Greener Pastures

By Rosa Gray

Have you ever been walking along, enjoying the view of a lush grassy area, and then suddenly noticed patches of burnt orange grass?   If you’re like me, once you realize that this dead grass has been sprayed with herbicides and pesticides. The pesticides don’t just stay where they are sprayed.  They enter the water table and the air we breathe. They kill habitat for insects, birds, rodents, everything alive where they have been sprayed.

If you are concerned, there are actions you can take to reduce these toxins in the environment. You can also encourage neighbors and the larger community to consider and implement safe alternatives for weed control.   

Try this step-by-step guide and see where it takes you.

1) Talk with the manager or owner of the business you suspect is using pesticides and/or herbicides.

Recently I noticed a gas station which appeared to be using pesticides for weed control.  The large orange and yellow colored patches of grass on the perimeter of the lawn looked very unnatural.  I walked in, introduced myself and mentioned that I was a concerned customer.  I explained that it looked as though pesticides were being used and asked if she’d be interested in safe, non-toxic alternatives.  She assured me that the gas station would no longer use pesticides, and I told her about Non-Toxic Irvine’s Preferred Product List (below).  Later, I printed out a copy and delivered it to her.

2) E-Mailing businesses is simple and very effective.

I noticed another business with the tell-tale orange grass while driving one day. I looked up the business online, found their contact information, and sent a polite letter outlining the dangers of pesticides. Included was Non-Toxic Irvine’s list, along with a homemade weed control recipe (below).  The business responded back and is now trying non-toxic alternatives.

Furthermore, I observed evidence of a construction site using pesticides on the perimeter of a grassy lot and gravel road.  The company name was posted on a large sign so I Googled the company, wrote a polite letter, gave safe alternatives, and within a couple of days, I received a response.  The company explained that it didn’t know who was responsible for the spraying, but assured me that it would not happen again. All of these experiences exemplify how simple and quick it is to advocate positive change.

3) Print out “Non-Toxic Irvine’s Preferred Product List 2019,” by visiting “toolkit.”  You can also print a “Pesticide Free Lawn Door Hanger,” for free, by visiting

4) Pass out Irvine’s list and a door hanger to businesses and residences that you know or suspect are using synthetic pesticides for weed control.

5) Look for products that are OMRI (Organic Materials Research Institute) listed.

6) Make your own weed control solution

Non-Toxic Weed Control Recipe:

Mix 1 gallon of vinegar, 2 cups Epsom Salt, and ¼ cup Dawn dish soap.  Spray onto weeds.

A stronger 30% vinegar can be purchased at Sebastopol Hardware or Harmony Farm and Nursery in Sebastopol.

7)  Pour boiling water on weeds.

8)  Use mechanical methods such as mowing to control weeds

9) Learn to see weeds differently. For example, the Dandelion has numerous health benefits. It’s rich in vitamins C, K, B2 and A.

Dandelion Flower Tea Recipe ( for human consumption):

8 Dandelion Flowers

12 oz. Boiling Water

Honey for Taste

Pour boiling Water over flowers

Let steep for 5 minutes

Add Honey

10) Buy organic! Support the practices you want to see with your dollars. Many produce venders that aren’t certified organic will tell you that they “don’t spray” (the crop), but it’s important to ask what they do for weed control.  Many use RoundUp-like products between rows and along fence lines.

Simple and small steps can create big changes.  Let’s do our part to keep the community green and toxic-free.

For more information check out Sonoma County Conservation Action’s Toxic Free Future Campaign

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