Long Island's Earth Day: A Commitment to Clean Water Environmental Groups Challenge Homeowners: Dump High Nitrogen Fertilizers and Chemical Pesticides
(Port Washington) A coalition of more than thirty environmental and civic associations is planning to make a big splash on Earth Day this year with the public announcement of the I Love Long Island campaign, a consumer awareness initiative designed to protect ground and surface water from pollution by reducing the use of high nitrogen fertilizers and chemical pesticides used on lawns.
"Not only do we live on an island, but we live on a very special island where we get our drinking water from aquifers under our feet," says Doug Wood, Associate Director of Grassroots Environmental Education who conceived the campaign. "My guess is that most people who buy high nitrogen synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides for their lawns have no idea they're polluting their own water. We're going to change that." While the groups concede that high nitrogen lawn fertilizer is not the primary cause for algal blooms and fish kills, they cite water experts who peg the impact of lawn fertilizer at somewhere between 8 and 15 percent, depending on the season, the weather and hydrogeology of the area. The campaign is advocating the use of slow-release lawn fertilizers with less than 10% nitrogen. A list of available products is on the campaign website. "We've got a vibrant oyster industry here on Long Island," says Chris Quartuccio, President of the Blue Island Oyster Farm and a founder of non-profit Operation Blue Earth. "But we absolutely depend on clean water. Algal blooms and brown tides caused by too much nitrogen are a real threat to our future."
"This is the low hanging fruit in the fight against excess nitrogen," says Marshall Brown, one of the Co-Founders of Save the Great South Bay and a primary sponsor of the campaign. "If we can get homeowners to make this simple change, we could have a major impact on the quality of our water with virtually no cost." Chemical pesticides designed to kill insects, weeds and fungus also take their toll on the environment and find their way into our drinking water. Some of the chemicals contained in the most popular "Weed and Feed" lawn products are the same as those used in Agent Orange during the Vietnam war. "Using high nitrogen fertilizers and chemical pesticides creates a drug-dependent lawn that is unsustainable," says landscape designer Edwina von Gal whose organization, Perfect Earth Project, is also sponsoring the campaign. "We have to face the fact that we live in a fragile environment here on Long Island - one we need to protect for the sake of our children and grandchildren." The I Love Long Island campaign will kick off on Earth Day, April 22nd, and consists of consumer Pledges not to use pesticides or high nitrogen fertilizers, large bright blue yard signs for homeowners, online listings of landscapers offering natural lawn care services, and in-store signage for participating retailers. Pledge cards and lawn signs will be available through dozens of participating organizations. Residents can also sign the Pledge and order lawn signs online at the campaign website, www.ILoveLongIsland.org. Organizations supporting the I Love Long Island campaign include Save the Great South Bay, The Perfect Earth Project, Operation Blue Earth, Grassroots Environmental Education, Group for the East End, The Pine Barrens Society, Water for Long Island, Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE), The Peconic Baykeeper, Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor, North Shore Audubon Society, Peconic Green Growth, The Sustainability Institute at Molloy College, Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon, Neighborhood Network, Operation Splash!, the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island (CRESLI), Seatuck Environmental Center, Defend H2O, The Open Space Council, The North Shore Land Alliance, Accabonac Protection Committee, South Shore Audubon Society, Save the Sound, North Fork Environmental Council, North Fork Audubon Society, Concerned Citizens of Montauk and Audubon New York. More information at www.ILoveLongIsland.org. Hi-resolution photos are available.
‘I Love Long Island’ Campaign Tackles Harmful Lawn Fertilizers A local environmental group is taking the fight against water pollution straight to Long Islanders’ lawns through a new “I Love Long Island” campaign meant to curb the use of potentially harmful high-nitrogen fertilizers. BY RASHEDMIAN - APRIL 11, 2017
To raise awareness about pesticides and high-nitrogen fertilizer, Doug Wood, associate director of Grassroots Environmental Education, founded ILoveLongIsland.org. The site provides educational material about certain lawn products and encourages people to sign a pledge to refrain from using fertilizers containing 10 percent nitrogen or more on their property. A coalition of more than 30 environmental groups has already signed the pledge.
“This is like heroin for your lawn,” Wood said, explaining that grass and plants eventually become too dependent on such products to survive.
Part of the problem is people are constantly seeking “that perfect lawn…but they don’t realize there’s a payment for this,” he said, adding that stormwater runoff can lead to contaminated drinking water, algae blooms and fish kills. Wood sees an opportunity in changing people’s habits toward how they treat their lawns.
“This is a problem that people can do something about,” he said.
Along with launching the new website, GEE is creating 500 “I Love Long Island” lawn signs that will be ready for distribution on Earth Day, and he commissioned a short video explaining the potential dangers associated with high-nitrogen products. The animated video, “I Love Long Island—The Movie,” depicts a Long Islander convincing his neighbor who enjoys fishing to make the switch to more environmentally friendly products.
One of the biggest threats to Long Island’s water supply is nitrogen, which can seep into the Island’s many waterways and vulnerable underground aquifers, which are the main source of the region’s drinking water. While nitrogen produced by wastewater has been blamed for threatening protective marshlands, experts also point to other pollutants and fertilizer as possible factors of environmental degradation.
Wood acknowledges that many homeowners are simply unaware about the effects of high-nitrogen products, and he’s sympathetic to landscapers who understand potential consequences but are “kind of forced by the market to use these chemicals.” He also understands that the higher price tag associated with organic fertilizers can be a deterrent.
“I’m not trying to take business away from anybody…I’d like to see everyone do well,” he said.
In the past, Wood’s organization has trained more than 1,000 landscapers in the science of lawn care, and was hired by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to train school facility directors on the topic. New York, he noted, is the only state in the country that prohibits pesticides on school grounds. Now Wood and a coalition of groups that signed on to the “I Love Long Island” pledge are hoping to educate residents who want to do their part in protecting the region’s natural resources.