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Go green in the garden: Free information cards make it easy

This series of cards is available for free at several island stores where garden supplies are sold.  - Courtesy Photo
This series of cards is available for free at several island stores where garden supplies are sold.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

Islanders concerned about the environmental effects of lawn and garden products have a new resource available to help make choices that protect the health of humans, wildlife and water.

A series of informational cards now available for free at several island stores covers a range of topics, from fertilizers to moss and pest control measures. They include a variety of products to turn to, all categorized according to the environmental effects of their ingredients, said Michael Laurie, who has considerable professional experience with environmental issues and spearheaded the effort to make the cards. They also provide general information on practices to prevent each specific lawn or garden problem or to avoid using chemicals to address them. Making such decisions is important for the people and animals that live where the products are used, Laurie said, but choices make a difference further afield as well.

“Choosing green garden products can protect the water quality — streams and groundwater — which we all rely on, and also protects Puget Sound,” he said.

In looking out at Puget Sound, it is easy to believe it is a healthy body of water, Laurie said, but that is not the case.

“Puget Sound is not in as good shape as many think,” he said. “There is science that some high-impact products are in Puget Sound and have been found to have impacts there.”

With cards in hand, however, gardeners can keep environmental health in mind while shopping — or sorting through their garden shed to see what they already have at the ready.

On the Non-Insect Pest Control card, for example, a gardener struggling with slugs or snails can see that at one end of the environmental spectrum is making traps using melon rinds, boards or beer and picking the critters off and squashing them. Moving beyond that, also in the low-environmental impact category, are several iron phosphate products, such as Sluggo and copper barriers. One product carrying a medium impact to the environment is listed as well as three high-environmental impact products, all containing metaldehyde, such as Corry’s Slug & Snail Death.

Some gardeners may remember that an earlier version of these cards was first created seven years ago. They were only available for a short time because of funding constraints, but data from before and after the cards were out showed a difference in purchasing choices, Laurie said. This year, with a new grant from the Puget Sound Partnership, Laurie and several others interested in environmental issues decided to reissue the cards. They surveyed all the products available on Vashon, he said, and then, based on the scientific work behind the website Grow Smart Grow Safe, a consumer guide to pest controls and fertilizers, they divided all the products into low, medium and high environmental impact categories to create the cards. The cards are now available at True Value, Island Home Center & Lumber, Kathy’s Corner and The Country Store and Farm.

Additional cards have been given to other groups and individuals, he said, in an effort to get the word out.

Come fall, Laurie said he would like to see the sales figures for the different products and compare that information to last year’s to help determine how effective the cards were.

“That will help give us a better comparison,” he said.

In the end, Laurie added, he thinks that when faced with a gardening or lawn care challenge, most people simply want products that work.

“If you can give them something that works and is green, then wow, that is a double bonus,” he said.

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