Spring is the season of more daylight, more sunshine, and the renewal of plant life. Warmer temperatures and plentiful rainfall bring about budding trees and bushes and green grass. Among colorful spring flowers, the beauty of yellow dandelions emerges. Dandelions are known to contain many nutrients and have been used for food, drinks, and medicinal benefits for centuries. Nowadays, many view these plants as weeds. As a result, a substantial number of households collectively apply huge amounts of weed killers, or herbicides, to ensure these plants do not survive in their yards. These chemical applications do more than kill weeds.
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), “commercial pesticide applicators, farmers, and homeowners apply about 1 billion pounds of pesticides annually to agricultural land, non-cropland, and urban areas throughout the United States.” A significant amount of the applied chemicals washes into freshwater resources. Early thoughts about chemical applications were that the layers of soil would prevent the chemicals from reaching underground water; studies now show this is not the case. Land application of pesticides can contaminate aquifers below ground, in addition to their widespread runoff into surface waters. Furthermore, a number of plants have become resistant to commonly applied herbicides, a sign of overuse. Additionally, large amounts of resources and energy are required to manufacture these chemicals.
One important and simple way to live a more sustainable lifestyle protective of nature and freshwater is to reduce or eliminate herbicide use in your yard. Homeowners have a choice in the matter – to take part in the massive use of these chemicals that contaminate freshwaters or to protect the natural environment and one another.
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.