Stonyfield Organic extends #PlayFree initiative

August 5, 2020


Londonderry, NH, August 5, 2020 – A new nationwide survey1 from Stonyfield Organic finds that 85% of Americans have sought sanctuary in the great outdoors during COVID-19, with 52% of respondents saying a daily walk outside kept them “sane” and 50% frequently spent time in their yard or a public park. Perhaps the greatest silver lining is that forty-three percent of respondents also said they now appreciate the outdoors “more than ever.” The escape to the great outdoors also applied to the country’s four-legged friends with 64% of respondents saying they took more walks with their dogs during quarantine.

Despite the nation’s appreciation of the outdoors as a sanctuary from the ongoing pandemic, most Americans (56%) say they still use glyphosate or other harmful pesticides to treat their own lawns and green spaces. Additionally, 65% of playing fields in the U.S. are sprayed with harmful pesticides2 like glyphosate, 2,4-D and Dicamba, a source of concern for chemical exposure at a time when many people and pets are relying on them as never before.

Continuing its work to stop the use of harmful pesticides not just in the food we eat, but also in the country’s green spaces, Stonyfield Organic, the country’s leading organic yogurt maker, is announcing the latest phase of its #PlayFree initiative. This year, in addition to providing resources and actionable steps for consumers to make a switch to organic lawn maintenance at home, Stonyfield Organic is also teaming up with 14 new communities to convert outdoor fields and parks to organic grounds management.

Since the launch of #PlayFree in 2018, Stonyfield Organic has contributed over $2 million dollars to the initiative, teaming up with 35 communities nationwide to assist with their transitions to organic grounds management and bringing organic model fields to millions of people.

“With appreciation for outdoor spaces at a high, we want to make sure people know how to enjoy them to the fullest by making sure they are free from harmful chemicals and pesticides,” said Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Organic co-founder and Chief Organic Optimist. “The primary reason Americans continue to treat their own yards with pesticides is because they are skeptical that organic maintenance can be as impactful as chemical maintenance. That’s simply not the case as we have seen tremendous results from our participating StonyFIELD #PlayFree communities, who are reporting not only healthier parks and fields but also a decrease in maintenance costs over time. Given this success and the increasing importance of time spent outside, it’s our continued mission to bring organic maintenance, without the use of harmful pesticides, to as many communities and backyards as possible.”

Each of this year’s selected communities will receive a monetary donation to use toward the purchase of organic inputs and/or landscaping equipment needed for organic grounds management. The communities will also receive technical support and guidance underwritten by Stonyfield from the yogurt maker’s expert collaborators, including Beyond Pesticides, Non-Toxic Neighborhoods, Osborne Organics and Midwest Grows Green.

The newest 14 communities to team up with Stonyfield Organic for organic field conversions include:

· Cambridge, MA
· Chicago, IL
· Great Neck, NY
· Madison, WI
· Manchester, NH
· Northampton, MA *donation will go towards training new staff on organic maintenance
· Philadelphia, PA
· Portland, ME
· Select fields in Hawaii
· South Orange, NJ
· Tempe, AZ
· Tucson, AZ
· Virginia Beach, VA
· Wilmington, NC

Philadelphia Councilmember Cindy Bass, of the 8th District, is proud to team up with Stonyfield Organic and Non-Toxic Neighborhoods to support the City of Philadelphia’s Organic & Regenerative Pilot Park Project. “This project is a continuation of our commitment to creating healthy and clean environments, particularly in underserved communities which have been plagued by issues of enhanced exposure to environmental toxins,” said Bass.

Going to the Dogs
Stonyfield Organic is encouraging people to start at home with organic lawn and garden maintenance, both for the health of their families as well as their pets who can be even more vulnerable to the adverse effects of pesticides. In fact, studies have shown dogs have a 70% higher risk of canine lymphoma cancer after herbicide-treated lawn exposure than dogs not exposed.3

In describing the most important ways they care for their pets, limiting exposure to pesticides was ranked as the lowest priority overall and the majority of pet parents (58%) were not aware that public parks are using pesticides to treat the grass where their pups run and play. Paradoxically, 75% of pet owners think it’s important for humans to take their shoes off before entering a house, but 77% don’t wipe their pet’s paws after outside play and walks, leaving the door open for pesticide residue to be tracked inside the home. What’s even more alarming, 74% of dog owners also said they let their dog sleep on the bed or couch!

“From a pet perspective, the issue of pesticides on backyards, parks and fields – and the negative health effects they can have on our pets – is one that I wish more pet parents were aware of,” said celebrity veterinarian Dr. Lisa Lippman, DVM. “In fact, given that pesticides may cause anything such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and even seizures or death in dogs,4 I think it’s very important that pet parents take steps to limit their dogs’ exposure and I encourage everyone to check out the great resources Stonyfield has provided on its website for people to make change both in their own backyards as well as local communities.”

Stonyfield Organic’s #PlayFree initiative deepens the mission-led brand’s commitment to issues beyond the food aisle by shedding light on an often-overlooked issue. In a 2018 survey,5 Stonyfield Organic found that while most American parents (69%) are looking to lessen their children’s exposure to pesticides in food, nearly the same number (67%) do not consider exposure at sports fields, playgrounds and parks to be of concern. Stonyfield is eager to bring attention to this issue by empowering everyone to make change locally and at home to protect the health of children, their pets and the environment.

“Several of the most commonly used chemicals on playing fields are either proven or likely endocrine disruptors, which can interfere with the development of children’s immune, reproductive, and metabolic systems,” says Philip Landrigan, MD, MSc, Founding Director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and author of the book Children and Environmental Toxins: What Everyone Needs to Know. “I applaud Stony-field and its collaborators for this initiative and encourage all parents to get involved in their local communities.”

To learn how to take action in your own community and backyard, visit

About Stonyfield Organic
As the country’s leading organic yogurt maker, Stonyfield takes care with everything it puts into its products and everything it keeps out. By saying no to toxic persistent pesticides, artificial hormones, antibiotics and GMOs, Stonyfield has been saying yes to healthy food, healthy people, and a healthy planet for 35 years. Stonyfield, a Certified B Corp, is also helping to protect and preserve the next generation of farmers and families through programs like its Direct Milk Supply and Wolfe’s Neck Organic Training Program as well as StonyFIELDS, a nationwide, multi-year initiative to help keep families free from toxic persistent pesticides in parks and playing fields across the country.

1 Stonyfield Organic and Lab42 surveyed 1,000 adults living in the U.S. age 18 and older in July 2020.
2 Potential Health Effects Related To Pesticide Use on Athletic Fields. R Gilden-E Friedmann-B Sattler-K Squibb-K McPhaul –
3 Takashima-Uebeloer, B., et al. “Household Chemical Exposures and the Risk of Canine Malignant Lympho-ma, a Model for Human Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.” Environmental Res, 112 (2012): 171-176
4 Pesticides and Your Pet. Texas A&M University College Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences –
5 Stonyfield and Lindberg International surveyed 1,000 adults age 18 and older, comprised of 500 parents with children living at home, in January 2018.