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

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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. 

We've been trained to think that pest-damaged produce is tainted or contaminated. But "that's only because we've all grown up eating pesticide-treated produce," says Shay.

A few bug-bite-sized holes in your tomatoes may take them out of blue-ribbon territory, but they're fine to eat after a simple washing. "There's no reason to grab a chemical sprayer seeking revenge," Shay quips.

Cutting down on insecticide use won't just clean up that abstract thing called "the environment," adds McRandle. It also helps keep your house clean. "Multiple studies show pesticides get tracked into the home, and end up on floors and countertops," he says.

Still stuck with some household hazardous waste you can't get rid of? McRandle advises checking out earth911.org. "They have information there about disposing of just about anything, zeroed in on your ZIP code," he says. They make it easy for you."

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Reviewed on December 23, 2008
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