The Green Initiative at Lake Braddock Community

transitioning to safer, more environmentally friendly, sustainable community practices


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Latest on LBC’s Green Initiative — Why We Still Need You!

I have good news, great news, and not-so-awesome news.

The good news is that at the last BOD meeting, a motion to award $1.4K for fall-time “green” activities on the test plot was passed. All but one member voted in favor of setting aside these funds to aerate, overseed, and apply lime to the Green Initiative’s test plot. So, YAY! Progress! My understanding is that we will try to roll as much of the work as possible into community clean-up day (not sure of that date yet), so the community will have an opportunity to see just how simple natural turf care is and, also, get involved if they wish.

Burke Lake Golf Course, Source: Yelp

The great news is that the chair of the Landscape & Grounds Committee (L&GC) is the one who really pushed this through. This is important because it shows that the high-level buy-in the Green Initiative may require in order to succeed IS HAPPENING!!! Although a small but persistent group of community members has been working toward this for a long time, it really seems that at least for now, for better or worse, this is the way this community recognizes the need for change and ultimately makes changes: from the top down, rather than the other way around.

One of the main things that turned the L&GC chair around, from what I’ know, is that he visited Burke Lake Golf Course and spoke to some folks there about how they keep it looking so green. I did the same and learned that they rely mainly on natural turf care w/ little to no use of pesticides, fungicides, etc., on the fairways (the largest part, proportionately, of a golf course) to get their awesome results. More info on their practices to come, but for now, I think this development was super critical for the chair — mainly because he often says that “what people want here is to maintain a golf-course-like appearance.” Now, I don’t happen to agree with this myself, but maybe this is what some people want. If so, I think we can all agree that this is NOT what we now have. And so the idea of “maintaining” such really does not hold much water for many of us. On the other hand, though, the idea that we might achieve something closer to that aesthetic without using harsh chemicals could be quite an exciting revelation to some!

The not-so-awesome news is that even though we are making progress, the Green Initiative (as things stand) will still have to “demonstrate” results comparable to those of current practices before natural turf care becomes the norm for all of our common grounds. And we have to achieve these results at the same or better cost, which doesn’t take into account the fact that transitioning from one turf care approach to another may mean additional expenses initially. So it could be years before we get the pesticides off the rest of our recreational areas!

I for one do not want our children or pets, us, to have to wait years before we have a safe play to live, grow, and play — and I know, based on all the folks who share their concerns with me, that I’m not alone in this. The problem is that even now it’s hard to see a difference between the test plot and the pesticide-treated areas. Everything looks pretty much the same. Look at it, please! So what exactly are our “comparable results” supposed to entail? How will we measure them, prove them? How can we know when we’ve succeeded if we haven’t yet clearly defined success?

Concerned? I think we should be. So please, show up at Landscape & Grounds Committee meetings (first Monday every month, 7:30 pm, community center) and BOD meetings, let your opinion be known, talk to your neighbors, etc. We’re making progress, yes, but this is far from over. We still need you!!!!


We hope you’re finding the information provided here helpful and that you’ll join the effort. Please sign up for email notifications and feel free to contact us with any questions, concerns, or suggestions (lbcgreeninfo@gmail.com).

If you’re ready to sign the petition requesting that LBCA stop using unnecessary pesticides on the common grounds, SIGN THE PETITION NOW.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Damn our dam looks good!

TurfDamHave you ever noticed how gorgeous the turf looks on either side of the path along the ridge by the dam here at Lake Braddock? If not, take a look next time. It’s long, thick and lush, beautifully green — pretty different looking from the rest of the turf surrounding the lake. There are certainly a variety of factors at play here, such as the amount of sun exposure this area gets and the fact that because of the steepness of the slope, the turf here doesn’t get much foot traffic.

But if you’ve got a hunch there might be something more to it, you’d be right.

One of our Green Initiative volunteer team members has been looking into why the grass around the dam looks so damn good. It turns out that this area (~3.7 acres) is maintained by Fairfax County, which implements a “nutrient management plan” to care for this and six other areas across the county that are considered “environmentally sensitive” because of their proximity to significant waterways.

The nutrient management plan (NMP) relies heavily on soil testing (through Virginia’s Cooperative Extension) in order to develop a care plan that will achieve the desired results. (And it seems reasonable to assume that “cost-effectiveness” would be a key requirement in such a plan.) Soil test results and Va Tech recommendations (based on these results), inform decisions about whether lime should be applied and exactly how much to apply, as well as about the precise timing, nutrient composition, and amount of fertilizers to be used. Over-fertilzation can be a wasteful, costly, and even damaging — both to the turf itself and the environment, waterways especially. Very specific grass-cutting practices, overseeding, and aerating are also highlighted components of the county’s NMP for the area around Lake Braddock’s dam.

The Chief of Fairfax County’s Stormwater Management Branch provided us with the county’s NMP schedule for the dam in hopes that it could further our “understanding of proper turf management.” She also put in a plug for our waterways, reminding us “not [to] apply [such] nutrients within 15 feet of the shoreline.”

Our community can work with Fairfax County to develop an NMP that’s customized to our turf’s specific needs as per soil test results and other evidence-based measures. This is a service that’s available to us for free. Why not take advantage of it?

Coming next: A recap of our conversation with the Greens Superintendent at Burke Lake Golf Club. Very interesting stuff!


We hope you’re finding the information provided here helpful and that you’ll join the effort. Please sign up for email notifications and feel free to contact us with any questions, concerns, or suggestions (lbcgreeninfo@gmail.com).

If you’re ready to sign the petition requesting that LBCA stop using unnecessary pesticides on the common grounds, SIGN THE PETITION NOW.

Thanks for reading!


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Green Initiative/BOD Meeting Update, 6/15/17

Becky_logo

Thanks to the BOD for hearing us last night. (I was told they gave me 5 vs. the 3 minutes usually allotted, so thanks for that, too.) Three people spoke about issues related to the Green Initiative during the homeowners’ forum portion of the meeting. (Please see info on our upcoming meeting [in green] and also my Note at the end of this post.)

My overall summation of the meeting

While there were some signs that the Green Initiative has a potential future here, there was painfully little evidence of genuine motivation to pursue green alternatives. In general, the pesticide argument simply DOES NOT hold water with this BOD, as suggested by their comments summarized below. This points to something the Green Initiative needs to work on: incentivizing this effort. (The good news is we can do this by highlighting the pros and cons of the two different approaches to turf care, which you can read more about here, but we still need more info from the BOD and/or our current landscaping company and, I believe, to call in some experts.)

My meeting notes

Here’s my summary of the exchanges between the three homeowners who brought up Green Initiative-related issues and the BOD. Hope you find it informative.

Person 1 (Becky Fowler, me, speaking for the Green Initiative):

  • Expressed appreciation for the test plot and the fact that timely, accurate notice re: pesticide applications has improved somewhat
  • Acknowledged that not everyone is concerned about the pesticides (which include herbicides, insecticides, etc., as discussed previously) and recognized the need to find common ground
  • Asked for suggestions about how the “test plot” can possibly be successful — success being defined as “demonstrating the feasibility and efficacy of alternative turf care practices in achieving results better than or equal to those of current practices” — when:
    • information about the cost of current practices has not been made available to us (which limits our ability to compare costs, assess feasibility)
    • despite many requests over several months, we still have not seen the soil tests routinely conducted by our landscaping company per the contract (which limits our ability to show measurable improvement)
    • the exact nature of the results that our practices must be able to achieve or surpass has still not been clearly defined, qualitatively or quantitatively (which means we don’t have a clear mark to aim for and won’t know if/when we’ve hit that mark)
    • timing/scheduling of alternative turf care practices has not been prioritized, in many people’s opinions and as a few in the BOD have freely admitted (which significantly decreases our ability to achieve success — I understand that there are other priorities, but with turf care, the right things have to happen at the right time or it’s really just waste of time and money … and at this rate, it will take a very long time for the test plot to demonstrate success)

This just doesn’t make sense. So much depends on the success of the test plot, we are being asked to prove so much (though it’s not clear what exactly), and yet we don’t have (and can’t seem to get) the information, tools, and level of commitment we need in order succeed.

  • Asked what was lacking in the Green Initiative/test plot proposal that I provided for review at the last L&GC meeting — given that it included all of the info they requested (and yet apparently the BOD still feels another, different proposal is needed)

BOD Response: Continue reading


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Introducing, 2,4-D and dicamba: two of the next pesticides that will be applied to our common grounds

 

 

The next pesticide to be applied to our grounds — later this week, just in time for the weekend — is LockUp (view the materials safety data sheet here: Lockup MSDS (1)). This popular pesticide contains 2,4-D and dicamba, two chemicals with significant toxicological effects, having been linked with, or known to cause, the following in humans and pets:

  • nonHodgkins lymphoma
  • fetal harm
  • reproductive effects
  • liver dysfunction
  • neurological damage

There’s a ton of information out there about both, but for now, please check the following out  — then please consider how long we want to wait for our “Test Plot” to yield results good enough for us to quit this poisonous junk? (You can read more about alternative turf care practices advocated by the Green Initiative and the project’s progress to date here. You just might find that, for you too, things are not happening fast enough.)

For excellent summaries of compilations of hard research on 2,4-D and dicamba, please see the following:

You might also be interested in these:

“2,4-D: The Most Dangerous Pesticide You’ve Never Heard Of”

“This toxic herbicide comes with known health risks, but it’s still being used on crops, in parks, and maybe even in your own backyard.”

That Perfect, Toxic Lawn: American Suburbs and 2, 4-D

“Unusually for an herbicide, acute exposure to 2,4-D causes neurological problems, raising concerns that low-level, chronic exposure may do likewise. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health organization, classifies 2,4-D as a possible human carcinogen, mainly due to the chemical’s ability to cause genetic damage. Exposure has been linked to low sperm counts and male reproductive damage in animals, as well as reduced litter sizes. Dogs who lay on lawns treated with 2,4-D have a significantly higher risk of developing cancers.”

Farmer Speaks Out about the Dangers of 2,4-D Herbicide [and Dicamba]

“To this day, Klaas still has bad reactions to 2,4-D. ‘Since then if anyone is spraying 2,4-D, even a long ways away, I can feel it and it makes me feel sick.’ He says dicamba, another older herbicide that will be used with a new GM soybean from Monsanto, is even worse. ‘It can volatize (convert from liquid to gas) and a day later will turn up a mile or two away. If you can smell it you are being exposed.'”

Public Interest Groups File Lawsuit [against Dicamba and other herbicides]

“Dicamba is linked to increased rates of cancer in farmers as well as birth defects, while glyphosate was recently classified as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Farmers are extremely alarmed by dicamba’s propensity to drift and damage neighboring crops, while conservationists are concerned about its impacts on biodiversity. Dicamba drift threatens plants that provide nectar for pollinators and habitat for animals, and is frequently detected in surface waters.”

More on RoundUp (which is sprayed on our sidewalks with a hose) coming soon, but for now, check this out:

FDA Resumes Testing Foods For Weed Killer, Safety Questions Grow [this article references both the ingredients in RoundUp AND dicamba]

“Glyphosate exposures in food and in the environment need much more scrutiny … ‘We urge the public not to be duped by chemical company apologists who attempt to obscure independent scientific findings that threaten a highly profitable product.’”

Doesn’t sound like stuff we want ourselves, or our kids and pets, unnecessarily exposed to, does it?

We hope you’re finding the information provided here helpful and that you’ll join the effort. Please sign up for email notifications and feel free to contact us with any questions, concerns, or suggestions (lbcgreeninfo@gmail.com).

If you’re ready to sign the petition requesting that LBCA stop using unnecessary pesticides on the common grounds, SIGN THE PETITION NOW.

Thanks for reading!

 


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The Pesticide-Free Zone signs are up!

LBCTestPlot2

Come have a picnic in the LBCA-sponsored “Test Plot,” which is our community’s designated pesticide-free zone! Bring the kids and your pets — breathe in the fresh air, roll around in the non-toxic grass. Enjoy!

So what’s this “test plot” anyway? In September 2016, the Landscape & Grounds Committee (L&GC) allocated a half-acre “test plot” for the Green Initiative where no pesticides/herbicides or chemical fertilizers would be applied for the duration of the project. Later that fall, we tested the soil, applied lime according to the Virginia Tech Soil Testing Lab’s recommendations (based on our soil test results), aerated, and overseeded. Read more about practices advocated by the Green Initiative and the project’s progress to date here.

We hope you’re finding the information provided here helpful and that you’ll join the effort. Please sign up for email notifications and feel free to contact us with any questions, concerns, or suggestions (lbcgreeninfo@gmail.com).

If you’re ready to sign the petition requesting that LBCA stop using unnecessary pesticides on the common grounds, SIGN THE PETITION NOW.

Thanks for reading!


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… because we shouldn’t have to choose between a beautiful place to live and our health

How much much are you willing to risk for a weed-free setting, especially when safe, viable alternatives to our current pesticide/chemical-based approach to “turf care” exist?

Did you know:

  • Three times per year, herbicides (which are a subcategory of pesticides) are applied to the common grounds, all around our playgrounds, the lake, etc.? The pre-emergent herbicide that goes down in April, which you can read about here (Dimension15_msds), contains an ingredient that’s highly toxic to aquatic life, is found in the urine of pets, and is shown to have acute health effects before it “settles” after application (anywhere from 12 hours to 3 days). Information on the post-emergent applied in June is here: Lockup MSDS (1). And we’re still waiting for info on the third routinely used herbicide, which is put down in September.
  • As often “as needed” (~ 3 to 4 times/year), RoundUp — another herbicide containing a “probable” cancer-causing ingredient according to a leading health authority (IARC) [1], has recently been definitively linked to birth defects [2], is banned across Europe, and is now being implicated in the dwindling bee population [3] — is applied with a hose to our sidewalks and other paved areas?

The use of these chemicals with their identified toxins puts our health, our children’s health and even our pets at risk — not to mention the collateral effects on the amazing wildlife we are so fortunate enough to have in our own backyards and on the water quality of our lake, ponds and streams … and ultimately our bay and oceans.

These open spaces provide us all with a beautiful haven in which to recreate (whether exercising, socializing, relaxing, playing, etc.), but at what cost to our health? Our children and pets interact even more intensely, more frequently, in closer proximity, and in different ways with their environment. This, together with their relatively smaller size and children’s still-developing body systems, makes them even more vulnerable to the effects of toxins. [4]

In light of bans against certain pesticides once widely used and thought perfectly safe — and the growing body of evidence against several others still in use today — we simply cannot be sure that the chemicals we’re putting on the common grounds are not hurting us and our environment. We do know these chemicals do very little to improve or maintain the health of our turf.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection agency:

  • “All pesticides are toxic to some degree…, and the commonplace, widespread use of pesticides is both a major environmental problem and a public health issue” [5]; and
  • Pesticides should only be considered a “last resort” because these “quick-fix” solutions mask rather than truly correct the underlying problems as good basic turf care practices do [6].

The fact is, you shouldn’t have to choose between a beautiful place to live and your health. You can make your desire to err on the side of caution known. You can take a stand against allowing additional, unnecessary inherently toxic chemicals into our lives and our environment, which are already over-burdened with toxins and pollutants. 

We hope you’re finding the information provided here helpful and that you’ll join the effort. Please sign up for email notifications and feel free to contact us with any questions, concerns, or suggestions (lbcgreeninfo@gmail.com).

If you’re ready to sign the petition requesting that LBCA stop using unnecessary pesticides on the common grounds, SIGN THE PETITION NOW.

Thanks for reading!

 


Notes/References
1. Accessed on June 4, 2017: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carey-gillam/iarc-sc…
2. Accessed on June 4, 2017: http://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/what-relatio…
3. Accessed on June 4, 2017: http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2017/04/study-shows-…
4. Accessed on June 4, 2017: http://npic.orst.edu/health/child.html
5. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, “Healthy Lawn, Healthy Environment,” June 1992.
6. Accessed on May 26, 2017: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-04…


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On the fence?

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Do you support the Green Initiative? Should you make your support known? Would you be willing to get involved? If you’re still on the fence, here are some questions to consider:

  • Are you comfortable with the frequency of pesticide and potentially toxic chemical fertilizer applications on our common turf areas (that’s 4 to 5 times every year) and on our sidewalks and other paved areas (as often as needed, 3 to 4 times per year)?
  • Do you believe that if the pesticides/chemicals we use were really that bad for us, they wouldn’t be available (and/or we’d be seeing more evidence of their harm)?
  • Do you prefer to err on the side of caution regardless of whether the pesticides we use pose a proven or potential risk? Would you say your position is consistent with the often-cited “precautionary principle,” as defined below?

“When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken, even if some cause and effect relationships are not yet fully established.”* 

  • Do you believe that our turf and common grounds should be as weed-free as is feasibly possible or are you okay with a certain amount of weeds on grounds that are pesticide/chemical-free?
  • Are the current turf care practices, in your opinion, truly effective at achieving the desired results (i.e., do you think the common grounds look all that great)? And is the current appearance such that it clearly outweighs the inherent risks posed by pesticides/chemicals?
  • For you, do the “convenience and cost-effectiveness” of our pesticide/chemical-based approach to turf care and weed control outweigh the proven or probable, inherent risk these substances pose to us and our environment?
  • Would you prefer that our community switch to alternative methods of turf care and weed control that focus on preventing weeds by directly addressing, rather than masking, underlying problems (thereby truly improving the health of the turf, as further described here) —
    • Only if the practices proved comparable to our current practices cost-wise?
    • Even if these methods were slightly more expensive initially, during the transitional phase?

Think about it!

We hope you’re finding the information provided here helpful and that you’ll join the effort. Please sign up for email notifications and feel free to contact us with any questions, concerns, or suggestions (lbcgreeninfo@gmail.com).

If you’re ready to sign the petition requesting that LBCA stop using unnecessary pesticides on the common grounds, SIGN THE PETITION NOW.

Thanks for reading!


Reference:
*Wingspread Conference, S. Johnson Foundation, Racine, WI, February 1998.