Senior Hadley Ball won an essay contest, and its $10,000 scholarship prize, for a provocative examination of the environmental impact that Americans’ fixation on green, weed-free lawns has on the water supply.

“Not only do lawns cover more acreage than any one crop, they receive 20 to 300 percent more pesticide applications per acre than agriculture,” Hadley wrote in her essay. And, she pointed out, it is one crop that cannot be eaten.

The Pamela and Ajay Raju Foundation and the Philadelphia Zoo partnered in the contest, which invited high school students in the tri-state area to write an essay identifying a specific challenge facing water in our region — and with a specific focus on amphibians.

Hadley’s essay pointed out that scientists use amphibians as indicators of water quality because their absorbent skin is extremely susceptible to toxins. Worldwide, more than 70 percent of all amphibian species are in decline due to disease, climate change, habitat loss and pollution.

“This should be the time for humanity to own up to our flawed systems, and take responsibility for this man-made extinction,” she wrote. A passionate environmentalist, Hadley is on track to receive Penn Charter’s new certificate in Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability when she graduates in June.

The contest win also comes with a pledge of $5,000 from the Philadelphia Zoo to implement a winning solution. Hadley proposed outreach and education to lawn care companies and community gardens about alternatives to herbicides and pesticides.

Did you know that a bit of steam and boiling water delivered through a weed steamer device will scald a weed's root system, causing it to wither up and die within 24 hours?

Read Hadley’s essay online at ThePhiladelphiaCitizen.org. Photo: The Philadelphia Citizen