During Chicago Grows Green Week communities, advocates, and nonprofits envision a future Chicago landscape without synthetic lawn chemicals.
No pesticides, no “Keep off the Grass” signs, and no environmental and health risks. That’s the future the Midwest Pesticide Action Center (MPAC), Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, and many others hope to demonstrate during Chicago Grows Green Week, May 11th – 19th (CGG Week).
“At the MWRD, we have a policy that restricts the use of toxic and persistent herbicides that pose a threat to the safety of human health and the environment,” said MWRD Commissioner Frank Avila. “I encourage residents to implement organic lawn care to protect not only their health, but the health of our air, water, and soil.”
Demonstrations and activities throughout the week focus on building soil organic matter, the key to achieving healthy plant life.
“Unlike pesticides, which deplete soil health, natural lawn care and organic gardening builds the soil, turf, and plant system at every step,” said Ruth Kerzee, Executive Director of MPAC. “Every dollar spent improves public health and the quality of soil, air, and water.”
The Naperville Park District, Riverdale Park District, and Chicago Park District all manage turf grass properties with a natural lawn care approach that restores soil quality and limits or eliminates synthetic lawn pesticide and fertilizer use. For CGG Week, these entities will open their properties and/or share their strategies with the public.
“The Riverdale Park District is committed to using only organic fertilizers to enhance the landscape and upkeep our community parks,” said Riverdale Park District’s Executive Director, Kendall Parrott. “We are committed to saving the environment while ensuring that our parks and open spaces are safe for all residents.”
As pesticide use continues to rise in both urban and residential areas, a growing body of scientific research links pesticides to a host of behavioral, reproductive, immune and nervous system disorders, including asthma, birth defects, and several kinds of cancer.
“These risks are most dangerous for our children, who are still developing and exhibit behaviors, such as putting grass in their mouths, that make them susceptible to exposure,” said Kerzee.
Kerzee will elaborate on these harms and how to avoid them alongside MWRD commissioners and other partners on Friday, May 11th, 1 pm for the Chicago Grows Green Week Kickoff at Riverdale Park District’s Ivanhoe Fieldhouse (see bit.ly/CGGweekKF).
“In a region known for its copious rain, everything we put on our lawns and grounds turns into runoff in our pipe and water supply,” said Dr. Rachel Havrelock, Founder and Director of the UIC Freshwater Lab. “When you plant, consider the impacts on your own body and before you add pesticides or fertilizers, ask yourself if you’d like to drink their contents.”
While Friday focuses mostly on the problem of lawn and garden pesticide and fertilizer use, the rest of the week stresses and demonstrates the solutions. In Chicago’s neighborhoods of Pullman (May 12th) and Veteran’s Park (May 15th), CGG Week partners will share organic gardening tips and practices to residents through games and activities (see bit.ly/CGGpullman and bit.ly/CGGveterans). In Naperville, residents will show their appreciation for the NPD’s new pesticide-free park program by volunteering to hand pull dandelions on May 17th (see bit.ly/CGGnaperville). Finally on Saturday, May 19th, citizen action groups of the Deep Roots Project, Go Green Brookfield, and more gather to share their natural lawn care and sustainable landscaping successes and progress at Dig Right In Landscaping, Inc.’s warehouse, 9900 Derby Lane, Westchester, for the CGG Week Celebration and Compost Tea Sale (see bit.ly/CGGcelebration).
More information on Chicago Grows Green Week can be found at bit.ly/CGGweek. Visit MPAC’s Midwest Grows Green website (see bit.ly/MGGweb) to learn more about the natural lawn care approach and make an actionable commitment to reduce your own synthetic lawn pesticide and fertilizer use by taking the MGG pledge (visit bit.ly/MGGpledge). This work is proudly supported by both the Oberweiler Foundation and Patagonia. Other partners include the Advocates for Urban Agriculture and the University of Chicago Program on the Global Environment.