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Survey Finds America’s Lawns Could Be Much “Greener”

(Beyond Pesticides, June 3, 2008) The National Gardening Association’s (NGA) 2008 Environmental Lawn and Garden Survey finds that only one out of five U.S. homeowners chooses lawn and landscape practices classified as “green” by NGA –and the association’s standards were not even very high.

To evaluate homeowner lawn care practices, NGA used its “Eco-Scorecard” to ask respondents which of 12 environmentally friendly lawn, garden, and landscape practices they will follow at home this year. Unfortunately, maintaining an organic lawn, didn’t even make the survey. Instead NGA, which partners with companies that manufacture and sell lawn chemicals, asked questions like, “Do you read and follow the label carefully when using pesticides and fertilizers?” 49% said “yes.”

Beyond Pesticides has previously told the NGA that label compliance does not adequately protect people, pets and the environment because of deficiencies and limitations in EPA’s pesticide regulatory review process, which is focused on risk assessment calculations that, among other things, ignore the effect of chemical mixtures on lawns, low level exposure, endocrine disrupting effects, and the full range of impacts on children and pets. Beyond Pesticides has urged organizations like NGA to embrace the precautionary principle and the elimination of cosmetic or aesthetic uses of hazardous pesticides in the management of lawns and landscapes because these areas can be effectively managed without them. See Beyond Pesticides comments on the Environmental Guidelines for Responsible Lawn Care and Landscaping, written by a committee that included NGA.

Many organic-friendly practices, including high mower height and composting did make the NGA survey, with about 40% answering positively.

The results of the survey are as follows:

  • Water your lawn and plants only when they need it. Use water wisely. 63%
  • Read and follow the label carefully when using pesticides and fertilizers. 49%
  • Leave grass clippings in place on your lawn. 44%
  • Keep fertilizer, pesticide, yard, and pet waste out of water sources and off pavement. 43%
  • Apply mulch around trees, shrubs, or garden areas. 40%
  • Choose and use the right plants in the right spot for your climate, sun/shade, soil, and rainfall. 39%
  • Cut your lawn at the highest recommended mower setting. 39%
  • Recycle yard waste by composting grass clippings, leaves, and other organic materials. 31%
  • Before using pesticides to control insects or weeds, make sure the problem and the most appropriate method to control the problem are correctly identified. 29%
  • Use only well-adapted or native plants in your landscaping and remove poorly adapted, exotic, or invasive plants. 26%
  • Learn more about how to best care for the lawn, specific plants, soil, and wildlife at your home. 20%
  • None of the above. 10%

“The fact that only 2 out of 12 environmentally friendly lawn, garden, and landscape practices on the Eco-Scorecard are followed by a majority of households with a yard or garden indicates there’s a real need for improvement in people’s appreciation for the impact each of us can have on the environment in our own backyards. Most homeowners have a lot to learn about ‘green’ lawn and landscape practices,” said Mike Metallo, NGA president.

Beyond Pesticides agrees that the results of the survey are disappointing, and believes that NGA, which offers a lot of valuable information on its website (including edible landscaping and urban gardening), should be doing more to promote pesticide-free lawns, rather than the legally prescribed use of pesticides on lawns. On a brighter note, the growth of the pesticide-free zone movement around the country and the passage of pesticide-free public land policies are very promising.

For more information on organic turf management, please visit our Lawns and Landscapes program page. To find a service provider that practices least- or non-toxic methods, visit the Safety Source for Pest Management.


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