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You care about your community. You love your children. And you’ve just discovered that the school fields where your kids play are sprayed with toxic persistent pesticides, despite all the risks they bring. What do you do?

getting started

Is it possible to get your community to change from using toxic chemicals to a field management program that is healthier and safer?

Yes, it is. And you’re in good company.


So, how to get started? Let’s face it - it’s daunting to think how to make this happen in your community. Undertaking a project of this scale takes planning, organization, people power and patience. It will not happen overnight.  But here’s the good news: there is a bounty of excellent materials out there to make this easier.

Please check out the Resources list below to help you navigate the following areas:
  • Find out your community’s pesticide use on public fields and grounds
  • Track down what the official policies of your community are
  • Identify the key decision makers in your community
  • Know your subject: the studies, data, & personal stories that bring it to life
  • Engage local experts to support your initiative
  • Find a group or organization already addressing these issues in your community or create a team of like-minded individuals to collaborate with
  • Learn effective ways to engage with local policymakers
  • Explore and choose which tactics will be most effective to reach your target audience, get your message across, and reach your goals.
  • Potential campaign tactics include sample petitions, call or letter-writing campaigns, social media engagement, media outreach, hosting town hall events, etc.
  • See samples of town and city pesticide resolutions

change Your Community

Is it possible to get your community to change from using toxic chemicals to a field management program that is healthier and safer?

Yes, it is. And you’re in good company.

here are 4 easy steps to get started

Step 1


Find out what your community policy is on spraying chemicals in your public playing areas.

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How:
•  Call your local Public Works or Parks and Recreation Department and ask!

•  Search your local .gov website for the words “pesticides” or “herbicides” to find recent articles, meeting notes or other documents that could help you uncover the policies and usage.

•  Every town and community is a little bit different. Use what you know about your town to get to the right person with the right information.

Tip: You can also call your Homeowners Association, School District, Apartment Management Company, and Corporate Office to find out about pesticide use in these common areas.


Step 2


Look for groups or organizations in your community already working to create change.

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How:
•  The Non Toxic Neighborhoods website is filled with cities already making progress. Check to see if your city, state or town is listed. The links on their site will bring you to your local community page, if there is one.

•  Search Facebook for groups that have already formed and organized. Search terms should include your city name and words like “organic parks” or “pesticide free parks” or “clean playing fields”. If you find a group, reach out and ask them if you can join in, our instincts tell us they would love the to have more help.

•  The Stonyfield Momentum Map lists towns with organic policies and/or making good progress towards organic guidelines. Take a look to see if your town is listed and get a quick update on the strides being made.

Again - each community is a little different so you may need to wear your Sherlock Holmes hat to find the small army fighting the good fight!


Step 3


Form a Group of concerned community members.

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How:
Talk to your neighbors, friends and family - form a committee to meet regularly and take on the challenge to create change. Fields coffee hour? Sounds like a good way to get people to meet up and tackle next steps.

Your first tasks should be:
1 Identify the key decision makers in your community. Find the group of people who make the decisions to use chemicals and who oversees the maintenance of the parks and fields.

2 Collect studies, data and personal stories that bring the issue to life for your town.

3 Engage local experts who will support you ie: organic lawn care experts, sustainability leaders, and passionate parks and rec employees. Even community members from other towns who have successfully created change.

4 Identify what specific actions are needed to change the policies in your community. This could range from needing to start a petition and/or attending town meetings to bring attention to the issue and making the request or sending a demand letter.

5 Create a Facebook group to get other local community members involved. This is also a good way to communicate what help you need and all of progress you make.


Step 4


Learn from communities who have already experienced success.

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The following tool kits are jam packed with information about how to get started, data, and examples of making it happen:
•  Non Toxic Neighborhoods Tool Kit

•  Midwest Municipal Pesticide Reduction ToolKit

•  Union of Concerned Scientists has developed tools for local advocacy here.

•  Midwest Pesticide Action Center The Activists ToolKit


Examples of communities with successful policies are:
•  South Portland Maine, Grow Healthy South Portland

•  Takoma Park, Maryland Safe Grow Act

Resources

Non Toxic Neighborhoods
Five parents in southern California, concerned about the ubiquitous use of pesticides and their children’s health, worked with their elected officials to have the City of Irvine adopt a historic organic-first landscaping policy in 2016, and Non Toxic Irvine (NTI) was born.  NTI received an endorsement of support from Dr. Jane Goodall for their work. In 2018, Non Toxic Neighborhoods was created to expand their efforts nationally to assist cities and school districts to transition to organic land management.  Sharing their proven and replicable methods, NTN now shares their Playbook and offers the NTN Toolkit with supporting research and sharable documents to help others.
South Portland, Maine

South Portland is actively engaged in reducing toxic persistent pesticide use in their city. Check out their municipal website to see what they’ve enacted and how they share their story with the public. Read more about the South Portland’s Grow Healthy initiative.

Midwest Pesticide Action Organization
Founded over two decades ago, the Midwest Pesticide Action Center is dedicated to reducing the health risks and environmental impacts of pesticides by promoting safer alternatives. They have written two guidebooks jam-packed with information: The Activist’s Toolkit and The Municipal Pesticide Reduction Toolkit.
Takoma Park, Maryland
Takoma Park is actively engaged in reducing toxic persistent pesticide use in their city. Check out their municipal website to see what they’ve enacted and how they share their story with the public. Read more about the Takoma Park’s Safe Grow Act.
StonyFIELDS Movement Map
The StonyFIELDS Movement Map shows how this movement to get rid of toxic chemicals in playing fields and public spaces and school fields is spreading across the country, in cities and towns, large and small. For many communities, it started out of health concerns but in practice, many of these communities have also found using organic lawn practices saves money over time.
Beyond Pesticides
The non-profit organization Beyond Pesticides offers a wealth of community-friendly resources to enable the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides. They offer ‘tools for change’ and ‘organizing packets for communities eager to work towards reducing pesticide use where they live.
Osborne Organics
Chip Osborne, Founder and President of Osborne Organics has over 17 years of experience in creating safe, sustainable and healthy athletic fields and landscapes through natural turf management. A nationally-recognized expert and founder of the Organic Landscape Association, shares his expertise here.
Union of Concerned Scientists
UCS is an organization that puts “rigorous independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems.” They have developed some excellent tools for local advocacy that you can find here.