"The choice, after all, is ours to make. If, after having endured much, we have at last asserted our "right to know," and if, knowing, we have concluded that we are being asked to take senseless and frightening risks, then we should no longer accept the counsel of those who tell us that we must fill our world with poisonous chemicals; we should look about and see what other course is open to us." (Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1962)
Seasonal Safety Tips: The template below is an example of the brief but attention-grabbing item to use as a flyer or as a public service announcement for community newspapers, radio and TV, and articles for community organization, parent group, school, and camp blogs, newsletters, websites, etc.
<><><><><><><><> Seasonal Safety Tips
Fall (of Spring or Summer) is here. (Your group's name) offers these tips for a safer season.
Be alert for pesticide warning signs.
Teach children to stay away from areas where pesticide warning signs are posted.
Avoid taking walks or exercising where you see landscapers applying chemicals to lawns, trees or shrubbery.
Do not walk on granules that may be scattered on streets and sidewalks to avoid tracking the residue into your home where it accumulates on carpets.
Educate your neighbors and friends about safe, ecological approaches to insect and weed control.
Ask neighbors to notify you in advance if they plan to spray or employ contractors to apply pesticides. Then, close windows to keep the spray or vapor cloud from drifting into your home. Keep children and pets inside. Cover up play equipment, sandboxes, garden vegetables and lawn furniture. Wash them off before children play on them.
Consider keeping children off lawn areas that have been treated with pesticides even after the warning signs are gone.
More Information: (Your number here)
Keys to Pollution Prevention: Partnerships, Publicity, Persistence
STARTING THE CONVERSATION...
A few years ago, arriving early to set up an exhibit about Alternatives to Pesticides at the annual Toxics Action Center Conference at a local college, I was dismayed to see yellow pesticide application signs on the lawn surrounding the building. I had been inhaling deeply from the exertion of carrying a heavy box of supplies; but I immediately caught my breath, suddenly wary of the chilly air.
I have never been a big fan of notification and posting requirements. Pesticide notifications or warning signs do not give us a chance to avoid exposure or to negotiate protection. But notification can be a first step. Pesticide use is so pervasive that, even if we don't use pesticides, if our neighbors do we are still at risk of poisoning. So to avoid pesticides, we have to get involved at the community level.
Promoting notification can be a good way to start a neighborhood dialogue and put pesticide reduction on a community's public policy agenda. Many school and community surveys reveal that most pesticide use goes on without public notice or public involvement. Efforts to make information about the use of toxics visible to the public can promote accountability and cooperation from public and private users. It can open the door for organic and ecological choices for lawn care and pest control.
Becoming an effective advocate for alternative approaches to pest control can be a daunting challenge. It is a big advantage to be active in your school, neighborhood, congregation, or community. These memberships and relationships give you a recognized voice and a basis for sharing personal and political goals. Think of all your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and local and state representatives as potential allies for both community education and public policy initiatives.
At any meeting or event, listen patiently for concerns related to the environment, cancer, learning disabilities, infertility, asthma, allergies, autism, pets, wildlife, birds, gardening, school indoor air quality, organic food, preserving habitat, and improving air and water quality. There is a pesticide connection to each of them.
Contact people planning for Earth Day and other community events or organizing a social action committee for a student group or congregation. Your community networks can help raise awareness in ever-widening circles of influence.
Even a small number of like-minded people can approach local government officials and policy makers with specific educational, environmental and public health goals.
After a small group of citizens organized GreenCAP as a committee of the respected Green Decade Coalition/Newton (Massachusetts), we benefited from this collaborative approach. We linked with the Newton Conservators, the Health Department, the Parks and Recreation Department and the Conservation Commission to win a grant from the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute/UMass/Lowell to help promote our goal of pesticide reduction.
Local publicity about the grant raised visibility for our goals among policy makers and in the community.
The funding enabled us to purchase and create resources to become a clearinghouse about alternatives to pesticides. We invited environmental health, child health, cancer prevention organizations, garden clubs and other interest groups to cosponsor our public events.
GreenCAP also joined the Ecological Landscapers Association and the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) to help match local contractors with consumers looking for ecological landscaping services.
The Newton Free Public Library was a host and cosponsor for our educational programs and exhibits. It posted our Alternatives to Pesticides and Organic Gardening bibliographies on its website.
After winning our town official's unanimous endorsement for Alternatives to Pesticides Month for two years, Newton officially adopted IPM as city policy for all its buildings and grounds on September 11, 1997, and established an IPM advisory committee mandated to eliminate pesticides from all public buildings and grounds.
Another example of community collaboration is the Marblehead (MA) Pesticide Awareness Committee (MPAC). It has won several Toxics Use Reduction Institute grants to create the Living Lawn, a demonstration organic lawn project on a prominent town site, www.livinglawn.org. Pat Beckett, head of MPAC, also obtained continuing education credits from the Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture Pesticide Bureau for licensed contractors who attended full-day professional training programs devoted to organic landscaping. MPAC also worked with community partners such as the League of Women Voters, the local board of health, environmental groups and cancer-prevention activists to create a growing constituency of supporters.
Opportunities for partnerships are everywhere. Beyond Pesticides, www.beyond pesticides.org, initiated the national Partnership for Safe Mosquito Management to work for nontoxic mosquito control. Beyond Pesticides has also been the leader in promoting the national School Environment Protection Act (SEPA) to protect children from pesticides in school buildings and grounds.
Take advantage of local media. Collect and disseminate models of successful programs. GreenCAP's video, "Newton Goes Green: Say No to Pesticides," produced for the local cable channel, has won several local and national awards.
The video has brought GreenCAP increasing recognition within our community, across the state, and throughout the country. GreenCAP's video features Newton officials, community leaders, prominent environmental activists, and concerned citizens speaking about the economic and ethical reasons for reducing pesticide use as well as the health and environmental benefits. It runs frequently on the community's public access cable station, with a new companion video, "Naturally Great Gardens & Landscapes: A Guide To Organic Land Care."
Pollution prevention does not happen overnight. Be creative and persistent.
[ ] Be a reliable resource to local and state officials and local newspaper editors and writers. Keep them updated on local and national news (especially from non-industry sources). Write letters to the editor or contribute opinion columns about health, safety, and the environment to the local paper on a regular basis.
[ ] Offer your input when the U.S. EPA's calls for comments on new standards or restrictions. Promote resources such as the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides' (NCAP) publication Unthinkable Risks. Be the first one to share information about new state laws and regulations, such as the Massachusetts Children and Family Protection Act, a far-reaching law that restricts pesticide use in schools, requires notification and posting, requires schools to develop IPM plans, and creates a statewide pesticide database.
[ ] Call attention to research reports such as the one by Elizabeth Guillette that revealed pesticide injury in the young children of the Yaqui Valley in Mexico. (Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 106, No. 6, June 1998.)
[ ] Be pro-health, not anti-people. Plan to inform, not offend. Avoid making people feel bad or frightened about their choices or behavior. Relating fears of contamination and illness or getting too technical may frighten people away. Instead, present health and safety concerns in terms of personal or community benefits. Explain how a proposed change (such as choosing a landscaper who uses knowledge of horticulture instead of pesticides) can work better and be cost-effective.
[ ] Alert your friends and neighbors to be wary of those who define IPM as a bigger "tool box of treatments" including the "judicious use of pesticides." Point out that the people who rationalize the use of toxic chemicals make a profit selling those chemicals. Instead, promote more informed choices.
[ ] Use alternative lawn care signs. (See Resources below.) They are good conversation starters and help concerned individuals to identify each other. For example, in Wellesley, Massachusetts, the city's Natural Resource Department and the Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project adopted GreenCAP's logo as part of their green and white round lawn sign that says "Keep Wellesley Safe. Pesticide Free." GreenCAP's sign says "Pesticide Free: Too Precious to Poison." What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?
IPM is a problem-solving approach to pest control. IPM is intelligent pest management.
IPM is based on knowledge -- strategies that provide cost-effective, long-term control while protecting our health, the environment, and the healthy development of our children.
IPM uses site-specific information about the history, dynamic conditions and use of a site combined with knowledge of the pest's biology and behavior to prevent and control pests while enhancing the property.
Smart steps include adjusting irrigation, modifying mowing practices, and improving maintenance and sanitation to remedy conditions that attract pests and allow them to thrive.
Making a difference
Partnerships, publicity, and persistence can help everyone breathe more easily.
After joining the planning committee for the Toxics Action Center Conference and planning with the facilities department, they promised that there would be no pesticides used at the conference site. We finally implemented other environmentally responsible practices that those of us attending the event had talked about for years.
Today, if you are interested in stopping pesticide use, there are many sources of information, inspiration, and organized support that were unimaginable just a few short years ago.
Imagine the possibilities. Join us. _____ c. 2001, v. 2010 Ellie Goldberg
Ellie Goldberg, the founder of www.healthy-kids.info, was co-chair of GreenCAP, the Committee for Alternatives to Pesticides of the Green Decade Coalition/Newton, www.greendecade.org, and is a board member of many state and national education, health and environmental organizations. (A version of this article appeared in the Human Ecologist.)
The world endures solely by virtue of the breath of school children. (Talmud)