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Use Less-Toxic Products

A photo of a lawn recently treated with herbicides
You can have a nice lawn without resorting
to herbicides and pesticides

As consumers, we put ourselves, our families, and our pets at risk when we use herbicides, pesticides, highly corrosive products like drain cleaners, and toxins like ammonia and bleach. Sewage treatment plants don't eliminate these chemicals, and many find their way into our air, water and ecosystems.

Fortunately, there are safer alternatives that work just as well. By choosing a non-toxic option or the least toxic product, you can protect yourself and the environment.

In Your Yard

  • Get a lush, healthy lawn without chemicals
    Set mowing height to 2.5 - 3 inches. Leave grass clippings on the lawn. Water slowly and deeply in the mornings, 1 inch of water once a week at most.. Fertilize with 1/4 inch of compost broadcast over the lawn between mid-June and the end of August. More lawn tips
  • Don't use lawn fertilizer containing phosphorus unless it's needed
    A new law that will take effect January 1, 2012 will prohibit or severely restrict the use of phosphorus-containing lawn fertilizers. A simple soil test will reveal whether your lawn actually needs additional phosphorus. Phosphorus-containing runoff from lawns is polluting our lakes, ponds, streams and rivers.
  • Tolerate some weeds
    The goal of the weed-free lawn is essentially unattainable without resorting to dangerous chemicals. Learn to accept the natural diversity and look of a 'country lawn'. More on controlling weeds
  • Dealing with Japanese beetles
    In the early spring, apply parasitic nematodes (HB strain) to your lawn. Water the lawn well before and after application. Don't use beetle traps - they attract more than they kill. Use a hose to spray mature beetles off your plants. This is best done in the morning when the beetles are less active
  • Keep an eye out for problems
    Many insect infestations and diseases can be controlled without toxins if caught early enough. Patrol your yard regularly and be sure to look on the underside of leaves.
  • Visit the Be Green Great Lakes Project web page

At Home

  • Unclog sinks without drain openers
    First try to manually remove hair or solids with a metal snake or plunger. Add one half cup baking soda to the drain and follow with a half cup of white vinegar. Wait until it stops bubbling and then pour kettle or so of boiling water down the drain.
  • Whiten laundry without chlorine bleach
    Use the less-toxic bleach alternatives that are available, or try adding a half-cup of borax to your laundry. Sunshine will whiten cotton and linen, not to mention the energy savings from line drying.
  • Make your windows sparkle without ammonia
    Mix 3 tablespoons white vinegar, two cups of water and one teaspoon of liquid Castile soap.
  • Polish silver with toothpaste
    Polish brass and copper with a toothpaste consistency mixture of lemon juice and baking soda
  • Avoid dry cleaning
    Dry-cleaning fluids contain carcinogens, neurotoxins, and respiratory irritants. Clothes that say "dry clean only" can often be safely washed by hand. Avoid clothing that must be dry-cleaned.
  • Remove hard water deposits with vinegar
    Soak your showerhead in undiluted white vinegar for two hours to overnight. Clean deposits off shower walls and glass with an undiluted white vinegar spray and a scrubbing sponge.
  • Another way to clean the toilet bowl
    Pour one cup borax and 1/4 cup vinegar into toilet. Let sit over night before scrubbing. Two denture cleaner tablets left in the bowl overnight will help remove mineral deposits.

More about Use Less-Toxic Products:

  • Driveway pavement sealers - Environmental and health reasons not to use coal tar-based driveway sealers and how to recognize sealers that contain toxic chemicals.