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Big Spending on Lawn Care in U.S., Demand for IPM Rising
(Beyond Pesticides, July 31, 2003)
American household spending on lawn care and landscaping services has increased considerably in the past year, while pesticide use remains high and alternative non-toxic methods are growing. A recent Harris Interactive survey, reported by Lawn & Landscape and sponsored by Associated Landscape Contractors of America, the International Society of Arboriculture, the Tree Care Industry Association, and the Professional Lawn Care Association of America, and conducted by the National Gardening Association, found that 24.7 million homes spent $28.9 billion on professional lawn care, landscape and tree services in 2002 in the U.S. This is an increase of one million households and $3 billion from the previous year. The average amount of money spent for each home is $1,170. Harris Interactive reached its results by interviewing a representative sampling of 1,500 households nationwide. The data has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points. EPA's most recent data, from Pesticides Industry Sales and Usage, 1998 and 1999 Market Estimates, puts pesticide expenditures for the home and garden market sector at $1.98 billion in 1999, up from $1.70 billion the previous year. For these same years, EPA says 80 million pounds of conventional pesticide active ingredient were used in this market in 1999, up from 72 million pounds in 1998.

Researchers find that the spending increase in the lawn care industry, which is occurring in the midst of an economic downturn, is the result of several factors. The housing market has remained strong because of low interest rates. Mortgage rates have been continuously low. Also, since September 11th, travel has decreased and people are spending more time and investment at home.

Beyond Pesticides has observed a coinciding increase in demand for least toxic and non-toxic lawn care. More and more homeowners are becoming aware of the dangers pesticides pose, and the benefits of alternative landscape practices. Many parents that own homes opt for organic lawn care because of the risk their children face from exposure to toxic pesticides. Children take in more pesticides relative to body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals. Demand has also been on the rise because of the potential for toxic lawn chemicals to be tracked in the home. A 1996 study found that 2,4-D could be tracked from lawns into homes, leaving residues of the herbicide in carpets.

Chemical use promotes insect and weed resistance, which leads to further pesticide use, all of which costs more money. Alternative service providers say that creating a healthy organic lawn will naturally deter pests from a property for years to come. Cutting back on chemical use and managing the source of the pest problem saves the homeowner money in the long term, according to practitioners.

Landscape companies are picking up on consumer demand for less toxic means of lawn care. Many companies now offer an integrated pest management (IPM) program for interested clients, while others have switched entirely to organic practices. Beyond Pesticides, as a service to these companies and least-toxic structural IPM companies, and to the consumers searching for them, has a free online directory, called the Safety Source for Pest Management, searchable by state and service category.

If you would like your company included in the Safety Source, please fill out our Service Providers Directory Form and mail to Beyond Pesticides, or call 202-543-5450 to give us your information over the phone. This is a free service! For those interested in do-it-yourself lawn care, see Beyond Pesticides' fact sheet Least-toxic Control of Lawn Pests and our article Lawn Mowers and Leaf Piles: Fall is Prime Time for Lawn Care.