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By Paul Tukey
Every decade has a G word connected to it that somehow defines the period forever. Think the groovy ’70s or the greedy ’80s, followed closely by the Gen-X, grungy ’90s. Always fun to revisit in our minds, but of little social consequence after their moments atop our lexicon, the words represent trends that came—and went—in the blink of a marketer’s eye.
This decade’s signature word, I’m guessing, is green. Today’s obsession with everything eco extends from the natural food movement that began in the ’80s and ’90s. If organic food tastes better—and is better for us—then we ought to go more organic in everything, from our homes and cars to our cosmetics and mop supplies.
The eco movement has shifted into high gear at garden centers, where people shop for products that will render their plants and lawns a kinder, gentler green than the tone achieved by potentially toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides. “Sales of organic lawn and garden products comprise the fastest growing sector of the horticulture industry as a whole,” says Bruce Butterfield, director of research for the National Gardening Association in Vermont. “Ten years ago, the only people who bought organic fertilizers were wearing Birkenstocks. Now, it’s soccer moms with minivans.”
Only three years ago, Butterfield’s research showed just 5 percent of consumers were buying all-organic products, spending about $450 million of the roughly $8.5 billion total for the year. By his conservative estimate that number has already more than doubled to 10 to 12 percent of the market—making organics a billion-dollar industry in lawn and garden.
Still, questions remain for the rest of us: Are the organic products necessary and safer? Do the organic products work? What will they cost? And will they be around a decade from now, or are they yet another fad?
Safe haven for all
Twelve years ago, when I began lecturing about the need for organic lawn and garden care, I would’ve had an easier time drawing sunbathers to a snowy beach than getting people to show up and listen to my talk. Today, more people realize pesticides can cause considerable harm. “Pesticides, including insecticides and herbicides, are intentionally toxic substances,” says John Wargo, PhD, of New Haven, Connecticut, who co-authored the results of a landmark study about children and pesticides published by Environment and Human Health Inc., a nonprofit organization of doctors and scientists from Yale University. “There is broad scientific consensus that children are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of pesticides. Children’s low body weight and rapidly growing organ systems combine to make them more susceptible to many toxic substances, including pesticides.”
Those same health risks extend to adults, pets, and wildlife, as well as insects and even the tiniest single-celled organisms. “I am very concerned about pets who have access to lawns that are treated with pesticides,” said Diana Post, DVM, a veteri...
Author: Paul Tukey
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