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Chalk One Up for Social Networking: Earth Day Drops ChemLawn

Risa Edelstein didn’t let a moment pass. As soon as she heard in our SafeLawns Weekly Update last Monday, March 15, that TruGreen/ChemLawn had sponsored Earth Day, she posted a Facebook page titled, simply enough “STOP TruGreen from Sponsoring Earth Day.”

Hundreds of other SafeLawns members didn’t hesitate, either. The fan page was soon bustling with comments admonishing Earth Day administrators for accepting money from the the lawn care company with the worst environmental track record in North America history. At last count, the page had 757 “fans,” more than 600 of whom are also SafeLawns members or followers.

“Greenwashing is dangerous to our children’s health and environment,” posted Kristen Hayes-Yearick. “If TruGreen went truly green, I’d be the first to send them a letter of appreciation. TruGreen is using deceptive marketing to sell their product. Pesticides don’t stay just where they are sprayed and effect more than just their targeted pests.”

When the official joint announcement came out Tuesday — and all references to TruGreen were stripped from the Earth Day site — the stated reasons for the change of heart were predictably vague: “Due to unanticipated events, Earth Day Network and TruGreen regrettably announce their relationship for the 40th anniversary event has been suspended.”

The most obvious “event” was the half-million dollar fine handed down last week by the state of New York, which found TruGreen guilty of applying pesticides in the rain and wind and with unlicensed workers. Chances are Earth Day didn’t see that one coming. My guess, too, is that Earth Day would have let that slide had Earth Day president Kathleen Rogers not heard from hundreds of supporters of SafeLawns and other environmental and health organizations.

In the end, Earth Day had absolutely no choice but to send TruGreen packing. With the 40th anniversary barely a month away, the sponsorship would have grown to a major distraction, if not a total national outcry that would have left lasting scars.

And as much as Earth Day leadership is probably seething at the actions of of several hundred “activists” who made so much Internet noise in the past 10 days, the organization really owes you all a debt of gratitude for cutting this off at the pass — before Katie, Larry and Oprah started pointing their microphones in Earth Day’s direction. Now the organization can just get back to its mission of celebrating planetary stewardship. Lord knows we need all of that we can get.

Before this moment passes into a footnote of environmental history, however, let me say this: THANK YOU to Risa and so many others who proved, once again, that our voices still matter. Corporate largesse doesn’t always rule the day.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1023
  • Rose Marie Raccioppi

    GREAT GOING! People POWER on the mark!! YES! YES!

  • Scott Reil

    To Risa and everyone else that made this happen, we have proven yet again that people in concerted action have more power than we know. The ability of social media to change the way things get done in this world is without boundaries…

    What do we focus on next? :D


  • K. B.

    BRAVO! To everyone involved in pressuring Earth Day to do the right thing.

    It was awesome to see this thing play out in real time, and with such quickness.

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  • Valerie C.

    Thank you! This is one of the many reasons I still have faith in human kind.

  • Risa Edelstein

    Paul – Thanks so much for the recognition but I only created the page (ok – I also prodded lots of bloggers and green orgs on Facebook as well – I was an online marketer in my previous life ;->). I really had not expected that kind of passion and rallying cry around a cause so close to my heart…which is what makes social media so powerful and so amazing! I loved watching it play out and hope we can continue to put pressure on this country to reduce and eliminate our chemical and pesticide use. Not to mention that these chemicals use huge amounts of fossil fuels – both to make it and in its ingredients! I grew up in Montreal and all my family is there and they brag how much better Canada is ecologically. I hope to brag to them one day!

  • linda

    Thank you Risa. I can’t remember who brought the facebook page to my attention, but I’m glad they did, and glad I participated.

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  • Rachel D.

    What a great story. This restores my faith in the power of the people. Chemlawn/Trugreen trying to green wash their product makes it harder for people like me who are trying to make a business being truly green.

  • Curt G.

    All right!!!!!

  • Rose Marie Raccioppi

    Dear Paul, As a Member of the Orangetown Environmental Committee (OEC), Orangetown, NY, having set the theme of “Abundance BE,” for Earth Day, I will have a table at the Orangetown Earth Day Recycling Fair, and so pleased to provide links and information on “Safe Lawns” and your publications. As you know I am indeed on your cheering squad!!

    Best and with gratitude,
    Rose Marie Raccioppi

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