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Landscaping And Maintenance

Why Toxic Products Are Popular In Landscaping And Maintenance

Landscaping and maintenance services commonly employ a number of different toxic substances that can be harmful to humans and to the environment. Why do people find it so difficult to make the change to alternative products?

The primary toxins used in landscape service and maintenance are most often found in preservatives, herbicides, and pesticides. These substances are generally effective for the tasks for which they are used, and when a green alternative is substituted, it is often less effective or effective for only short-term use.

It is important to weigh the pros and cons and make a good decision about what products you want used for landscaping and the care of your properties.

Evaluate the Pros and Cons of Toxic Preservatives

Preservatives are most often found in construction materials, especially wood products used for building landscape features such as gazebos, stairs, and walkways. Some of these toxic preservatives may be legally required for safety reasons – so the structure supporting the stairs doesn’t rot and suddenly fail –but you often have choices and can substitute less harmful alternatives.

Preservatives are formulated to protect materials from decaying because of mold, bacteria, insects, or all three. If an installation is needed for long-term use, it is usual for the most toxic preservatives to be used as they have the most consistent, long-term effectiveness. The most common of these preservatives are arsenic-based chemicals in pressure-treated woods. Other substances can be creosote, chromium, copper, zinc, or other chemical compounds.

You can find out about materials used on your properties because most manufacturers will supply fact sheets with their products, plus there is a great deal of information available online. As well, there has been growing pressure from communities for greener and safer alternatives to be used and so your landscaping maintenance professional should know about the products that he uses and the acceptable alternatives.  Ask.

In most cases, toxic preservatives can be avoided if you are willing to accept a reduced length of time for which the protection is effective. In some instances, you can use a green substitute when the location of your property and local weather, moisture levels, and other conditions are favorable for the use of an alternative with the same effectiveness.

Herbicides and Pesticides are Often Toxic

Two fundamental factors in landscaping have been the driving force behind heavy chemical use:

  1. Native Species Try to Regain Their Territory – There is a tendency for common local plants to expand and regain an area that has been landscaped with non-native species. Although a beautiful lawn and garden is aesthetically pleasing and desired by most people, landscaped areas will always be invaded by ordinary, local species since the non-native species are not part of the local ecology. Many herbicides are designed to contain and control the more hardy, natural, local species.
  2. Non-native Species Have Less Resistance to Local Insects – Insects will attack non-native species that have no natural resistance to them, and the function of pesticides is to protect these new species.

There is a growing awareness in the world that chemical pesticides are a liability for the environment and for users. Fortunately, natural herbicides and pesticides are safer and are becoming more popular. The main drawback of safer products is that they usually have to be reapplied more frequently.

Another strategy for reducing the use of toxic herbicides and pesticides is to use more local species in landscaping. Local plants and vegetation remain healthier since they evolved in a particular environment, and will usually have more resistance to local predators and competition from non-native species. This kind of landscaping is self-protecting.

Your Best Tool in Environmental Protection is Knowledge

If you are concerned about the safety of children, pets, the environment, and people in general, you should be aware that various landscaping and maintenance products introduce toxins into the environment, and there are safer, greener alternatives available.

Discuss your concerns with your landscaping and maintenance professional when you are in the initial planning stages. A trained pro will understand both your concerns and the various options available and will be able and willing to help you make greener choices.

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