Whether you enjoy working, playing, or getting married in your own backyard, a recent survey shows more Americans than ever say that precious outdoor space is vital of late.

More than three quarters of Americans who have a yard (76%) say the family yard space is one of the most important parts of their home, according to a new poll commissioned by the TurfMutt Foundation and conducted online by The Harris Poll.

Nearly three quarters of Americans overall (72%) say a spacious yard would be at the top of their wish list if they were looking for a new home. That desire reflects a cultural shift in how Americans view their yards. Even more so, they’re willing to invest in their yards, and are using them more for everyday activities, including as work-from-home office space.

Person laying in their backyard wearing jeans Photo by Rohit Tandon on Unsplash

“What we are seeing with Americans is greater reliance on the backyard as an extension of the home. It’s not just a place that looks pretty – it’s a place to live and do daily activities such as working, dining and relaxing,” said Kris Kiser, President and CEO of the TurfMutt Foundation. “They’ve discovered that ‘backyarding’ is a better way to live and there’s no turning back. They are also willing to hire professionals and invest money into yard improvements.”

People are enjoying extra time outside, too. Nearly a quarter of Americans who have a yard (24%) are spending more time in their yards now than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

And they are really enjoying the extra time outside. Over 3 in 5 Americans who have a yard (63%) say they have enjoyed doing more activities in their yard since the pandemic began. Younger adults (68% age 18-54 vs. 52% age 65+) and parents of kids under 18 (73% vs. 58% who are not parents of kids under 18) are more apt to feel this way.

Who’s spending all that time outside?

• Older millennials - 32% of adults ages 35-44 who have a yard are the spending more time in their yard now compared to pre-pandemic.
• Parents - 30% of those with a yard who are parents of kids under 18 are spending more time out in their yard now compared to pre-pandemic and are more likely than those without kids under 18 to say they are doing so (21%).

young woman on laptop outdoors Photo by Standsome Worklifestyle on Unsplash

How Americans use their yard has likely changed. For one, the outdoor office trend is here to stay with many Americans using their yards as makeshift offices for their jobs.

Stats show:
• Nearly 2 in 5 Americans who have a yard (58%) say they have spent time doing work for their job in their yard during the pandemic.
• Men are more likely to use their yards while doing work for their jobs, with 63% of men compared to 53% of women with yards saying they worked outdoors in their yard during the pandemic.
• Among those with a yard, parents of kids under 18 are also more likely (71%) than their counterparts without kids under 18 (52%) to have used the yard to get work done during the pandemic.

The yard has also become a place to de-stress, with more than two thirds of Americans who have a yard (69%) saying doing yard work, such as mowing, trimming or planting, is one of the ways they like to de-stress these days. This is especially true among parents of kids under 18 as they are more likely than their counterparts without kids under 18 to cite this (76% vs. 65%).

A vast majority of Americans who have a yard (84%) plan to invest in their yard in 2022, including:
• 67% say they’ll purchase plants/trees/flowers/vegetables to plant themselves
• 39% report they will purchase items to maintain or improve their grassy areas
• 23 % say they will install or update hardscaping themselves.

man working on his lawn with a small lawnmower Photo by Jared Muller on Unsplash

And the outlook looks bright for the landscaping industry. About a third (33%) of those with a yard plan to hire a professional to do landscaping or hardscaping in 2022. Other yard improvements planned for 2022 include installing a fence (19%) or a shed (15%) and adding a swimming pool (10%). Among those with a yard:
• Adults ages 18-44 are more likely than those ages 45+ to say they plan to invest in their yard in 2022 by hiring a professional to do landscaping or hardscaping, 43% compared to 26% of those age 45+.
• Nearly a third of those ages 18-44 (31%) will install or update hardscaping themselves, 27% will install a fence, 21% will install a shed and 18% plan to put in a swimming pool.
• Parents of kids under 18 (73%) are more likely than their counterparts (63%) to say they plan to invest in their yard in 2022 by purchasing plants, trees, flowers, or vegetables to plant themselves. Parents of kids under 18 are also more likely than those without kids under 18 to purchase items to maintain or improve grassy areas on the lawn (44% vs. 36%), and more likely to hire a professional to do landscaping or hardscaping (47% vs. 26%).

Given the unprecedented return to the outdoors, the available outdoor power equipment also has kept in step with products for every need and individual scenario, says the TurfMutt Foundation, and powered in a variety of ways including battery/electric, gasoline, propane, solar and hybrids.

“What we are seeing with Americans is greater reliance on the backyard as an extension of the home. It’s not just a place that looks pretty – it’s a place to live and do daily activities such as working, dining and relaxing,” said Kris Kiser, President and CEO of the TurfMutt Foundation.

About TurfMutt

TurfMutt was created by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s (OPEI) TurfMutt Foundation and has reached more than 70 million children, educators and families since 2009. Through classroom materials developed with Scholastic, TurfMutt teaches students and teachers how to “save the planet, one yard at a time.” TurfMutt is an official USGBC® Education Partner and part of their global LEARNING LAB. TurfMutt is an education resource at the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green Apple, the Center for Green Schools, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project, Climate Change Live, Petfinder and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 2017, the TurfMutt animated video series won the coveted Cynopsis Kids Imagination Award for Best Interstitial Series. TurfMutt’s personal, home habitat is featured in the 2017-2020Wildlife Habitat Council calendars. More information is available at www.TurfMutt.com.

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Like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films, LGBTQ+ fans awaited the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in open anticipation of the inclusivity that both Marvel and Disney had promised. However, the fans were only setting themselves up for disappointment when the film was finally released.

Despite passionate assurances from studio heads to key actors, Thor: Love and Thunder was NOT spectacularly gay. It wasn’t even that good…

Premiere Night Promises

A bolt of lightning cuts across a rainbow on a dark and stormy night.

Lightning bold across the sky

Photo by Bill D.

Standing on the red carpet at the London Premiere of the film, director and actor Taika Waititi and fellow cast members Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were offered up the inevitable question: “How gay is the film?

Amidst some laughter from the crowds, Waititi gestured towards Portman to respond. The actress (who plays Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, throughout the franchise) raised the microphone to her lips and thought for a moment, before delivering a quiet yet fateful: “So gay!

Barely a moment had passed before the gathered fans went wild and Taika Waititi gave his own verdict: “Super gay!”. Tessa Thompson made no statement on the ‘gayness’ of the film, instead opting to swing her microphone around suggestively. As more cheers erupted, a second round of “super gay” slipped out of Waititi’s mouth, before he urged the fans to enjoy the film.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s LGBTQ+ Potential

Thor’s movie-goers were definitely hyped up for a gay extravaganza and they had a specific character in mind. The fan-favorite Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, stumbled her way into the MCU during Thor’s third film, Ragnarok. The Asgardian warrior won many people over with her wit, sarcasm, and pure badassery.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame *spoilers*, Thor Odinson gives up his claim to the throne of Asgard and names Valkyrie as king in his stead. This left many fans excited to see what would become of the character, especially after certain revelations were made at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con:

“As a new king, she has to find her queen. So that’ll be her first order of business.”

With these words, Tessa Thompson threw her LGBTQ+ fans into a frenzy, with heavy expectations for the then-upcoming fourth installment of the Thor films. Indeed, in an interview with the LA Times, shortly before the film's release, Tessa Thompson was asked to comment on the sexuality of her character. She responded with several promising remarks, including “there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I”.

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

So, How Gay Was Thor 4?

To put it simply: not gay at all. Not only did Valkyrie end up without a fabulous new queen, her non-heteronormative sexuality only got the barest mention (a brief line about a previous, now dead, girlfriend). Valkyrie may have made bedroom eyes at some pretty ladies before an action scene spoils the moment, but that’s about as much as we get.

The film does get some credit for introducing a trans character in a minor yet significant role. Thor returns to his people (after a brief stint as a Guardian of the Galaxy) only to find out that the daughter of one of his closest (and deceased) friends is now a boy. The issue is, whether due to personal prejudice or some alien inability to grasp the concept of being transgender, it does take Thor a frustrating few moments to come to terms with the change. And to stop deadnaming.

In fact, the only concession to the queer community was Taika Waititi’s extraterrestrial character Korg finding a husband in one of the closing scenes. This heartfelt moment was somewhat underscored by the revelation that Korg’s entire species is male, meaning he had no other choice but to be ‘gay’.

This Is Not Marvel’s First Queerbaiting Attempt

Close up of an eye reflecting an unknown scene as a rainbow crosses the image.

Photo by Harry Q.

This is, by far, not the first time that LGBTQ+ fans have been sorely disappointed by the workings of Marvel and Disney. In fact, people across many social media platforms have been chiding expectant viewers for once again falling for classic queerbaiting tactics. “Being queerbaited by the MCU is like being a golden retriever with a human who always pretends to throw the ball”, one Tumblr user declared.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, was the perfect moment for the MCU to introduce its first lesbian lead. Larson’s character seemed to have an intense relationship with another woman, going so far as to help raise her child (before Larson’s Carol Danvers disappeared from Earth for 6 years). Despite leaning into several romantic tropes, the status of their relationship was never fully fleshed out. However, it was also the franchise’s first female-led superhero movie, so maybe they thought that introducing her as a lesbian would make the film too awesome.

The heavily anticipated Avengers: Endgame was also slated to introduce the MCU’s ‘first gay character'. While many fans were excited, particularly as this would be the second of Larson’s appearances on screen, the big gay build-up was a massive letdown. The film’s director Joe Russo made a cameo as a blip survivor mourning the loss of his husband. A five-second throw-away scene that had no impact on the outcome of the film. Big whoop...

Even when we did see a film with a gay lead, The Eternals, there were also ten other straight leads. At that point, it just seemed more like basic probability than an attempt at pushing LGBT+ superheroes into the spotlight.

Why Can’t Disney Let Marvel Be Gay?

The big problem with allowing a few characters to be anything other than cishet is that there are still many countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. As much as we like to think that the MCU is being made for comic book fans, we all know the purpose of the films is to make money for Disney. And without certain markets in Asia and the Middle East, Disney wouldn’t be raking in up to (and over) one billion dollars per theatrical release.

Is There Any Hope For LGBTQ+ Fans In The MCU’s Future?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the second in the much-loved Black Panther arc, will be released in cinemas this November. The studio has confirmed that the film will contain a queer character. Actress Michaela Coel will play Aneka, a warrior, and trainer of the king’s guard. Whether or not her diversity will stand out in the film (let alone endure for more than a 10-second scene that can be easily cut) remains to be seen.

Next year’s The Marvels film, starring Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Lashana Lynch may offer the MCU a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its LGBT+ fans. The studios may feel it’s finally time to offer us the heartwarming lesbian relationship between Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lynch’s Maria Rambeau that seemed to be teased in the first Captain Marvel. Don’t raise your hopes too high, though, as you may yet end up as a stubborn golden retriever waiting for a cinematic universe to finally throw that rainbow ball.