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Pollution Prevention (P2) for Consumers: In the Yard
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Improper or overuse of fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides can harm the environment and public health.1 Here are some suggestions to reduce the need for yard chemicals:

  • Test your soil to determine whether it actually needs any additional nutrients, and, if it does, which ones.
  • Select native plants suitable for the geographical location and conditions in your yard; native plants require fewer chemicals and less watering, and they will attract native birds and butterflies.
  • Put mulch over the soil to discourage weeds and reduce water loss through evaporation.
  • In situations where fertilizers, insecticides, or herbicides must be used, consumers should follow the directions carefully. Using too much or applying the chemicals incorrectly can cause harm, such as by polluting waterways, killing beneficial honeybees, or making children or pets sick.

Even regular use of pesticides can harm the environment. Studies have shown that children and pets living in homes that use pesticides have higher rates of cancer and other health problems.2 Integrated pest management (IPM) is a sustainable approach to managing pests that minimizes chemical use. IPM emphasizes the integration of multiple pest suppression technologies, some of which are appropriate for homeowners, such as:

  • Biological control (using beneficial organisms to control pests);
  • Mechanical and physical controls, such as traps; and
  • Cultural control (sanitation and other practices to reduce pest problems).

Thoughtful lawn maintenance can save money and resources. People in the U.S. spend over 30 billion dollars annually on lawn maintenance.3 Mowing grass to a height of about three inches is important for sustaining a happy and healthy lawn, and cuts down on water and energy use. Keeping grass length longer helps the roots grow deeper, making them better able to reach water. Longer grass also creates shade, which makes it harder for weeds to establish themselves. Also, after mowing the lawn, it is important to leave the clippings on the ground to provide free fertilizer. To save even more money, homeowners can reduce the size of their lawns by dedicating some portion of them to growing native plants.

Strategic landscaping can also reduce gas and electricity bills. Proper placement of trees can decrease the need to heat and cool homes by providing shade and wind breaks.

Composting yard and food waste (as described in the Food section) can reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and provide free fertilizer. Some towns have compost programs for the entire town.

1http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/DG2923.html, University of Minnesota Extension Service: Rosen, C. J. and Horgan, B. P., "Preventing Pollution Problems from Lawn and garden Fertilizers," 2005.
1http://www.beyondpesticides.org/gateway/, Beyond Pesticides, "Gateway on Pesticide Hazards and Safe Pest Management."
3http://www.sustland.umn.edu/maint/maint.htm#foot1, University of Minnesota referencing: Hull, R. J., Alm, S. R., and Jackson, N., Toward Sustainable Lawn Turf, in Handbook of Integrated Pest Management for Turf and Ornamentals, Leslie, A.R., Ed., Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, FL, 1994, chap. 1.

 

 

 

 

 


 

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Hub Last Updated: 1/8/2013