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Newton's Alternatives to Pesticides Education Program

Project Details

Year: 1997
Location: Newton
Project Manager: Louise Bruyn,Ellie Goldberg
Partners: Newton Board of Health, Parks & Recreation Commission, Conservation Commission, and Newton Conservators, Inc.


In 1997 the Green Decade Coalition's Committee for Alternatives to Pesticides developed a community education program on pesticides and alternatives that is still thriving today. Numerous materials were developed that can be easily replicated. A direct result of this project was the adoption of an Integrated Pest Management Policy by the City of Newton that continues to be a model for other communities.

In the fall of 1996 the Toxics Use Reduction Institute awarded a TURN grant to the Green Decade Coalition of Newton and its Committee for Alternatives to Pesticides, GreenCAP, to conduct an educational campaign to apply toxic use reduction concepts to reduce pesticide use throughout the community. This project had particular relevance in Newton, which calls itself "The Garden City," due to abundant gardens, shrubs and trees. As part of their campaign, entitled "Toxics Use Reduction begins at home, in the garden, on the lawn...," GreenCAP worked in collaboration with the Newton Health Department, Newton Parks and Recreation Department, Newton Conservation Commission and the Newton Conservators.

Project Objectives:

  •  To increase community-wide knowledge about the dangers of pesticides as toxic substances.
  •  To increase community awareness of alternative practices to toxic pesticide use which will reduce the need for toxic pesticide use.
  •  To empower residents who are concerned about the misuse of pesticides in the City by informing tem of the protections that are available.
  •  What follows are excerpts from GreenCAP's final report which describe the outcomes and methods of the project.

It Takes a Village to Prevent Pollution from Pesticides

Reducing the use of pesticides at the community and neighborhood level depends on the enlightened cooperation of everyone - building managers and occupants, sports leagues and the Parks Department, family members and neighbors, landscaping and pest control professionals and consumers, and citizens and public agencies.

Our project was designed to influence the development and implementation of a citywide IPM policy that can serve as a model of environmentally responsible planning and decision making and to win support and involvement of community members, especially parents, homeowners and community groups who care about children's safety and health of the environment.

Alternatives to Pesticide Month

In February 1997, a joint proclamation by the Mayor of Newton and the Board Alderman established march as Alternatives to Pesticides Month(see Mayor's Announcement). The proclamation recognized the hazards of pesticides, committed the city to pesticide use reduction efforts and urged Newton's citizens to take advantage of opportunities to learn about alternatives to pesticides.

After attempting to do a citywide pesticide use survey, we learned that many people are not aware that the chemicals they or their contractors use are pesticides, nor can they identify the chemicals or their hazards. However, we also learned that most people would not use pesticides if they knew about safe, effective and economical alternatives for landscaping and pest control.

GreenCAP Pledge

So GreenCap initiated a citywide pledge Campaign designed to promote information about alternative approaches and to call attention to pesticide reduction messages such as Our World is Too Precious to Poison. The GreenCap pledge asks citizens

  •  To learn about Integrated Pest Management, a practice problem-solving approach
  •  To pest control based on ecological environmental management strategies.
  •  To evaluate landscaping and pest control practices where they live, work, shop, and play for opportunities to avoid or reduce the use of pesticides.
  •  To stop all routine use of pesticides and to use ecological strategies and non-toxic alternatives to pesticides wherever possible. (If, after trying non-chemical and least- toxic approaches they decide that a pesticide is necessary,)
  •  To use with extreme caution and take all steps to avoid risk to people, property and the environment. If they use a pesticide, they will be a Good Neighbor. They will give advance notice to neighbors and post a Pesticide Application Warning sign for at least 72 hours.

When GreenCAP receives a pledge from individual homeowners, schools, or businesses.

  •  GreenCap provides notices about free workshops and resources.
  •  GreenCAP put a blue dot on a large map of Newton for each pledge received. The map shows the challenge we face promoting pesticide use reduction as well as illustrates the city's growing commitment to reducing the use of pesticides in Newton.
  •  Pledgers receive a GreenCAP sign for posting on lawns or doorways to show that citizens are doing their part to protect the health and safety of their family, the environment, and the community and to pass on pesticide use reduction messages to others.

IPM Task Force

GreenCAP members presented to the Landscape Maintenance Task Force which created an IPM committee and which served as the base for the development of a city-wide IPM policy thanks to the stewardship of Douglas Dickson, chair of the Task Force and the IPM committee. IPM is Toxics Use Reduction at its best. An IPM system prevents pollution at its source. IPM requires process modification including implementing a system of reducing or eliminating the use of chemicals by modifying the habitat, modifying maintenance practices, modifying user behavior, and, if all else fails, using pesticides as a last resort, and only within specific guidelines for least -toxic selection and use.

IPM means modernizing and upgrading equipment for example, influencing the Parks Department to require its landscape contractors to use adjustable mowers to mow high to encourage stronger turf instead of relying on chemicals, and promoting structural maintenance and repair.
 IPM means promoting improved housekeeping practices, better sanitation and hygiene to change conditions that encourage pests.
 Making best use of resources ... recycling the hard work and resources of organizations and agencies throughout the country and distributing them through donations to our public library and acting as a clearinghouse for resource and referral in our community. GreenCAP has developed resource lists and guides to make it easy for people in our own community to find and use these resources. We developed a brochure called Gift ideas for People and Plant Lovers and a new Newton IPM Guide listing library resources including their call numbers to make it easy for people to find solutions to their weed and insect control problems.

The resource development and outreach has been broad and comprehensive. The local cable station has been a wonderful community resource, broadcasting several informational videos several times a month. The programs include the March 4, 1997 Dianne Dumonski presentation on the health and environmental effects of pesticides and toxic chemicals, the May, 1996 Michael Talbot presentation on natural landscaping, and the Great Lakes Great Lawns video program from Milwaukee Wisconsin which describes pesticide hazards and promotes community collaboration in a pesticide reduction campaign.

Members of GreenCap are also producing the video, Newton's Great Gardens, which features examples of beautiful Newton landscapes grown without chemicals and includes local ecological landscaping advice and resources. Our May 13 program on Alternatives to pesticides, Don't Spray, Outsmart is now being edited for broadcast in the near future.

GreenCap has sent out frequent community calendar announcements to over thirty local and state news media for its educational resources and programs and also placed large ads in the local media for its educational programs. Maeve Ward and I did two radio interviews on WNTN, Newton's radio station to promote GreenCap's resources and programs.

GreenCap members have presented to a variety of community organizations including the Newton Conservation Commission, at the annual city wide Gardening Clubs meeting. GreenCap members staffed information tables at community events and meetings including the Newton Pride Committee's bulb distribution project, Newton Service Fair, the City Wide Spring Arts Festival at City Hall, at the monthly Green Decade Coalition's Environmental Speaker Series, and Kids Day America, a local children's health, safety and drug awareness event.

GreenCap information and notices have appeared in the newsletters of the community groups such as the Newton League of Women Voters, the Newton Free Library, the Newton Pride Committee and the Newton Conservators. GreenCap flyers and fact sheets have been regularly distributed at major community centers such as city hall, the libraries, schools, the senior center and bookstores and supermarkets. GreenCap has mailed information packets and referrals in response to requests from Newton citizens as well as responded to requests from Marblehead, Sudbury, Brookline, Cambridge, Lowell, Framingham, and many other Massachusetts communities as well as Utah, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Florida and we even received a letter from Australia asking for information about our work. GreenCap news, articles and resources appear regularly in the Green Decade Coalition's Green News.


  •  GreenCap has introduced the concepts alternative to pesticides and IPM into the Newton vocabulary.
  •  GreenCap has initiated a citywide IPM policy for all city grounds and buildings promoting tonics use reduction at the community and municipal level. The city wide IPM policy is the result of a city agency and citizen collaboration. Implementing the IPM policy will involve a systems approach to environmental management that will affect all citizens, every site user and manager.
  •  GreenCap has provided information on alternatives to pesticides and non-toxic solutions to weed and insect problems to hundreds of community members.GreenCap has helped to shape the conditions for an extremely limited use of herbicides by the Parks Department at three Newton soccer fields and to shape the first advance notification of herbicide application to site users and the posting of pesticide application warning signs at the parks for abutters and park users.
  •  GreenCap has collected a wonderful collection of technical information and educational resources for homeowners, parents, students, teachers, gardeners, landscapers, city agencies, and consumers.

Beyond TURN

We plan:

  •  To continue to work with city groups on the pledge campaign.
  •  To continue to work on the development and implementation of IPM policies throughout out city agencies,schools, businesses and neighborhoods.
  •  To continue to work with local and state organizations and agencies on educational programs designed to prevent pollution from pesticides.
  •  To look for additional funding to continue to support resource development and ongoing community education.

This page updated Wednesday November 02 2011