Last month, a headline bounced around the industry proclaiming the EPA’s endorsement of fertilizers as good for water quality. It got a lot of attention, like a good headline should, but because the Internet is where nuance goes to die, it was a bit disingenuous.
Let me explain.
For decades, the EPA has studied the impact of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous on the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This report is the latest in a series of recommendations about how the states in the bay’s watershed can improve their water quality.
And while the March report had promise, this is not as big a win as you might hope. In fact, one of the panel’s recommendations was not to fertilize your lawn in the first place.
This report is a glimmer of hope that science still means something to the EPA. However, it doesn’t mean the agency is on the side of industry. And breathless headlines to that effect do a disservice to harried business owners and the industry as a whole.
Read just that headline, and you think the EPA has finally come around. But walk up to an on-the-fence homeowner in Connecticut and say, “The EPA says you should buy my six-time application program because it’s good for the Bay,” and you’ll be tarred and feathered on the town square.
But buried deep within the report are some promising recommendations:
- Homeowners should consult a professional to develop a site-specific turf care plan;
- Dense turf cover reduces runoff; and
- Commercial applicators are the best source for the right fertilization practices.
And the panel recognized that most nutrient runoff comes from a “small proportion” of residential lawns – which most of you have known for a long time.
There’s a lot of solid work going on around the industry to promote the value of green space. Turf Mutt, a project launched by OPEI that teaches schoolchildren about the importance of trees and turf, has spread to more than a million students. And Grass Roots, a program that launches later this year at the National Arboretum in Washington, will have a two-acre interactive exhibit dedicated solely to the benefits of turfgrass.
Bottom line: It’s a great time to be green.
Landscapers are on the front lines of conservation. You have a tremendous opportunity not just to help conserve water, but to educate customers about how their landscape installation or lawn care program is going to help the environment.
Contractors are part of the solution, not part of the problem. Now that’s a much better headline.
– Chuck Bowen