"Use the 80-20 plan, where 20 percent of your area requires 80 percent of your maintenance," says Evelyn Hadden, a founding member of the Lawn Reform Coalition and author of "Beautiful No-Mow Yards" (Timber Press, 2012).
"Hillsides are a good example," Hadden says. "The steeper they are, the more difficult they are to mow. Replaced with the proper plants, they can moderate [water] runoff."
Other replaceable options include boulevards, driveways and pockets overgrown by weeds or moss.
"Look first at areas where the grass is already suffering -- "that strip along the street that's hard to water or trampled by people getting off the bus," says Pam Penick, a garden designer from Austin, Texas, and author of "Lawn Gone! Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard" (Ten Speed Press, 2013).
Use ecological grasses if you don't want to eliminate turf, Penick says. "Fine fescue lawns grow slowly and can get by with less rainfall and less mowing. Those are good options for people who want to fit in with their neighborhoods but don't want to be slaves to their lawns," she says.
Or "consider ornamental grasses," she adds, or "some of the new groundcovers [aromatic herbs, succulents, low-growing shrubs, ferns, hosta]. Edibles. Larger shrubs. You can have a nice-looking yard yet be conservation-minded."
Any lawn renovation project should be regionally appropriate, however.
"What we're really talking about is using native vegetation," says the University of Delaware's Barton. "Xeriscaping is a great concept for the Southwest or areas that are dry, but those kinds of plants would drown here. Rain gardens would be a better addition given the amount of moisture we've had recently."
For more about reducing or eliminating turf grass in lawns, see this Penn State Extension fact sheet: www.extension.psu.edu/natural-resources/wildlife/landscaping-for-wildlife/pa-wildlife-5.