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Grassroots Effort to Change Lawn Care
(Beyond Pesticides, June 22, 2004)
Steve Kihm is a perfect example of someone who went from an ordinary resident to an activist for environmental change, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Kihm moved to Westmorland in Madison, WI. Soon after his move, two things seemed to turn his attention against the use of pesticides. First, he had bought a house with a yard for his dog and didn’t want his dog to be exposed to pesticides. Second, he attended a meeting of the Greater Madison Healthy Lawn Team, which he found out through his local neighborhood newsletter.

This was October of last year and now he is on the board of the Greater Madison Healthy Lawn Team. Although the Greater Madison Healthy Lawn Team is one of the newest environmental groups in Madison, it has been gathering quite a following across the city. The Greater Madison Healthy Lawn Team has a simple goal: “to encourage people to reduce their use of lawn pesticides and to care for their lawns in an environmentally sound way.”

The Greater Madison Healthy Lawn Team started out as two citizens, Claire Gervais and Clove Lilienthal, concerned about the use of pesticides on the lawns in their neighborhood. They simply provided advice and literature to citizens concerned about the same problem, and soon they were providing information to concerned citizens in surrounding neighborhoods. Currently there are about 15 to 20 groups that meet regularly. The Great Madison Healthy Lawn Team is a formidable proponent of banning phosphorus in fertilizers in Madison and Dane County.

This local group is a perfect example of grassroots efforts to further the cause of responsible pesticide use in local areas. There are many things that can be done to care for one’s lawn without the use of pesticides. These include:

  • Developing healthy soil
  • Planting well-adapted, pest resistant grass varieties
  • Aerating the lawn regularly
  • De-thatching
  • Maintaining proper pH
  • Fertilizing using urea based products
  • Watering properly and mowing correctly

Pesticides used in lawn care are among the dangerous and most prevalent in society today. Health effects of the 36 most commonly used lawn pesticides show that: 14 are probable or possible carcinogens, 15 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 24 with neurotoxicity, 22 with liver or kidney damage, and 34 are sensitizers and/or irritants. EPA approval of these chemicals is not a guarantee of safety; in fact, EPA believes that no pesticide can ever be considered perfectly "safe." Additionally, the U.S. General Accounting Office, and the New York and Pennsylvania Attorneys General have charged various companies with misleading advertising and prohibited safety claims.

TAKE ACTION: Steve Kihm is a perfect example of how one person can make a difference in the local environmental community. The best way to take action in your local community is to start with identifying what it is that you want to change in your community. Research the problem and possible solutions, and get others involved. For assistance and for more information, see Beyond Pesticides' Lawns and Landscapes Tools for Activists.