Smarter Business: Greening Advisor
Minimizing pesticides and fertilizers
Pesticides and fertilizers can cause significant harm to public health and the environment. Most pesticides contain potentially toxic chemicals that can cause negative health effects such as cancer and neurological and reproductive disorders. In addition, pesticides can migrate into lakes and streams when it rains. When fertilizers enter a body of water, they can cause oxygen levels to drop, killing aquatic life and posing risks to other species. Consider consulting with your company’s suppliers to determine if there are less-toxic alternatives to products you are currently using.
Reducing your business’s use of pesticides and fertilizers can also save money. Consider adopting the principles of integrated pest management outlined below to prevent infestations before they start.
Also consider asking your current pest control suppliers to become certified and provide you with a certified service. Several credible certification programs are available, making it easier than ever before to contract for effective, environmentally friendly pest control services. NRDC recommends the following certification programs: EcoWise Certified, GreenPro Certified and Green Shield Certified.
Reducing Pesticides and Fertilizers Can Save Money
It is possible to have healthy, great-looking plants and grass while minimizing the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers. Minimizing the use of these chemicals means that your business doesn’t need to purchase them as often, thereby saving money. Consider purchasing organic fertilizers (such as compost) or even composting your own food and landscaping wastes for use as a natural soil amendment.
Integrated Pest Management
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an approach to pest management that helps reduce the use of pesticides. IPM means preventing infestations before they start, and using pesticides only when necessary. There are various IPM approaches that your company can adopt to decrease its reliance on chemical-based pest control. Consider the steps below, and consult the additional resources at the end of this section for more information.
- Use native plants, trees, and grasses.
- Fill cracks in walls and pavement.
- Keep vegetation at least 1 foot away from structures.
- Clean food-contaminated dishes right away.
- Clean garbage cans often.
- Make sure compost bins are properly maintained.
Schools across the country have adopted IPM techniques to reduce children’s exposure to harmful pesticides. In Montgomery County, Maryland, for example, the school district reduced the number of pesticide applications from 5,000 in 1985 to zero in 1989 using IPM techniques. This reduction yielded an annual savings of $1,800 per school. Schools in Montgomery County, Indiana, reduced their annual pest management costs by more than $13,000 through IPM. Case Studies
Consult the resources below for more information on IPM. Though many guides are aimed at schools, the principles can easily be applied to other buildings and businesses.
- EPA: Integrated Pest Management for Schools
- University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program
- Green Shield Certified (Pest Management)
Pesticides and Fertilizer Product Specifications
A wide range of pesticide chemicals exist, and most of them are potentially harmful to public health and the environment. The best strategy is to reduce the amount of pesticides your company uses. If you must use pesticides, keep in mind that some pesticides are less harmful than others. Consider avoiding those that are classified as carcinogens, reproductive or developmental toxins, endocrine disruptors, or neurotoxins.
Pesticide products are categorized by toxicity on a scale of I–IV, with the lowest numeral indicating the highest toxicity. Consider buying products categorized as III or IV, and avoid those categorized as I or II. Categories III and IV are labeled “Caution,” while Category II products carry the label “Warning” and Category I products are labeled “Danger.”
Sample Letter to Current Suppliers
Our company has initiated an effort to improve its environmental performance in all aspects of its operations. Because you are our supplier of pesticides and fertilizer, we would like to meet with you to discuss this objective in more detail. We would also like to discuss ways to cost-effectively switch to less-harmful products within the next few years.
Pesticides and fertilizers can cause significant harm to public health and the environment. Most pesticides contain chemicals that can cause negative health effects such as cancer and neurological and reproductive disorders. In addition, pesticides and fertilizers can migrate into lakes and streams when it rains.
We would like to reduce as much as possible the harmful effects associated with our operations, and we would like to speak with you to ensure that the products we are purchasing do not contribute to these problems. In particular, we would like to talk to you about Green Shield Certified, a program that certifies environmentally preferable pest control companies.
We look forward to discussing this with you. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
- National Coalition Against the Use of Pesticides: Beyond Pesticides
- National Coalition Against the Use of Pesticides: Gateway on Pesticide Hazards
- National Coalition Against the Use of Pesticides: Alternatives
- EPA: Pesticides
- EPA: Topical & Chemical Fact Sheets
- Pesticide Action Network: Pesticides Database
- Pesticide Education Center: Educational Materials
- Food and Agriculture Organization: Fertilizers as Water Pollutants
- EPA: Local Drinking Water Quality
- US Department of Agriculture: Water Quality Information Center
- National Institutes of Health: ToxNet
- Environmental Benefits and Cost Savings Calculator for Purchasers
- EPA: Pesticide Product Information System
- Penn State: Pennsylvania Integrated Pest Management Program
Consider purchasing organic fertilizers (such as compost) or even composting your own food and landscaping wastes for use as a natural soil amendment.
Let us know.