One of the unmistakable signs of spring and summer is the nostril-clenching stench of lawn chemicals. The potions that kill weeds and insects and green our lawns are nothing more than toxic cocktails of nitrates, phosphorous, potassium, ammonia, urea and formaldehyde. Some of these are known endocrine disruptors and carcinogenic agents. They have killed family pets and made children sick.
We need to stop killing weeds for the sake of the creatures that need them for survival. Milkweed, for example, is an essential food source for monarch butterflies, which you hardly ever see in Salt Lake City anymore. Synthetic fertilizers, chemical herbicides and pesticides kill pollinators like bees and hummingbirds, and they saturate soil, contaminating the earthworms and insects that birds need to survive. Bee populations are in peril.
Excess chemicals wash into storm drains where they trickle downstream to our parks, ponds, rivers and aquifers, eventually finding their way into the Great Salt Lake, where they threaten the health of entire wetland ecosystems and all the creatures that live and visit there — including us.
Is a green and weed-free lawn really worth it? Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”