(Beyond Pesticides, August 5, 2008) Under pressure from activists and shareholders to change its chemical dependent lawn care practices, TruGreen””the world’s largest lawn and landscape care company, has joined the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP). Although the voluntary move comes with a pledge to reduce pesticide use, the company’s reformed practices will still fall short of organic land care, which does not utilize toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Organic land care is effective, affordable and better for human health and the environment, but TruGreen has failed to commit to organic methods.
The PESP is a voluntary program started in 1994. According to the EPA, “By joining PESP, organizations pledge that environmental stewardship is an integral part of pest management, and they commit to working toward innovative practices that reduce risk to human health and the environment.” One of the benefits of joining the PESP for companies, according to the EPA website, is that “Membership may enhance public perception of your organization, constituent support, and employee morale.” Underneath this enticement to join is the clear potential for “greenwashing,” or the promotion of a product or service as environmentally friendly when the veracity of such claims is dubious.
The interpretation of “environmental stewardship” as incorporated in the pledge to join the PESP varies, and membership on the PESP is not limited to companies and organizations that have adopted environmentally sensitive practices. Among the PESP members is CropLife Foundation, which is part of CropLife America, an organization of pesticide producers whose members include notorious producers of toxic chemicals such as Dow Agrosciences, FMC Corporation, Monsanto, and Syngenta. CropLife Foundation’s pledge for the PESP amounts to educational programs regarding the proper storage and disposal of pesticide containers.
TruGreen’s PESP strategy is admittedly more focused on pesticide use reduction than that of the CropLife Foundation, but without taking the step to eliminate all toxic pesticides, the move cannot be applauded as truly “green,” but merely greener. TruGreen has pledged to select products that fit an “overall reduced risk strategy,” which includes “reduced risk products applied as basal drenches or with effective injection systems to reduce air-borne application of pesticides to landscapes.” However, their criteria for reduced risk products is undefined. The EPA’s list of reduced risk pesticides includes glyphosate and fipronil, two products with proven deleterious health and environmental effects.
With 3.4 million residential and commercial customers, TruGreen has the potential to transform the industry of land care, but until they pledge to adopt organic methods, Beyond Pesticides encourages consumers to find service providers that use less- and non-toxic chemicals.
Source: Market Watch