Pesticide-Free: A Better Choice Today for Bees, Fish and Families

By Sharon Selvaggio, Healthy Wildlife & Water Program Director

On the TV commercial, the Roundup-wielding suburban dad looks tough and capable. The chemical stream he aims immediately withers the upstart weeds growing in the cracks of his driveway. Within seconds, everything spic and span, he proudly swaggers back inside.

Those of us with less than perfect yards and driveways wince a bit in response and wonder if we, too, should tackle our weeds with this quick (and so convenient!) chemical killer, so we can live up to this suburban ideal.

Then the representative from the pest control company knocks on the door, promising ant-free kitchens with four easy sprays per year.

Yet, our streams, once vibrant with trout and steelhead, tell us to stop, because the ant killer is killing off the aquatic insects that feed the fish. And neither the Roundup dad on TV nor the pest control company rep mentions that our diminishing bees signal they are suffering from household insecticides and herbicides, and need pesticide-free blooms in three seasons to gather their food and get home to safety and rest.

Meanwhile, our children and pets roll in the grass of our manicured lawns, never dreaming that the herbicide-laced Weed-n-Feed, sold in every big box store in town, might be hurting them.

Over the last few months in Oregon City, neighbors have started to proudly display Pesticide-Free Zone signs, emblazoned with ladybugs or bees. These signs carry a message—that the resident has committed to practice safe, non-toxic ways to tackle home pests with help from the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides and other organizations advocating for a healthy world.

Lawn weeds can be dug, pulled, or removed with great tools that spiral down with an easy push, removing the deep roots. Flower beds can be covered with thick layers of free arbor chips, creating beauty and enhancing the soil while deterring weeds. Sugar ants can be conquered by keeping our kitchens clean and our houses maintained. Invasive ivy can be smothered and blackberries mowed or simply dug up. Rats and mice can be excluded with properly fitted door sweeps, close attention to pipe openings, and reducing harborage around the house. In the event of an infestation, they can be killed with traps or – soon on the market – with dry ice. These alternatives may not be as convenient as what Monsanto and Dow/Dupont offers, but they also don't come with a price the world could never afford in the first place. These toxic chemical giants never asked you and I whether we even cared.

This is a better way. A safer way. A way that protects nature and the health of our children and pets.

Won’t you join your neighbors and make a pesticide-free pledge today?  

Find more information for how to manage common household weeds and pests, or  make the pesticide-free pledge, at:

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  • Ncap Staff
    commented 2019-06-26 14:46:15 -0700
    Thank you for your comments, John and Helena. Excluding pests and creating ecosystem balance is always a preferred choice to killing pests or spraying pesticides. Thank you for the trap tips, Helena.
  • Helena Doerr
    commented 2019-06-26 09:28:39 -0700
    I agree with everything in this article except killing mice and rats. There are humane ways of dealing with them, including the Havahart traps which are sold at Home Depot. They are very effective in trapping mice (I’ve caught 3) and then they can be released. PLEASE do not advocate killing mice a rats just because we don’t want them in our homes. They have as much right to exist as we do.
  • John O'Brien
    commented 2019-06-25 11:35:50 -0700
    Roundup appeals to our American lust for convenience. IF you lump in the “side effects,” a medical marketing term, like increased cancers, environmental degradation, loss of soil and plant diversity, and and and, the initial convenience morphs into lunacy. Will you consider going pesticide-free?