Our work with activists across the region to reduce the use and impacts of pesticides has been extremely gratifying. Take a moment to get to know Sue Crothers, one of the community activists MPAC is currently working with to reduce pesticide use in River Forest.

MPAC: You serve as President of the River Forest Parks Foundation, you are a Core Team member for Oak Park River Forest’s sustainability plan, PlanItGreen, and you fund environmental initiatives through your own family foundation, Manaaki Foundation. Why did you decide to get involved with the issue of pesticides?

Sue: I believe that the overuse of pesticides within our daily lives, from agriculture to domestic home usage and usage on the municipal level have contributed to environmental degradation and possible major health issues.  The World Health Organization just released their latest report that glyphosate, the major ingredient in Roundup, to be a possible carcinogen and science continues to connect the dots between exposure to pesticides and health issues.   I also believe that change will only occur if the public is educated on the negative health effects and environmental impact.

MPAC: If there is one thing you could change immediately about pesticide use in your community of River Forest, what would it be?

Sue: Eliminate mosquito fogging and move toward larviciding.

MPAC: How long have you been working on the issue of sustainable lawn care and landscaping?

Sue: On a personal level, my husband and I have been chemical free with our lawn care for approximately 7 years.  This is the first year of taking this concept to the community level.

MPAC: What has been your biggest frustration?

Sue: Apathy.   People are often unconcerned by this issue because they lack information and therefore do not understand the connection between chemical usage and the environmental impact, or worse they are unaware of any negative health effects.

MPAC: On the flip side, what about successes? Can you point to any progress you’ve made?

Sue: Yes we have made progress on many fronts.  Through the work of local groups and organizations such as the PlanItGreen, The One Earth Film Festival, Wild Ones and the River Forest Parks Foundation we have made great progress with regard to public education and measurable change.  For example, our Green Block Party Program, has increased composting throughout the community and curbside compost collection may soon become a reality. With the PlanItGreen Sustainability Plan, we have seen a decrease in energy use in River Forest by 7.4% from 2007 to 2014., water consumption has also decreased by 7.5% over a similar period.  The public is becoming more aware of environmental issues every day because of our work. The Parks Foundation’s Healthy Lawn, Healthy Family program is another tool that we hope, through education and incentive, will have a positive impact.

MPAC: What has been the most useful aspect of the help MPAC has provided?

Sue: Experience and expertise.  Their knowledge and assistance to create our promotional material has been instrumental. As they are considered an authority on the issue of pesticides they also bring credibility to our campaign.

MPAC: Do you have any advice for others who want to take on similar change in their community?

Sue: Collaboration is the key.  The Parks Foundation is working with the Village of River Forest, MPAC, Wild Ones, the Park District and local business to create and implement this program.  We are not working as a lone ranger. Rather, we have gathered together other stake holders, experts and organizations, then included business to support the local green economy.  We believe this is a more holistic and therefore successful approach.

MPAC: You are an inspiration to those people that feel we all have a responsibility to the environment and want to do something to impact the future. What is one change people can make for a large collective impact?

Sue: I don’t think that there is one silver bullet. For instance, choosing to vermicompost, buying organic or locally sourced food, creating a back yard compost, choosing to use natural lawn care products or planting natives, are all modest steps on their own, however together they can improve soil and food quality, conserve water and have positive health, economic and environmental consequences.  They therefore have a large collective impact.