(This is in the main a reblog of an opinion piece by Andrew Gottlieb, APCC)
May 7, 2019
by Andrew Gottlieb, Executive Director, Association to Preserve Cape Cod
Fresh off the taping of a Lower Cape TV segment on the merits of continuation of Eversource’s use of herbicides, I am reminded of the importance of individual behavior. While not in any way making Eversource’s herbicide use ok, the persistent and excessive household use of herbicides and pesticides needs to change. Eversource points the finger at household use as a justification for its practices, but the fact is that true resource protection and restoration relies on big changes in personal behavior.
Just go to any garden center or box store and you will be confronted with gallons and gallons of pesticides and herbicides, and pounds and pounds of fertilizers. The marketing messages are clear: You need this and more is better. Both are wrong. Spend your money and time on native plantings and minimizing your lawn. Your water use and chemical bills will go down and you will help restore ecological balance and habitat one yard at a time. You will become part of the solution to water quality problems instead of part of the cause.
So resist the siren song and turn your back on the chemicals. And while you are at it, we can help build pressure on big users like Eversource to be leaders by example.
I have written about sustainable landscaping before, although not with an emphasis upon herbicide use. I have mentioned that elsewhere, though.
While Mr Gottlieb, who I admire, might not agree with the following, he implicitly brings up an argument which is made not only by the purveyors of pesticides and herbicides, but also by (some) fossil fuel companies. That argument is that they merely produce a product for the shelves of stores, and it is not their responsibility how their product is used or what consequences it has. That’s a bit starker and, to my mind, more honest than what they actually argue, but there it is.
Mr Gottlieb argues for personal choice and convincing people. I’m not sure how that will work out. It surely hasn’t with fossil fuel use. And there are home yard maintenance businesses with low barriers to entry which rely upon application of pesticides and herbicides to produce enough earnings per unit time to remain afloat.
Accordingly, I would prefer to see stronger extended producer responsibility here. That is, the manufacturers of products need to take a cradle-to-grave responsibility for their products and their effects, environmental, health, and otherwise. I don’t mean this needs to be enshrined in legislation, but I am skeptical such manufacturers or their trade organizations will jump to volunteer that. Accordingly, legislation is required. There surely is a case for such responsibility with respect to solid waste, notably in packaging. There are organizations advocating such responsibility for herbicides and pesticides, much of it in connection with household hazardous waste.
People pay for household hazardous waste at least twice. Once is off the shell. A second time is in taxes paid to towns for collecting and disposing of excess. But there are third and fourth costs, including human health costs, and environmental costs, at least in ecological services such as honeybees and ramifications of mortality in insectivore birds.