What you can do right now

1. Stop using pesticides & chemical fertilizers

Photo Shutterstock

Scientists repeatedly tell us that pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides are the major contributing factor in our catastrophic collapse of bird, insect and pollinator species. Insects are facing a rate of extinction eight times faster than mammals and birds yet they are absolutely essential for our natural systems to function. Americans use more than 70 million pounds of herbicides on their lawns annually.

LET’S STOP POISONING OURSELVES
Beyond Pesticides, an advocacy organization focused on the impact of chemicals on our environment, lists 30 of the most common pesticides: (herbicides, insecticides and fungicides) along with their health dangers and appropriate research sources. Sixteen are carcinogenic, 12 are linked to birth defects, 21 are linked to reproductive effects, 25 with liver or kidney damage, 14 with neuro-toxicity and 17 with links to disruptions in the endocrine (hormonal) system.

WHAT WE DO IN OUR YARDS AFFECTS OUR WATERSHED HEALTH

Photo by Stephan Van Dam

Land development results in soil compaction, which reduces rainwater infiltration. Our Peconic watershed has seen a steady and rapid growth of population and development, resulting in rising pollution, contaminated storm runoff, loss of both habitat and ecological resilience.

Turf lawns rival agriculture in use of fertilizers, pesticides and water. According to an EPA study of New England, somewhere between 40 to 60% of that ends up in surface and groundwater.  When it rains, our roadways become rivers carrying the nitrogen and chemical components of fertilizers and pesticides into our harbors, estuaries, lakes and bays.

WANT TO DRINK YOUR LAWN?
Algae blooms, red tides, and dead zones in the waters surrounding Eastern Long Island have become an increasing problem. High nitrogen content in the water is the major culprit. It sucks out the oxygen that marine life depends upon. It also adds to the poisons in our drinking water.

Photo by Stephan Van Dam

In 2012 New York State banned the inclusion of phosphorous in fertilizers which was starving fish of oxygen in local waters. While the most popular fertilizer brands — like Scott’s Green Fertilizer and Miracle Grow Lawn Food — now indicate the absence of phosphorous they are still nitrogen bombs. While one brand may indicate 27% nitrogen and 56% other ingredients, the secret is in those “other ingredients.” Like ammonium sulfate, and Urea, they are mostly nitrogen additives or boosters.

Two decades ago, marine scientists studying the Peconic estuaries of Eastern Long Island discovered that 50% of the nitrogen load in the groundwater came from fertilizers.  That led Suffolk County (which covers the Eastern area of Long Island) to pass legislation in 2009 governing the use of fertilizers on lawns and farms.  They stipulated that fertilizers could only be applied between April 1 and Nov. 1. That’s a seven-month period when you are allowed to use fertilizers. Hardly a restriction! And golf courses and athletic fields are excluded from this regulation.  In Suffolk County that’s a huge exception.

Algae blooms on Long Island

SAVING THE BAYS STARTS IN OUR YARDS!
What we do on land determines the future of our water. What happens on land affects the water quality and health of our bays and estuaries. For more details on Pesticides and fertilizers see:

“Our lawns are killing us” by Gail Pellett

What we are listening to:

“Rethink Your Lawn…” The NY Times garden columnist, Margaret Roach, interviews ecological horticulturist, Dan Jaffe Wilder.

Sources:

The Barnegat Bay Partnership, 
Yard to Bay

Forget What your Neighbors Think, Stop dousing your Lawn with so much Fertilizer,
The Washington Post, March 11, 2015.

The Audubon Society on Lawn Pesticides