An enthusiastic and knowledgeable sub-committee of Rye’s Sustainability Committee is developing a five-year initiative that will seek to reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides on Rye’s residential, religious, educational, governmental, and commercial properties.
By Bill Lawyer
An enthusiastic and knowledgeable sub-committee of Rye’s Sustainability Committee is developing a five-year initiative that will seek to reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides on Rye’s residential, religious, educational, governmental, and commercial properties. They take their cue from the yellow pesticide application “flags” required to be posted on yards to warn people that toxic substances have been applied to yards.
The committee, co-chaired by Lori Fontanes and Birgit Townley, is intent on educating Rye residents regarding the alternatives that are readily available. The other members of the committee are:
Sabine Borgoni, Melissa Brown-Grieco, Maria Guarnieri, Sara Goddard, Colleen Martiloff, Lisa Sandler, and Annalise Stack. Tracy Stora has provided graphics services.
The Rye Healthy Yards sub-committee was established in February of this year. Their inspiration came from a presentation — sponsored by The Rye Garden Club — by author Dr. Diane Lewis last fall. In her book, “The Great Healthy Yard Project”, Lewis describes the extent of toxic substances being used in yard care. She goes to say that the emphasis has to be on the positive side: how easy it is to make a difference, and what the benefits will be for everyone. “People need to know that what they do in their own yards can make a huge difference in the entire Sound Shore region,” said Lewis.
The nine-person Rye Healthy Yards Program (RHYP) has been meeting on a regular basis to develop the program’s various components. They have developed a brochure that provides an overview of the project, and this spring they began reaching out to the community — with booths at both the Midland Fair and the Rye library’s science fair. They conducted a survey of people attending those events to find out what people are doing about their yards and introducing them to the project.
The committee is made up of a cross-section of Rye residents — ranging from recent arrivers to long-timers. Colleen Margiloff has lived in Rye for three years. She notes that one of the reasons for moving here was to have a yard for her children to play. “But I concerned that so many yards in my neighborhood are off-limits due to pesticides,” she said.
County Legislator and Rye resident Catherine Parker is working cooperatively on the County level to promote awareness and changes in yard management. She sponsored a resolution that was adopted unanimously by the County Legislature, and she is reaching out on a door-to-door basis to spread the word.
Other projects planned by the committee include: doing a field survey of Rye’s neighborhoods to determine the extent of pesticide use; setting up a questionnaire using the Survey Monkey website; developing a website with information; and, reaching out to all segments of Rye’s population to increase awareness and let people know how to get involved in the project.
“In order to measure our success,” said Sara Goddard, “we need to know what percent of yards are currently being treated with toxic substances. Then, we can carry out additional surveys in future years, to see if the message is getting across.”
An easy-to-understand brochure has been prepared that provides and introduction to the program, what people can do, and “three easy steps to take today”.
• Ask your lawn care professional to switch to organic or natural gardening techniques;
• If you enjoy doing your own gardening, consult our website for tips and strategies;
• Ask for a healthy yard sign to help spread the word.
Finally, it provides links to valuable resources, as well as the Rye Sustainability website, www.ryeny.gov/sustainability.cfm.