Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get the warm fuzzies when I see the word “Organic” slapped across a bag of apples.  In fact, I’ve become leery of the word and tend to avoid it at all costs, and the costs are high.  Until fairly recently, there simply weren’t any rules or regulations over the fast growing “organic” movement, and before we knew it, we were being assaulted with the idiom.  It’s big business after all.  Even in 2012, there’s still some uncertainty surrounding the true definition of “organic” and the certification process, but I know this much:  I will purchase locally grown produce in season as opposed to “organic” produce flown in from Brazil.  Why?  First and foremost, cost.  Produce is expensive as it is, so to mitigate cost and leverage the best flavor, I purchase only what’s being grown locally in season.  Besides, the organically grown tomatoes from Brazil didn’t walk here.  They had to be transported somehow – by plane and truck, and this seems to negate the whole “organic”/”carbon foot print” thing.  It just doesn’t make sense.  According to the USDA, there are three levels of “organics”.  “100% Organic” are products made entirely with certified organic ingredients and methods.  “Organic” products must have at least 95% organic ingredients and “Made with Organic Ingredients” must contain a minimum of 70% organic ingredients.  My head is beginning to spin…

I think the bottom line is you need to know what you’re buying and where it came from.  Just last week, there was a recall on baby formula due to heightened levels of arsenic in the “organic” brown rice syrup used to sweeten the product.  Scary, I know.  Do some research, be an informed consumer and don’t be easily duped into thinking “organic” means better for you, better tasting or better for the planet.  Use your head and balance the pros and cons against your budget.  Just like everything else, there is a balance to things, and each side must be weighed before making the best choice for you.

Sweeney’s has taken steps towards organic/sustainable landscaping.  Consider these simple acts that Sweeney’s performs on a daily basis and are an important part of our core beliefs:

  • We recommend grass clippings remain as opposed to bagging and hauling them away.  Grass clippings return water and nutrients back into the soil.  It’s good for your lawns and easy on the environment.
  • We have implemented route optimization as a way to efficiently service our customers and run our routes.  This, of course, saves time and fuel.
  • We use slow release fertilizers.  Slow-release nitrogen fertilizer, also referred to as insoluble nitrogen, contains nitrogen in a form that must be broken down by soil microbes before it can be used by grass, which is ultimately better for your lawns.
  • We spot treat weeds as opposed to treating the entire lawn.
  • We purchase locally grown plant material and use appropriate seed blends.
  • In our designs, we recommend using native plant material as much as possible.  Native plants require less maintenance, fertilizer, insecticides, etc.
  • Our maintenance program is designed to minimize the need for herbicides, fertilizers, water, etc. over time.  Subscribe to our turf/maintenance programs and see for yourselves!
  • We have gone paperless!  Most everything can be done on-line, from estimates to proposals, invoices to payment, designs and more!

As far as “to be organic or not to be”, I say caveat emptor!

Best wishes,

Kim Sweeney