Join Sonoma County Conservation Action in working to eliminate synthetic pesticides from public spaces and schools throughout Sonoma County!
Check out our Toxic Free Future Toolkit for tips on how to take action at your school or park.
We need your help! Please contact our local elected officials to let them know this is important to you and our future.
Pre-populated letters to each elected office are available by clicking below. We encourage you to edit and personalize these with your personal stories and why this needs to be prioritized in Sonoma County!
Click a link below to email your elected officials:
Learn about our campaign and what actions you can take to help! Email email@example.com with questions.
Action Teams include:
- Community Engagement, Media & Events
- Community Council Watcher Program
- Safe Solutions Integrated Pest Management Team
Take an action today! Download our flyer HERE and circulate it to your friends and community. Encourage them to email their elected officials in support!
Check out our Toolkit Toxic Free Future Toolkit for tips on how to take action.
Why do we need a Toxic Free Future?
Sonoma County leads the way in providing community members a healthy quality of life, thriving watersheds and world class recreation.
However, we still rely on toxic pesticides, such as glyphosate-based RoundupTM, a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer (1), for weed management in our public spaces, recreation areas & school grounds.
All synthetic weed killing products are harmful to human health and the environment (2).
Chemicals commonly used in our County’s open spaces include glyphosate, 2,4-D (3), dicamba (4), pendimethalin (5), oryzalin (6), triclopyr (7), and MCPA (8), and isoxaben. These pesticides are are linked to numerous health issues including reproductive issues, endocrine disruption, neurotoxicity, liver and kidney disease, birth defects, and cancer (9).
Sonoma County, with the 3rd highest incidence of childhood cancer in California (10), must be proactive. We can’t afford to continue to spray synthetic chemicals that endanger our students, our workers and ourselves.
Strong measures to reduce pesticide exposure are already in place in Marin and Mendocino. It’s time for us to show our leadership by finding more innovative, safer, and proactive options.
How are we going to protect our kids, workers and animals?
- Require all government agencies follow new regulations for safe pesticide use including the Healthy Schools Act (11) and Sonoma County’s NPDES Permit for stormwater discharges (pages 46-47).
- Ensure that all government agencies have Integrated Pest Management Plans (IPM) that require using least toxic methods first with a goal of “getting to zero” pesticide use in the next five years (exceptions for public health and safety). Require IPM training for maintenance staff and contractors.
- Require transparent, multi-channel notifications to residents for all pesticide applications.
- Develop IPM Citizen Advisory Councils or Commissions to oversee public pesticide use trends, review annual reports, and maintain a centralized reporting structure for easy access to all pesticide use data on public lands. IPM oversight groups would be comprised of community members, advocacy organizations, IPM experts, and agency officials.
- Require that new landscape designs prioritize natural weed management principles and encourage re-landscaping weed prone areas for easy, pesticide-free maintenance.
The myth that a synthetic herbicide could be developed to be safe was put to rest when glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUpTM, was determined to be a probable human carcinogen.
Public awareness of the harmful effects of synthetic pesticides is at an all time high, as well as the recognition that pesticide resistance can lead to reliance on ever stronger pesticides.
Dozens of public agencies across California have successful non-toxic landscape programs that could be recreated in Sonoma County.
Where to start:
Conservation Action is working with with the County of Sonoma, City of Santa Rosa, and Santa Rosa City Schools to develop toxic-free protocols that work and can spread (like weeds).
If you’re curious about pesticide use in your Town or City, we encourage your to email you council members to ask what their current Integrated Pest Management Plans are!
Contact information for Councils in Sonoma County is here.
It’s Possible! Successful Case Studies:
Marin County has one of the most comprehensive nontoxic integrated pest management plans in the state, managing 126 sites without pesticides.
City of Irvine
The City of Irvine became Southern California’s first nontoxic City in 2016 rolling out a number of advanced environmental policies. Irvine maintains public spaces and sports fields primarily with nontoxic methods, only using synthetic herbicides as a last resort.
The first principle of their Pest Management Program states that they will “use organic materials on all City properties”.
Additionally, Irvine’s Athletic Field maintenance, often seen as the biggest hurdle to an organic transition, clearly states that “No pesticides shall be applied on the infields (page 58)”, that “All pesticide application shall be approved by the City Landscape Maintenance Superintendent prior to use” and “organic pesticide shall be the first choice to control a pest” (page 62).
This shows that it is possible to maintain sports fields without toxic chemicals.
City of Sebatopol and Sebastopol Union School District
The City of Sebastopol approved an ordinance creating a Voluntary Toxics-Free Zone to reduce the use of pesticides and other chemicals in 2000. The City maintains all of its public parks virtually synthetic pesticide free. Sebastopol Union School District does not allow synthetic pesticides to be used on campus and provides their district-wide Integrated Pest Management Plan online.
Petaluma City Schools
Petaluma City Schools banned glyphosate-based herbicides in December 2015.
What are toxic-free alternatives?
A variety of successful methods exist for maintaining public (and private) landscapes without toxic chemicals.
Though still designed to kill, organic pesticides are created from substances that are generally recognized as safe. Organic weed killers are often based on acids or essential oils and accidental exposure can be harmful to the eyes and skin. They are not, however, associated with the long-term chronic effects we associate with synthetic herbicides.
Popular choices for municipal and residential gardeners include products like Competitor, Finalsan, and Tri Tek for existing weeds, and corn gluten-based Specticle FLO to stop weed seeds from germinating.
Plain white vinegar can also be used successfully to kill weeds, especially when applied on hot days. An example of a tried and tested recipe for a natural weed killer is provided below: 1 gallon industrial strength vinegar (30% )*1 oz dish soap1/2 to 1 oz orange oil (optional) Mix ingredients together and apply to weeds using a spray bottle. *Industrial strength vinegar can be purchased online. Regular vinegar will work too, but the resulting mixture will be slightly less effective.
Applying a thick layer of mulch or wood chips is an easy and effective way of suppressing weed growth. Mulching also improves soil health, which in turn makes desirable plants stronger and more effective at outperforming and decreasing weed growth.
Proper mowing techniques can be employed to keep turf in lawns and sports fields healthy and weed resistant.
In wild lands and open spaces, properly timed mowing is an effective nontoxic weed control method to decrease fire danger and increase visibility.Tarps and plastic sheeting
Tarps or plastic sheeting can be used to cover areas with weeds to kill the plants and suppress new weeds from germinating. A black tarp applied on a hot day is very effective at killing everything underneath.
Irrigation system improvements
Too much water or too liter water can lead to the growth of unwanted plants. Targeting appropriate irrigation to desirables and cutting irrigation in open, weed prone areas will keep weeds from growing.
Many common city features such as road median strips and open wood chipped landscapes seem almost to have been designed with annual herbicide use in mind. Weeds that grow in median stripes are difficult and often dangerous to remove manually. Bare wood chipped areas will eventually fill in with weeds if the area is not frequently mulched or if desirable plants do not fill in the empty spaces. Requiring new landscapes to be designed with easy, nontoxic maintenance in mind, and re-landscaping existing problem areas can help decrease the need for expensive maintenance and toxic chemicals.
Volunteers and community action days
Many open space districts, schools, and municipalities rely on volunteers to help eradicate invasive species and maintain weed-free campuses. Volunteer days are fun ways to strengthen community ties and develop a sense of pride in our public lands.
Compost tea & turf aeration
Compost tea and other nutritive land maintenance products can be instrumental in growing soil health to keep undesirable plants from growing in lawns and sports fields. Chip Osborne is an expert in the field and teaches schools, parks, and recreation areas his successful nontoxic landscape methods that have been successfully employed throughout the Country (18).
Projects to address specific weed issues can be jointly performed through partnerships with groups and nonprofits with experience in targeted invasive species management. LandPaths, for example, employs “slow restoration” techniques that target invasive species such as star thistle using appropriately timed and consistent annual maintenance. Slow restoration may take longer than conventional methods using synthetic herbicides, but the end results are often the same without the toxic inputs.
In The News:
- Pernicious Pesticides – Hiding in Plain Sight by Megan Kaun, Sonoma County Gazette, March 28, 2017
- Santa Rosa may rethink use of chemical sprays such as Roundup in parks by Kevin McCallum, Press Democrat, July 18, 2017
- Santa Rosa seeking alternatives to Glyphosate for landscaping by Kerry Fugett and Elaine B. Holtz, Sonoma County Gazette, July 30, 2017
Toxic Free Futures Endorsed By:
- Sonoma County Conservation Action
- Californians for Pesticide Reform
- Safe Ag Safe Schools
- Santa Rosa Democratic Club
- Sonoma Valley Democratic Club
- Oakmont Democrats
- South County Democrats
- Occidental Arts and Ecology Center
- Daily Acts
- North Bay Jobs with Justice
- Sierra Club, Sonoma Group
- 350 Bay Area
- 350 Sonoma
- Singing Frog Farm
- Wine and Water Watch
- Preserve Rural Sonoma County
- Better Beginnings for Babies
- FACTS: Families Advocating for Chemical and Toxic Safety
Do you know an organization who would like to endorse this campaign? We’d love to hear from you! Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.