind the food industry in sustainability,” he said.
Lewis, an entrepreneur who successfully helped launch Quinn Popcorn with his wife in 2011, (patenting a popcorn bag without a chemical coating), wants homeowners to rethink lawn care, which often involves either lugging huge sacks of weed and feed from stores or delegating the duty to contractors.
“We have been doing lawn care the same way for at least a half century. Lawns are the third largest crop area in the U.S,” he said.
The old approach prevents people from thinking about the chemicals used in making lawns greener, beautiful and weed-free, said Lewis, who together with his brother, Trent Lewis, in 2018 co-founded the startup Sunday, which raised $3.2 million in a seed funding round led by Forerunner Ventures. The Boulder-based company recently began offering a lawn-care in a box program, which costs $149 annually for most lawns, that provides liquid fertilizer and nutrients made largely with seaweed, molasses, food waste and nontoxic chemicals. The program is customized based on customers’ geographic location, the soil type of their property (customers need to return soil samples for testing) and local climate data. Customers receive three shipments of the right formulations delivered at the right time, Lewis said. The pouch containing the liquids can easily be attached to a hose and sprayed directly on the lawn.
The Sunday lawn care system eliminates guess work, removes harmful chemicals that are common to lawn care products, and continually educates customers about environmentally sound practices for watering, mowing and taking care of common weeds to minimize, Lewis said.
A recent study at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found an association between glyphosate, (the primary ingredient in popular weed killer Roundup) and negative effects on the human liver.
Toxic chemicals — many of which are used in lawn care — are known carcinogens, said Jay Feldman, executive director of Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Beyond Pesticides. “Weed and feed products also are pretty expensive. There’s no validity in the argument that you sacrifice aesthetics by adopting organic practices.”
Composted materials can be a replacement for synthetic chemicals, he said. His organization advocates for pesticide-free lawns for the health of families, the environment and the community, he said.
“We are applying principles of organic systems approach for land management,” Feldman said.
It goes beyond applying a turf builder, and includes adoption of right practices for mowing, aeration, watering, etc., he said. Building better soil health means better resilient plants, improved water retention and natural recycling of nutrients, Feldman said.
The push against chemicals, particularly in lawn care, has come from activists and citizens concerned about climate change, loss of insects and bug species and other life forms due to a large scale use of herbicides and pesticides. Feldman said.
Lewis said getting the word out about his lawn care program, Sunday, is tough. He wants to reach out to people, “who are not doing a whole lot,” and those who want to do more but don’t know how. He thinks word-of-mouth publicity is going to work best for his product. A beautiful lawn will surely get people talking to each other and discovering Sunday, he said.