PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ In honor of Earth Day, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza launched a campaign that encourages city residents to stop using harmful chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers.

The “Pesticide Free PVD” program aims to keep toxins and chemicals out of the state’s waterways and promote a healthy ecosystem.

Elorza said the Providence Parks Department is leading by example through halting the use of pesticides and herbicides in parks and playgrounds.

“I’m proud of the hard work our parks department has undertaken to eliminate the use of chemicals in almost all instances in our parks and greenspaces,” Elorza said. “This is not only great for the environment, but it means our children can play safely in these spaces without the risk of being exposed to harmful toxins.”

A recent report released by the city and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island cites the Roger Williams Botanical Center as an example of how pesticide-free policies can have a positive impact on the environment.

The report states that, since the botanical center doesn’t use pesticides or herbicides, they keep beneficial insects inside and also have three goats that “provide weed control throughout Roger Williams Park.”

Elorza said all residents who take the online pledge to not use pesticides or chemicals on their lawns and gardens will receive a free yard sign.

“We want to continue to invite all of our residents and our kids to enjoy our parks, but we want them to be able to enjoy them in as safe a way as possible,” Elorza added. “That’s why it’s important to make sure we’re not using cancer-causing chemicals to fertilize our parks. We’re not using pesticides, we’re being very creative. We’re taking the lead as a city, but we know we can’t do it alone.”

The city also provided a series of tips to consider:

  • Declutter your yard and remove standing water and open food sources to discourage pests
  • Manually remove weeds as opposed to spraying them
  • Water sparingly and avoid watering in the heat of the day
  • Mow less and allow lawn to grow to 4 inches to support stronger roots (Taller grass also supports native pollinators and increases beneficial insects)
  • After you mow, fertilize naturally by leaving grass clippings on the lawn (Fine grass pieces are easily digested by soil microorganisms, creating nitrogen rich fertilizer)
  • Leave fallen leaves on your lawn year-round, mow over the leaves to add nutrients to the grass, or leave them in your gardens and remove the leaves in late spring
  • Don’t use a leaf blower (Leaf blowers remove the organic layer of your soil, an important over-wintering habitat for our native pollinators and important insects like fireflies)
  • If insects such as Japanese beetle grubs become a pest in your lawn, try applying an organic method of control like milky spore. For garden insect pests such as slugs, try neem oil or diatomaceous earth. (Remember, insects are generally a sign of a healthy ecosystem)
  • Incorporate native plants into your landscape, such as the University of Rhode Island’s #1 and #2 grass seed mixes
  • Aerate your lawn to avoid compaction and to improve air circulation and water absorption
  • Test your soil to determine overall soil health and nutrient needs (URI Master Gardener Program volunteers offer a free soil testing service at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center the first Saturday of every month)