Kathy Schrenk notes a story on the problem of gas-powered lawn mowers and other similar devices.
The problem with the non-mowing solutions outlined is that a lot of them are also bad for the groundwater supply. Every square foot of pavement is gallons of rainwater diverted from soaking into the ground and instead sent into the sewer system, where it has to be cleaned up (and often won’t ever find its way into local waterways).
When I was 12, we moved from a Chicago 3-flat to a 1 acre lot with a ranch house. Every year, my parents convert more of the yard into trees, flowers and shrubbery, resulting in less lawn mowing. (This is mostly because mowing the lawn for 90 minutes totally blows, but it also looks nice). But paving would be a disaster, especially in urban settings where water runoff from a paved driveway has to be diverted out of the groundwater to avoid toxic runoff.
Of course, most Chicago suburbs don’t allow gravel driveways. Back in the day, alleys in the city were cinder (from people’s coal stoves, natch), but since that was phased out and the city took over maintenance, they’ve been paved.