The National Wildlife Federation and Scotts….
The Ruckus Accomplished What?
That is a hard question to get a good, honest reliable answer to in my opinion. It stopped the partnership. It stopped potential programs; it stopped the money; it stopped possibilities. It made some very happily triumphant and others disappointingly disillusioned. It caused loss of respect in both directions. It never once had the wildlife first and foremost from either side, no matter the reasons and argument. One side wanted to toot their own horn and the other wanted to quietly create something worthwhile. Listening to either side had one’s head spinning between agreement and abhorrence.
Who am I talking about here? You fill in the blanks. You might think just the two parties, the NWF and Scotts, but the third player was the bloggers causing the uproar.
The association between the National Wildlife Federation and Scotts was not necessarily a bad thing. I am well aware of the cost of the association in public outcry, but the partnering was never given a chance to see it develop. I cannot see how it would have been any more detrimental than what actually occurred with the verbal onslaught that was hurled at the National Wildlife Federation.
A few were branding Scotts as the devil on blogs – emotion and hyperbole took over reason.
It simmered at “the NWF lost all credibility in my eyes”, to a boil with,”they sold out” and “the NWF was making deals with the devil.” It bubbled at “I will never go back to the NWF”; “just can’t trust them”; and “I choose to leave the losers at Scotts and NWF behind”; and the main comment, “I’m mailing back my sign”, and the list goes on and on.
I am not saying these bloggers should not feel as they did, they obviously acted on emotion. I have a very different way of looking at it though. I am not a home gardener and that makes my opinion much different from many that got vested in this debate. I approached it as a professional and with that comes the responsibility to understand and accept how and why others garden in the way in which they do. I cannot pass judgement, yet I can guide where it seems likely to see a change of direction. And I do try to get those I work with to garden in more sustainable ways.
Why is it though they could not give the benefit of the doubt and see what would develop, then make up their minds. I was willing to see where the partnership would go. It could have been good or bad, but was worth at least seeing.
There are far greater assaults on the environment than a possible union of the NWF and Scotts. Money meant programs, partnership meant some responsibility to making things better and mutually agreeable – finding common ground. But money is the big factor, without it, less can happen to improves things.
I am not naive to what the chemicals do in the long-term to person, animal and habitat, I have read many studies and worked on a few major remediation projects.
Yes, it is serious, but the movement towards conservation and sustainability needs organizations with much more clout to go to bat for the environment. It needs lobbyists to address government (what the NWF does well).
It needs some of these chemicals reexamined and removed from the marketplace. You saw in the last post efforts in that direction. Long term use of certain pesticides has shown negative consequence where countries and states are weighing the cost of allowing these products on the market. This is something that will take great effort and people who know the process. A Trojan Horse approach maybe would have been in order. Working from within had possibility.
Scotts is putting product out there, successfully marketing and creatively advertising them as safe while used as recommended – all the while the products have the potential to pollute water and soils. Some product kills insect life indiscriminately as designed.
Is it in Your Garden Shed?
I have no doubt that some gardeners secretly use Scotts Bug-B-Gon for instance, and have seen it in the garden sheds of gardeners I have heard talk about their safe and welcoming, certified garden habitats. I get to many more gardens than do many bloggers in a years time with my job and the hundreds of garden walk properties in our area, so I have a tendency to want to know how these folks garden. Garden habits is important in design. Some have gardeners employed and I need to know their maintenance practices too.
I don’t use these products outdoors because I value the insects and want them in my garden, but I bet there are a lot that want the vegetables and flowers more than they do the insects. I find that using product by some, is on occasion what is necessary, so I am NOT the one to criticize the need where there is little other choice. I write about pesticide use often on this blog, but I am just one voice making noise on the subject. It needs to be addressed (less toxic versions developed, harmful ones abolished) for the sake of all creatures on this planet, us too.
Not Everything you Grow Needs Application
I have been pretty lucky with insects controlling each other. Even last year the pumpkins had little problem as the Spotted Cucumber Beetles were in check with no pesticide used. My garden has many wasps and spiders on patrol, and there were hoards of Squash bees pollinating the plants. I was in heaven seeing all the insect activity on these two plants. See the post on my pumpkins and my lack of pesticide use, but I am aware this is not likely to occur commercially.
But Some Might!
And really, when you see those beautiful potted annual plants overflowing with blooms, do you think Miracle Gro did not grace those blooms before they were purchased? I work with both wholesale and retail nurseries in my job, and see the daily applications. I am betting many that blog use Miracle Gro, after all, potted plants will starve in a long season if not fertilized in some fashion, either natural or manufactured.
I confess, I buy Miracle Gro potting soil myself for all my indoor plants. I use the fertilizer indoors as well on some plants.
Outside, my potted plants grow in my homemade mix of compost, manure and the Organic Choice light weight soil made by Scotts (also includes Miracle Gro – yes, well aware of the hypocrisy here). My poor lawn is nothing but weeds, so who cares? I am not applying fertilizer to lawns and gardens, so I do make an effort not to add to an ever-increasing ground water problem.
Am I a hypocrite? From my middle ground perspective, no. Insects love my yard. So do birds, garter snakes and squirrels. And I did not dump or disparage the NWF.
Why is Scotts so Popular with Gardeners?
Scotts has a glitzy website that is very user-friendly with an iPhone app called Sprout It for those needing a little nudge in the “right” direction for planting just about anything. The consumer just plugs in their zip code and it is tailored to their locale and gardening habits. The monthly newsletter is similar with the same regional advice.
No wonder homeowners love their products, especially the My Scotts Lawn App to let consumers manage lawns from their mobile phones. They provide the advice and solutions the gardeners “need” with their Ortho Problem Solver App. They have birding covered too and offer tips to attract them to the yard. No marketing stone is unturned and honestly, some of the tips are the same things posted on garden blogs too.
One stop shopping for the gardening consumer. Since the company provides what the consumer WANTS, it is a very long haul to get people to think differently. It is a longer haul to make them see that nitrogen rich fertilizers greening up their lawns are getting into our waterways and playing havoc with our wetlands.
Almost every garden center and Master Gardener is recommending products to control insects and fertilizers to green up lawns. I answered phones for years and met with home and commercial gardeners as a Master Gardener for Cornell Cooperative Extension, so I know the MG’s recommend product. See the enormity of this problem?
No, I am not a cheerleader for Scotts’ products, but I do understand why people use them – speedy application, convenience, fast results, and loads of advice from their experts to help in just about any gardening situation. Most people only care about where they live and not the greater community surrounding them unfortunately. People need to think sustainably and that includes the greater environment that surrounds their small spot on this Earth.
I would love to see Scotts have more packaged organic products. If it were profitable, I bet they would. It is all in the marketing and they are masters of that.
There will come a time to pay the piper and I believe that time is rapidly approaching.
Why It Matters to Me
It matters because having worked on professional projects to clean brownfields and restore wetlands, the cost is beyond what most states can provide in Superfund dollars. There is never enough to go around. Money matters and it can run out where it is needed most.
The NWF lobbies for places such as these. They help get projects approved at the government level and have funds set aside for native habitat remediation projects. It matters to me that they have sites like this as a priority for birds.
The firm where I worked did do design on one brownfield remediation site in our area (one with some images in this post, Tifft Nature Preserve), and helped to restore a native habitat, but it was not nearly as toxic as the industrial heritage site I worked on for the firm (Cherry Farm) which never got funded at that time.
So there sits the tainted land riverside with wildlife living and breeding amongst the heavy metal laden soils. It is not safe for people so it is not safe for egg laying birds.
More funded study was done subsequently in 2011, so we will see where it leads, but what I have read, rather than restoring the wetland nature preserve, this study’s ultimate goal is to promote redevelopment that would create jobs and increase tax revenues. Is this in the best interest of the wildlife?
Another project I worked on at the firm was the Buffalo Greenway Nature Trail. It was to redevelop brownfield lands along the waterfront and get people back into nature. This project was developed successfully.
In case any readers do not know what brownfields are, they are: abandoned, idled or under-used property where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by the presence or possible presence of environmental contamination. When one considers a potential site for redevelopment, many hurdles stand in the way, depending especially on the industrial heritage of the proposed site.
This is one reason why I wanted Scotts to provide a sizable funding source. I realize it would not coincide with projects Scotts would have on the table, but would free up other money for the NWF to dedicate to worthwhile wetland projects like these if they so desired.
Just stopping pesticide use in the home garden is just a tip of the iceberg on a very growing environmental problem.
It is much harder, no scratch that, impossible when money is not available. And that is my point for the NWF. They need funding and how they get it should not matter as long as they have control on product using their name.
The conservation work completed is what is important, the wildlife saved, the habitat preserved, the waters and land cleaned – not the money used to get it done. I do not believe it was a matter of casting approval to products that are harmful, I think it may have been just turning a blind eye until at some point it could be addressed and dealt with. Greenwashing, well maybe, but Scotts was not going to give without getting.
I make no apologies for my opinion. I have worked on large wetland cleanup/rehabilitation projects only to see state funding fizzle away and large habitats lost to much greater chemical toxicity. I look to the greater gardens of my region, not just to one in my backyard.
My first instinct on the Scotts/ NWF union was maybe the NWF can do some good. Take the money and make sure the products their logo emboldened were safe and natural products, and get Scotts to make “organic” profitable in both the financial and environmental realms.
…Get a foot in the door and start somewhere. I put my trust in the NWF to make the right choice and keep their common commitment to conservation. But then the association was never given a chance to see what would happen, good or bad.
I did not even think of the NWF until I asked my cousin how she got her Certified Wildlife Habitat sign. It was not the same way I did….