This Earth Week a great way to honor the earth is to take pause and reflect on the earth that is closest to us; our own back (and front) yards. This is where our children and pets get their first and most frequent exposure to what mother nature has to offer. But sadly, as a culture we don't always treat our yards in a way that reflects our respect for the earth. It seems that cumulatively in New Jersey we use about 4 million pounds of toxic synthetic pesticides, half on residential properties, in search of the "perfect lawn". And we use even more chemical fertilizers.
But where do all these toxins end up? In our homes? In our drinking water? In the air? What impact is this behavior having on the earth and its inhabitants? Local group Safe Yards Montclair, (Northern NJ Safe Yards Alliance), has some very helpful tips on ways we can help the earth and not hurt our neighbors. This Earth Day we can take a moment to read these tips, pass them on, and honor the earth right outside our doors.
Tips to a Safer Yard from Safe Yards Montclair:
1) Learn just how dangerous lawn chemicals can be. Doing your own research is the only way to guarantee that what you are using/doing is not harmful. Find the scientific names of the “active ingredients” in the products that are used. Then research the toxicity and environmental effects of those ingredients. Learn more and find the research on the “What Can You Do?” section of safeyardsmontclair.org.
2) Use eco-friendly, organic lawn care practices. Or, hire an organic, eco-friendly service (email Info@SafeYardsMontclair.org for a list). Or tell your current service to refrain from using synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Pesticides don’t grow grass anyway; grass seed does. And, try organic fertilizers and soil enhancers (compost, compost tea, plant-based materials).
Why? Synthetic lawn pesticides are linked to many serious health and environmental issues. Children, pets, bees, birds and our drinking water are especially vulnerable. Plus, organic practices make your soil healthier (pesticides kill the important soil micro-nutrients) and grass stronger; over time you’ll need less maintenance.
3) Be a good neighbor. What you do on your lawn can affect others.
a. Post a Poison Notification Sign. If you maintain your lawn yourself and use synthetic pesticides (pellets or spray), post a lawn poison notification sign on your front yard when you use lawn pesticides. Your neighbors (and their dogs) are not likely to know you used them unless you notify them, putting them at risk. And, don’t ever let the chemicals run-off onto the sidewalk where people can step on them and track them inside on their shoes.
b. Advise in Advance if Spraying. Give your neighbors advance warning when you or your lawn service will be spraying pesticides. The toxic spray can drift inside their homes without them knowing and settle into carpets and furniture. And don’t spray when windy; you'll accelerate the drift! ( (We heard a story this week of a Montclair resident whose neighbor sprayed his front lawn himself with a store-bought weed killer. The wind blew the spray (containing 2, 4D) into their neighbor's car and child's bedroom (the windows were open). They spent days trying to clean the place not knowing if the residue would ever be removed. ))
c. Don’t apply lawn chemicals before a rain. The chemicals can run-off onto a neighbor’s yard or into the storm drains and end up in the waterways. Make sure your lawn care service follows the same practice.
The real tip here is: Don’t use synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers – then you won’t have to worry. There are safer alternatives, that work, and that are more cost-effective over time.
4) Have people take off their shoes at your front door. Studies suggest that lawn chemicals can be tracked into your home and be found on floors and carpets and remain there for years.
5) Ask your neighbor’s lawn care service to give you advance warning if they will be spraying pesticides. Under NJ law, the service must give you a 24-hour notification, but only if you request it.
6) Refrain from using gas-powered lawn machinery. They contribute greatly to air pollution, carbon emissions and use up fossil fuels. Ask your lawn service to use an electric or hand mower, and a rake instead of a leaf blower.
7) Reduce your lawn to what you absolutely need and replace the rest with attractive native plants and gardens. It’s a new trend! Saves water and can help filter storm-water run-off pollution. Plus, less mowing means less cost, less effort and less carbon emissions.
8) Post a “Pesticide-Free Zone” Ladybug sign on your front yard. Let passers-by know your yard is safe for kids to play, pets to sniff, bees to buzz, and neighbors to leave their windows open. Join others pledging their support for pestcide-free living. Order yours at Info@SafeYardsMontclair.org.
Read more about all of these tips on www.SafeYardsMontclair.org.