Nature Conservancy scientist offers lawn tips

RICHLAND — This week, I received an email from The Nature Conservancy chapter in our state that included a dispatch from Florida marine scientist Stephanie Wear.

It may prompt more folks to re-think their approach to lawns.

"After several years of living out of my suitcase, sleeping on couches, and hotel living — I settled down, got married and had a baby. I moved into a quiet subdivision in central Florida that seemed like a great place to raise a family. Little did I know what lurked behind the fragrant hibiscus bushes and towering live oak trees…pesticide-happy neighbors and a home owners’ association that is not receptive to environmentally friendly approaches to lawn care and gardening."

Wear notes her newly adopted town served as an example in the documentary Gimme Green, which examines America's fascination with green lawns. The chemicals applied to lawns in her community go straight through the sand spit and into their aquifer.

She lists the trickle down effect as toxic algal blooms (sometimes called red tides), the overgrowth of seaweed in coral reefs communities and human exposure to toxic substances through consumption of contaminated seafood.

Gimme Green claimed that of the 30 pesticides most commonly used on lawns, 26 are linked to serious human illness including cancer and major organ disease, and 24 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms.

Thanks to my wife, I no longer have a lawn to mow or pay someone else to mow. Without that lawn, there's no need for chemical applications. And we've saved a lot of $$ on our water bill over the years.

Earlier this spring, however, I spent some time kayaking and snorkeling in the Gulf of Mexico. More than once, local guides wistfully said their coral communities are declining. That's why Wear's comments hit me harder than they would have before our Caribbean cruise.

"As a marine scientist, I’ll be blunt," Wear wrote, "What you do to your lawn makes a difference to the oceans."

On a local note, remember that Earth Day is just around the corner on the 22nd, but we already are deep into Mid-Columbia Earth Month.