Benefits and Risks Associated with Landscapes
To fully reap the benefits that lawns and landscapes can provide our urban and suburban communities, these green spaces must be well-maintained. Not only is pest management integral to this maintenance, but how pests are managed impacts the appearance, quality, and environmental conditions of a landscape. While pesticides can provide many benefits, they can also pose risks to human health and the environment.
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The key benefits associated with lawn care and landscaping include:
- Reduces chemical usage
- Minimizes environmental impacts on land, water,
- habitat, and wildlife by reducing forest fires, soil erosion, runoff and, pollution
Human Health & Social Benefits
- Reduces worker hazard
- Leads to safer sites, decreases hazard exposure, and reduces fire danger
- Reduces service disruptions
- Lowers vegetation management costs
- Increases worker productivity
- Decreases utility customers' costs
Risks associated with lawn care and landscaping include:
High Pesticide Concentrations in Urban Areas
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) water quality monitoring data indicate higher concentrations of pesticides in urban and suburban areas when compared to agricultural areas.
Pesticide Exposure Incidents
Improper pesticide use can result in unintentional, direct exposures to pesticides. According to EPA’s Pesticide Incidence Data Reporting System, more than 31,000 pesticide exposure incidents related to the use of pesticides on lawns were reported from 1995 to 2002. The major categories of the reported incidents were humans and non-target plants. These incidents are not confirmed or investigated.
Limited Consumer Knowledge
Inadequate consumer knowledge can result in poor lawn care practices – such as plant selection, irrigation, mowing, use (or lack of use) of fertilizer/soil amendments, aeration, and pest management – and improper pesticide use. Consumers often do not adhere to the instructions on pesticide labels or fail to read the labels altogether, which can lead to:
- Applying more than the recommended application of a pesticide
- Treating symptoms of pest problems without suitable information about the causes
- Improper storage and disposal of pesticides
Public Health Pests
Landscapes can be habitats for public health pests such as ticks, mosquitoes, rats, and mice.
The Landscaping Initiative and its partners have produced guidance documents that help individuals apply responsible lawn care and landscaping practices, including:
- Brochure version: Green Lawns -- Promoting Environmental Stewardship (PDF) Exit (6 pp, 692.09 K, About PDF) EPA's Landscaping Initiative participates in a coalition of landscaping, business, environmental, academic and governmental organizations known as the Lawns & the Environment Initiative (L&E). The series of tips based on the guiding principles (see box) are the basis for the L&E's education efforts.
- Booklet version: Green Lawns -- Promoting Environmental Stewardship (PDF) (24 pp, 1.44 Mb, About PDF) Exit This booklet produced by the Lawns & the Environment Initiative contains many expanded examples and tips on implementing the 10 Guiding Principles (see box).
- Environmental Principles for Golf Courses in the United States Exit This set of principles seeks to produce environmental excellence in golf course planning and siting, design, construction, maintenance and facility operations.
- Healthy Lawn, Healthy Environment: Caring for Your Lawn in an Environmentally Friendly Way This EPA publication explains how to care for your lawn properly to enhance both its appearance and its environmental benefits.
- Greenscaping - Learn about ways to create a healthy lawn environment.
- EPA's former GreenScapes program highlights cost-efficient and environmentally friendly solutions for large-scale landscaping. Search EPA Archive