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Your Health and the Environment: Protecting Your Piece of the Planet


Cut Emissions, Not Just the Grass continued...

Excessive fertilizer lets nitrogen travel quickly through soil to pollute groundwater.

What you can do:

  • Test your soil: if nitrogen is already high, you don't need fertilizer.
  • Don't fertilize before a rain, to avoid fertilizer runoff
  • Use certified organic or other natural fertilizer; it's just as effective, but with less pollution.

Gas-powered mowers burn millions of gallons of gas each year, costing us in lost fuel resources and increased pollution and greenhouse gases.

What you can do:

  • Use an electric or manual push lawn mower rather than a gas-powered mower. The new push mowers are self-sharpening, and the only energy they burn comes straight off your midsection.
  • Leave lawn clippings as fertilizing mulch, instead of sending bags full of grass to the landfill (which is actually illegal in some states). Or put them in your compost pile.

Pesticides and herbicides are overused on lawns, many experts say, creating needless stress on the environment and posing health risks to children and pets.

What you can do:

  • Learn to live with a few weeds here and there. (A little crabgrass never hurt anyone.)
  • Talk to your local nursery about eco-friendly insecticides and herbicides, or look in your pantry for simple, safe remedies. Spray vinegar on a weed on a hot day and watch it wilt in moments. Pouring boiling water on weeds will have the same effect (be careful to only hit the plants you don't want).
  • Mow your grass a little higher to help crowd out weeds.
  • Visit for information about the environmental and health impacts of conventional pesticides, as well as safer alternatives for almost any pest problem.

More than a third of urban fresh water is used to water lawns.

What you can do:

  • Water your lawn only in the early morning or at night, when it's cool.
  • Talk to a landscaper about how to use native plants, which are well-adapted to your area and can survive on rainfall

Growing Greener (Bugs and All)

A backyard garden is a great way to get connected to nature, save money, and enjoy fresh, delicious food. You can grow greener by adopting a few of the strategies organic farmers use to protect the land, says Shay.

What you can do:

  • Throw out the welcome mat to friendly insects. Spiders, wasps, beetles, and assassin bugs feed on pests, reducing the need for pesticides.
  • Plant nectar-producing plants (anise, dill, thyme) for helpful insects to feed on. Planting tropical milkweed or gaura plants invites insects that will gobble aphids and other pests.
  • Keep a birdbath or frequently sprinkle to provide a source of water. Use a pump or "water wiggler" to agitate the water -- mosquitoes won't lay eggs in moving water, and some bird-watchers believe ripples in the water attract more birds. 
Next Article:

Where do you store pesticides?