Benedictine symposium weeds out pesticides in lawn care

October 17, 2014

Healthy Lawns at BenULisle, Illinois ~ Benedictine University is joining the Chicago Park District, the Midwest Pesticide Action Center, Sierra Club and other environmental groups advocating for the use of natural lawn care techniques in place of pesticides.

Lawn chemicals have been cited by the American Academy of Pediatrics as contributors to rising rates of various cancers, asthma and neurological problems among children in the United States.  

Benedictine has heeded this warning by mowing campus lawns at 3 inches, which allows roots to grow strong, access water more easily and minimize weeds without the use of pesticides.

To further communicate the goals of this initiative and educate the public on the hazards of lawn chemicals, the University’s Center for Mission and Identity will hold a free, all-day seminar on the issue of pesticides, lawns and social change from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. on Friday, October 31, in the Krasa Presentation Room.

Benedictine faculty and experts will discuss the scientific, cultural, ethical and public health implications of eliminating the use of pesticides. The event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited.

Speakers and topics for the 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. session include:

•  Jean-Marie Kauth, Ph.D., associate professor of Humanities at Benedictine, “The Human Health Hazards of Cosmetic Pesticides.”
•  Tim Marin, Ph.D., associate professor of Chemistry/Biochemistry at Benedictine, “Lawns and the Non-Point Source Pollution Problem.”
•  Susan Cheng, Ph.D., assistant professor of Public Health at Benedictine, “Epidemiological Studies on Environmental Stressors from Tobacco to Pesticides.”
•  Jack Thornburg, Ph.D., professor of Psychology-Sociology at Benedictine, “An Anthropological Perspective on Environmental Problems.”  

Speakers and topics for the 1:00-4:00 p.m. session include:

•  Colin Wilkie, energy operations manager for Community Unit School District 200, “Experiences with Natural Lawn Care.”
•  Clinton Isham, program manager of outdoor spaces for the Midwest Pesticide Action Center, “Toward Natural Lawn Care: Current Work and Successes.”
•  Benedictine students Taliah Nadeem and Azka Kahn, “Attitudes about Lawn Care Chemicals at Benedictine University.”
•  Martin Tracey, Ph.D., professor of Philosophy at Benedictine, “Lawn Ethics.”

The Healthy Lawns initiative is another example of the ripple effect from Years for the Environment, a three-year sustainability and environmental effort that grew organically from the Benedictine value of stewardship.

Sustainability initiatives currently in effect include the Food Scrap Composting and Revitalization Program, courtesy of a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which diverts in excess of 105,000 pounds of food scraps from area landfills; a community garden; energy efficient lighting; a trayless cafeteria system to reduce water consumption; and a cooking oil recycling program.

Plans for the Daniel L. Goodwin Hall of Business, currently under construction, include many green building elements such as recycled construction materials, low-flow water fixtures, energy-efficient lighting and occupancy sensors that automatically turn off when rooms are vacant or adjust when receiving adequate natural light, and a chilled beam cooling and heating system which utilizes non-ozone-depleting refrigerants to help protect the environment.

The Healthy Lawns at Benedictine initiative is supported by the Center for Mission and Identity’s Stewardship and Sustainability Implementation Team, Campus Services, the Faculty Assembly, Students for Ecological and Environmental Development, the Student Senate and University administration.

To provide the community with ongoing tips and alternatives for growing healthy lawns, additional forums will also be held on March 10 and April 22.

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Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls more than 5,000 students in 59 undergraduate and 23 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the seventh consecutive year in 2017. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, admissions@ben.edu or visit ben.edu.

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