Homeowners are increasingly demanding safe alternatives to toxic chemical lawn fertilization and more companies are claiming to offer organic lawn care programs. But are these programs truly organic or are they just so-called “green washing”? Greenwashing is when a company spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact. It’s whitewashing, but with a green brush. How can a concerned homeowner be sure that a lawn care company’s entire approach uses non-toxic & organic products and that the safe, natural products are not just a sliver of the company’s otherwise not-so-green business? Here are 5 questions to ask, along with the answers to expect from a truly green, non-toxic & organic lawn care company: Q1: What products do you use? A: Are 100% of their products 100% natural & non-toxic? Make sure your service agreement specifies that they will only use agreed-upon products. Some companies have an organic program that they’ll put you on but then will also use toxic, non-organic short-cuts– without telling you– if they think they need to. Q2: Will you give me product info sheets? A: Yes. Providers are required by law to provide Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) when requested, and you can find information about any unfamiliar chemicals by searching the U.S. Center for Disease Control database. They must provide sheets for all the products they use, not just the ones that look good on paper. Q3: Do I have to stay off my lawn after you service it? A: No. The only acceptable answer is ‘no”. If they answer yes, it’s because they are using toxic, harmful chemicals. They may tell you to stay off the lawn for a period after servicing to let the chemical spray dry, but dry toxic, harmful chemicals are still toxic, harmful chemicals. If you, your family, your kids, or your pets plan on using your lawn, don’t put poisons on it. Q4: Will there be any weeds on my lawn & what do you do about them? A: Yes. There will be weeds in a healthy, thriving lawn. If a company claims your lawn will be completely weed-free, they are either over-promising or plan to use a LOT of toxic herbicides. In the lawn, weeds can be greatly reduced naturally by addressing the conditions that allow them to flourish. Non-toxic solutions to weed issues include improving the soil and growing conditions, planting locally adapted grass, mowing high and often, watering deeply but not too often, and correcting drainage issues. All-natural, iron-rich foliar treatments are also very effective in reducing broadleaf weeds without resorting to toxic chemicals. Q5: What do you do about bugs & other pests? A: In general, insects don’t bother healthy lawns. Pests that are troublesome, such as biting insects, lawn grubs, and aphids, can be handled without the use of dangerous chemical insecticides. The safest way to prevent insect damage in the lawn and garden is to discourage the insects from coming in the first place. Rather than treating with toxic chemicals, lawn care services can use safe, effective practices such as removing weak plants, building healthy & organic soil, using non-toxic essential-oil-based sprays such as neem or cedar, and minimizing insect habitat.