Tag: chemical-free

Feb 17

For the Love of Dandelions

I love dandelions. Maybe “love” is a strong word, but I really do like dandelions.  I’m also a fan of what they represent: a chemical-free lawn.

Unfortunately, I live in an area where many lawns are chemically treated and mine tends to stand out…especially at the height of dandelion season.  I bite my lip, duck my head a little and wait for it to pass.  Luckily, it’s fairly short-lived.

Image via Unsplash/Natalia Luchanko

Let me say, I’m not *quite* a tree hugger (yet) and I do appreciate the beauty of emerald-green lawns and well-manicured gardens.  On the other hand, I’m even fonder of the health of our planet, not to mention the well-being of my kids and pets.

Therefore, the question I pose is this: are all the acres of green carpet really worth it?

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, “Homeowners use up to ten times more chemical pesticides per acre on their lawns than farmers use on crops, and they spend more per acre, on average, to maintain their lawns than farmers spend per agricultural acre.”  Likewise, a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey found our environment to be riddled with pesticides. Roundup specifically was found in 75 percent of air and rain.

Why are all these chemicals necessary, again?  Oh right, the dreaded dandelions.

Then, for those of us with eco-concerns, what are the options for healthy and attractive lawns?  Luckily, there are several.

Go native.  That can be our new mantra.  Native plants and flowers (essentially those which occur naturally in a given area) require less care (hooray!) and are more resistant to local pests, thereby reducing or eliminating the need for pesticides.  Of equal importance, native plants meet the specific needs of native animals and native insects, thereby helping to keep nature in balance.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?

So, now that we’re thinking native, where do we start planting?  Well, we can consider devoting a portion of our yards to natural meadow, full of wildflowers and other native plants.  Once established, such meadows would be nearly maintenance free (again, hooray!) requiring only single, late-winter mowings.  As another option, we could dedicate a section of our yards to evergreen ground cover or a landscape element, such as a collection of trees, a rock garden or water feature.  Also, by maximizing the plants per area in garden spaces, we can reduce the need for mulch and weed control.  It’s a win for us and the environment!

Our lawns, too, can be made healthier, with some adjustments.  In terms of mowing, making sure the blade is sharp, raising it to one of its highest settings, and avoiding cutting in the heat of the day will protect grass from unnecessary damage and make it more pest and weed resistant.  Don’t scrap those grass clippings, either.  They can be spread over lawns to act as natural mulch.  Other lawn-friendly practices include fertilizing with composted manure and avoiding over-watering.  To earn additional earth kudos, we can try aerating the soil, balancing its pH and seeding it with a mix of the types of grasses best suited to the area.  I found a wealth of information regarding soil testing, etc. at Penn State’s site.

If, however, you are loyally devoted to using sprays and solutions, it’s best to opt for those with organic or biologically based formulas.  Remember, though, that the benefits of these treatments can be short-lived and are likely to increase your lawn’s problems over time.

Image via Unsplash/Jason Long

The choice is yours.  As for me, I’ll be staying chemical free and learning to embrace the inevitable weeds.  I may even try out a recipe for dandelion wine and, as long as my neighbors don’t mind picking their way through my au naturel lawn, they’ll be more than welcome to join me in a glass.  We can raise a toast to the environment, together.

*I based much of this article on information provided by the National Wildlife Federation, but there are countless resources out there, for homeowners whose brains are tinted slightly green, like mine.

*This originally appeared in the 4/6/2014 edition of The Chester County Press.

 

Feb 17

Why I Began My Journey to the Natural Kind of Life

This path first presented itself to me when my children were very young. I’d always loved the natural world and my favorite place to be was outdoors in the fresh air. Still, I thought little about our home’s indoor environment. That all changed the first time I read a list of the toxins people were being exposed to on a daily basis, even within the confines of their homes. Short of tearing down our house and building an eco-friendly structure from the ground up, I decided to start where I could.

Looking around me, I found it made little sense to chase germs from the nooks and crannies of my home with strong, chemical-laden cleaners. I stopped buying these products and switched to making my own cleaners with human-friendly ingredients like vinegar and water, baking soda, lemon juice, or castile soap. I’m still just as pleased with these non-toxic cleansing products today as I was back then. Eventually, I discovered even more complicated cleaners like laundry and dishwasher detergents could be replaced with friendlier substitutes. These, too, joined our household.  More recently, I’ve made the jump into creating personal care and beauty products from natural ingredients and am very excited about this new step.

 

I love that nearly all of my ingredients are safe enough to eat and even the ones which aren’t are still pure and non-toxic. If you think about it, our skin is our largest organ, so it makes sense that the products to be absorbed by it shouldn’t fill us with poisons.

Though I can’t erase the presence of toxins in my family’s environment, I can certainly limit them. It isn’t always easier to choose the natural alternative, but in my opinion the effort is worthwhile, if only in terms of the peace of mind it brings. Personally, I’m still learning everything I can about how to create a simpler, more natural life. I am grateful to others for sharing what they’ve discovered and I’m more than happy to pass along what I’ve learned.