On the TV commercial, the Roundup-wielding suburban dad looks tough and capable. The chemical stream he aims immediately withers the upstart weeds growing in the cracks of his driveway. Within seconds, everything spic and span, he proudly swaggers back inside.
Those of us with less than perfect yards and driveways wince a bit in response and wonder, if we too, should tackle our weeds with this quick (and so convenient!) chemical killer, so we can live up to this suburban ideal. Then the representative from the pest-control company knocks on the door, promising ant-free kitchens with four easy sprays per year.
Yet, our streams, once vibrant with trout and steelhead, tell us to stop, because the ant killer is killing off the aquatic insects that feed the fish. And neither the Roundup dad on TV nor the pest-control company rep mentions that our diminishing bees signal they are suffering from household insecticides and herbicides, and need pesticide-free blooms in three seasons to gather their food and get home to safety and rest.
Meanwhile, our children and pets roll in the grass of our manicured lawns, never dreaming that the herbicide-laced Weed-n-Feed, sold in every big box store in town, might be hurting them.
Over the last few months in Oregon City, neighbors have started to proudly display Pesticide-Free Zone signs, emblazoned with ladybugs or bees. These signs carry a message that the resident has committed to practice safe, non-toxic ways to tackle home pests with help from the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides and other organizations advocating for a healthy world.
Lawn weeds can be dug, pulled or removed with great tools that spiral down with an easy push, removing the deep roots. Flower beds can be covered with thick layers of free arbor chips, creating beauty and enhancing the soil while deterring weeds. Sugar ants can be conquered by keeping our kitchens clean and our houses maintained. Invasive ivy can be smothered and blackberries mowed or simply dug up. Rats and mice can be excluded with properly fitted door sweeps, close attention to pipe openings, and reducing harborage around the house. In the event of an infestation, they can be killed with traps or — soon on the market — with dry ice. These alternatives may not be as convenient as what Monsanto and Dow/Dupont offers, but they also don't come with a price the world could never afford in the first place. These toxic chemical giants never asked you and I whether we even cared.
This is a better way. A safer way. A way that protects nature and the health of our children and pets.
Won't you join your neighbors and make a pesticide-free pledge today?
Find more information for how to manage common household weeds and pests, or make the pesticide-free pledge, at pesticide.org/pfn_oregon_city.
Sharon Selvaggio is healthy wildlife and water program director for the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides.
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