(Beyond Pesticides, August 15, 2007) As the popularity and demand for organic food has and continues to increase, so too is the popularity of organic lawn care, as an increasing number of people are seeking out alternatives to conventional lawn chemicals.
Organic products are making inroads into the $35 billion lawn- and garden-care industry, which for years has been focusing on chemically-intensive methods. The growing demand for organic land care is coming from all sectors: homeowners, municipal park managers, and business professionals alike. A 2005 survey of 2,000 adults by the Natural Marketing Institute found 20 percent of consumers had bought some kind of environmentally friendly lawn-and-garden product. According to CNN, market researchers Freedonia Group estimate a 10 percent annual growth for the organic fertilizer market, twice the projected growth for all lawn and garden goods.
Taking the organic route may be more work and pricier initially, but the payoff will be a yard that costs less in the long-term to care for, is safer for the environment and handles stresses such as drought. Additionally, as more people switch to organic lawn care, the costs will keep coming down, and the techniques will be further refined.
With more pesticides and other synthetic lawn care chemicals being implicated in the development of Parkinson’s disease, autism, cancer and other chronic effects, concerned citizens are turning to safer, organic methods to care for their lawns. Conventional lawn care chemicals can be persistent, and are tracked into homes, leading to increased exposure to people and pets. Children are greatest at risk from chemical exposure, since they are smaller, have less developed immune systems, and also spend more time at home, in the yard, and low to the ground. Lawn chemicals have also turned up in waterways, where they damage aquatic environments. In many areas, these waterways are also utilized for drinking water.
Following on the heels of a 2001 Canadian Supreme Court decision that ruled communities can restrict the use of cosmetic pesticides on both private and public property, U.S. industry lobbied to block such restrictions from occurring in all but nine states. However, with education campaigns small municipalities have been able to secure organic treatment on public lawns and landscapes. The nation’s largest lawn-care company, TruGreen-ChemLawn, has even dropped the ChemLawn part of its name to capitalize on consumers’ growing preference for organic lawn care and improve their public image, despite a history of questionable, chemically-intensive methods.
The National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns maintains a website with scientific documentation on the hazards of chemical lawn care, the benefits of organic care, and activist tools for community change, http://www.pesticidefreelawns.org. For more information on being a part of the growing organic lawn care movement, please visit http://www.beyondpesticides.org/lawn/index.htm. To find a service provider that practices least- or non-toxic methods, visit http://www.beyondpesticides.org/infoservices/pcos/findapco.htm.