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Truly Green Lawns are Safe Lawns

Organic Lawn Care May Soon be the Only Legal Option in the U.S.

Dr. Alan Vinitsky, a noted pediatrican and author, addresses the SafeLawns.org gathering about the threat of lawn chemicals to children.

Canada is leading the way to a future in which it's illegal to spread chemicals on your lawn. In May of 1991, the small town of Hudson, Quebec, located just west of Montreal, adopted a law restricting the use of lawn pesticides on all property, privately held or municipally owned. The news barely made a ripple a year later when two lawn-care companies, Chemlawn and Spraytech, were hit with a fine of $300 dollars (Canadian) for spraying pesticides in the town.

What happened next, however, set a chain of events in motion. Chemlawn and Spraytech, angry about losing their share of the few hundred potential customers in Hudson, took the town to local court—and lost. The companies appealed to Quebec Superior Court—and lost again. Still not willing to let the matter rest, the companies appealed all the way to the Canadian Supreme Court. In a process that took two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars, the little town that could won the case for good on June 28, 2001. Chemlawn and Spraytech even had to pay Hudson's court costs.

"Permitting the town to regulate pesticide use is consistent with international law's 'precautionary principle,' which states it is better to be overly cautious than to create a potential risk to the environment," wrote Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dube in defending the Hudson decision.

In the end, the costs to Chemlawn and Spraytech were far greater; spurred by Hudson's initiative, other cities and towns took up the fight. As a result, it is now against the law to apply lawn pesticides around homes or public spaces anywhere in the entire province of Quebec. A ferocious three-year lobbying effort by the chemical industry was turned aside and the law—the most stringent pesticide ban anywhere in North America—became final on April 3, 2007.

Is the U.S. Next?

Long before Hudson, Quebec, ultimately won its court case and radically changed Canadian law, other towns south of the border began to take notice. From Marblehead, MA, to Hebron, CT, and throughout New York, local lawmakers started taking matters into their own hands. Today, Connecticut has state legislation mandating organic lawncare for all schools.

Lawn Facts
Don't P on the Lawn
Brochure available at Gardener's Supply stores in Vermont .

Did you know there are approximately 33 million acres of lawn in the U.S.? How we care for our lawns has a huge impact on the environment and health.

Here's why:

  • Scientific studies have found numerous negative health consequences associated with the synthetic chemicals found in traditional lawn care products.
  • A report by the National Academy of Sciences shows that the health of 1 in 7 people is negatively impacted in some form by lawn pesticides.
  • NASA scientists estimate that lawn run-off contributes up to 20 percent of the water pollution that causes "the Dead Zone" at the basin of the Mississippi River in the Gulf of Mexico. "The Dead Zone" is an area the size of Rhode Island where no fish or sea life can exist due to eutrification, a term used to describe the removal of oxygen from the water because of excessive amounts of decomposed organic matter and nutrients.
  • Studies on Long Island show that up to 60 percent of synthetic nitrogen applied to lawns ends up contaminating ground water.
  • Phosphorus (P), a common lawn fertilizer, is one of the most troublesome pollutants in stormwater runoff. It is the primary cause of water quality problems in Lake Champlain and many other local lakes and rivers. About 37% of Lake Champlain's phosphorus problem comes from neighborhoods and cities.

 

What You Can Do

In Vermont, Gardener's Supply initiated the Vermont Green Lawn Coalition—a group of nonprofit groups and businesses that urge homeowners to use organic fertilizers and pesticides. The coalition is headed by a wetlands biologist from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. She has coordinated a new brochure called Don't "P" on the Lawn, which is available at our retail stores. For more information, call the Vermont Master Gardener Helpline (800) 639-2230.

Nationally, we're involved with Safe Lawns a national nonprofit group whose mission is to create a broad-based coalition of non- and for-profit organizations committed to educating society about the benefits of organic lawn care and gardening, and effect a quantum change in consumer and industry behavior.

Gardener's Supply has been promoting the benefits of natural lawn care for 25 years. We know from experience that you don't need chemicals to have a lush, green lawn. In most cases, a healthy, organic lawn is far easier and less expensive to maintain. To learn more, visit one of our Vermont retail stores or see our online Guide to Natural Lawn Care.

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