Over 5,000 bloggers around the world – including one White House blogger – are observing Blog Action Day today by focusing attention on a subject in need of lots more attention – water. It’s hard for Save the Ocean appeals to compete with Save the Baby Anything messages, though the closer to home the body of water is, the more attention it gets. So fortunately, Save the “Chesapeake Bay” IS a popular message, and the current leadership in Annapolis and the White House have made great progress in reducing pollution. (And Marylanders who care about the Bay, don’t forget to VOTE Nov. 2!)
Water in the Landscape
But let’s get on-topic, shall we? Probably THE most important environmental responsibility we have as landowners and gardeners have to do with water – conserving it as a resource, and making sure the rainwater landing on our property percolates down and is cleaned before it ends up in our waters. So there’s lots to cover, including topics like how to water efficiently and principles of xeriscaping, which are covered here so I won’t repeat them. I’ll just recommend two interesting links about water in our gardens:
- I like the “Wise Lawn Care Prevents Water Pollution” hand-out distributed by the city of Alexandria, VA. Most people believe that avoiding pesticides is all they need to do to protect waterways, so information like this that emphasizes wise fertilization practices is essential. This brochure tells us to “Fertilize in the fall if at all!”
- A measure is being considered in New Jersey that would severely restrict the polluting nutrients nitrogen and phosphates in lawn fertilizers, and I recommend Tom Christopher’s account on Huffington Post. He notes that Scotts MiracleGro and TruGreen are fighting the measure, as are some who fear their properties values will decline if their lawns are less green. But Tom suggests that the solution to make everyone happy (except the aforementioned behemoths of the lawn industry) is to switch to the less resource-intensive fine fescue mixes that are being tested by Rutgers (see Now-Mow Lawn and Eco-Lawn.) Tom’s also a member of the Lawn Reform Coalition.
More about Scotts
But enough about water; I thought I’d look more closely at the company fighting these clean-water measures. You know, the company that spends $100 million a year on advertising, much of it telling us to “green-up” our lawns in the spring, the worst possible time for our waterways. Thanks to Paul Tukey at SafeLawns, I found some interesting corporate research:
The Scotts Company is the world’s leading supplier and marketer of consumer products for do-it-yourself lawn and garden care. It also supplies a range of products for professional horticulture. Scotts owns the leading brands in every major category in virtually all of the countries where it has a significant presence.
Scotts enjoys a de facto monopoly on lawn care and garden products in the US. In the year ending September 2002, the company enjoyed a market share of 52%, controlling 62% of the consumer market for lawn fertilizers, 59% of the market for growing media/plant food, 43% of the market for grass seed and 41% of the market for controls (i.e. herbicides and pesticides). In addition, Scotts LawnService has now become the 2nd largest competitor in the American lawn service industry.
In 2002 the company’s market share, for lawn care and garden products, in Europe was approximately 25 percent. The company also has a presence in Australia, the Far East, Latin America and South America.
Scotts relies heavily on advertising to create demand for its products. According to the company’s annual report, Scotts’ brands are supported by an annual investment of approximately $100 million in advertising. In the US nearly 4 out of 5 advertising messages in the lawn and garden industry come from Scotts. For 2003, Scotts plans to increase its media spending by another 20%.
There’s more about Scotts here on Corporate Watch – their record on work conditions and environmental issues. I think this bigger picture helps us better understand the Scotts “sustainability” efforts, including their alarmingly successful outreach to (and feeding of) garden writers.