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Miracle Gro Deal with Wildlife Federation Outrages Environmental Community

NOTE: Here is an update on this story, posted at 4 p.m.:

The attempted whitewashing by the chemical companies has been rampant lately. First TruGreen ChemLawn tried to buy public opinion by sending millions of dollars to Earth Day. Then Scotts Miracle Gro did buy out Major League Baseball.

SafeLawns and its allies were able to block the insidious ChemLawn deal with Earth Day, but Major League Baseball didn’t flinch under a barrage of comments and still hangs “Scotts is Used Here” banners in Major League Baseball ballparks to give homeowners the illusion that they can have Fenway Park in their back yard just by dumping on some weed ‘n feed.

Now Scotts Miracle Go is at it again. In the past two days word has come down that the world’s largest purveyor of lawn chemical poisons has bought its way into the National Wildlife Federation’s heart. This is the non-profit organization that is supposed to be protecting our wildlife and promoting a healthy lifestyle, yet NWF is now grabbing fistfuls of cash from the very company that makes heading outdoors unhealthy for our kids.

The environmental community is outraged.

“As far as I’m concerned, there is no amount of greenwashing in the world that can clean up the reputation of Scotts,” wrote Carole Brown of Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens. “Why would the National Wildlife Federation want to enter into this deal with the devil? Well, they’re a non-profit organization that exists through the generosity of their donors. And what better way to fill their coffers than to enter into an agreement with a company that generates billions of dollars of profits every year? Who cares if that company makes those billions from dumping tons and tons of chemical herbicides and pesticides into our lawns and gardens, which then runs off wreaking havoc with our streams and watersheds? I care!”

We first heard about this yesterday from our friend and colleague, Joe Lamp’l, the host of Growing a Greener World on PBS. As we were touring our organic lawn trials at the University of Maryland, Joe told us the blogs were afire and folks were calling on SafeLawns to help draw attention to an obvious miscarriage of social justice.

Many other associates began calling us, too, and then posting their opinions on the National Wildlife Foundation Facebook page. Emotions are clearly raw.

“I really really looked up to the NWF as a kid (which I became aware of through reading Ranger Rick!!), and hoped someday I could have a yard certified as a NWF approved backyard habitat,” wrote poster Mary Lai. “It really breaks my heart to see the NWF partner up with a company like Scotts Miracle Gro. I know the economy is going through lean times, but this just isn’t the right way to get funding. :(

Many were calling on friends, followers and colleagues to make life miserable for the NWF. It was the kind of tactic that got Earth Day to cave two years ago and rescind the ChemLawn money. Some suggest tweeting a message to NWF on twitter, including @NWF in your message, or calling NWF: 1-703-438-6000 to chat with the organization’s headquarters.

It’s obvious the NWF is already taking note of the concern and the organization’s PR team is out in force defending its decision and claiming that taking the cash doesn’t equate to a defacto endorsement of Scotts Miracle Gro or its products.

But, of course, it does.

Our board at SafeLawns has long insisted that we review the product offerings of the companies from whom we accept corporate sponsorships. And even though companies like Scotts Miracle Gro do offer a smattering of so-called organic products these days, the vast majority of their stuff is wildly polluting and incredibly toxic for our pets and our kids. So we’d never accept their money under any circumstances. The National Wildlife Federation shouldn’t, either — not until Scotts Miracle Gro stands up and denounces the production, distribution and sale of its products like Roundup, weed ‘n feed, Bug Be Gone and all the myriad products that have been proven to be toxic.

My gut feeling here is that NWF won’t cave to the pressure and it will keep the money. They’ll justify it when they crawl into bed at night with the notion that they’re “cleaning up” Scotts dirty profits. A lot of non-profits feel this way; they don’t care where the money comes from as long as they do good things with the money. Do you think the Catholic church does a background check on everyone before it passes the hat down the pew? Well, neither do most other organizations who otherwise try to do good work with whatever cash they can scrape together.

I’ve also heard impassioned arguments from folks I respect greatly who feel that it’s best to work with the worst environmental offenders from the inside out. Recently I heard Peter Seligmann, the charismatic founder of Conservation International, explain his decision to accept money and other support from WalMart several years ago. The result of his efforts was WalMart’s decision to adopt numerous green initiatives and the company is now the largest seller of organic food in the world.

Seligmann’s well-thought-out “keep your environmental enemies close” strategy has helped effect real change, in other words. WalMart may still be doing some bad stuff, but it’s better than it used to be. That’s how begrudgingly difficult progress happens.

The real problem in the Scotts Miracle Gro marriage with National Wildlife is that nothing in NWF’s rhetoric, so far at least, acknowledges that Scotts Miracle Gro has heretofore been killing the environment. Nothing in the press release states that there’s a goal in place to reduce environmental toxins sold by its newfound benefactor. All NWF appears to be presenting is a series of events that gives Scotts a chance to pretend to give a damn about the environment.

Scotts Miracle Gro continues to claim publicly that its products are safe when used as directed — and the whole damn environmental community knows it’s a lie. NWF knows it’s a lie, too.

So, yes. Please post your opinions to the NWF Facebook page. Leave a message on the organization’s web site:

If NWF is going to keep this money then we need to make the organization understand just how soiled we think it has become.

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
  • Mike Serant

    Just called NWF and went up as far as I could. The average staffer @ NWF seemed to be ashamed. NWF upper mgmt though feels that their funding justifies partnering with the devil. NWF has sold their soul and lost their honor. Not worthy of my support any longer.

    Thanks SafeLawns for alerting me to the sad update

    • Paul Tukey

      If enough people like you threaten to withhold your support of the organization, that will get their attention. Good work.

    • Michelle Christensen

      Hi Paul, I am curious if any studies have been done with prevalence of cancers in professional sports people and if those could be linked with specific chemicals that are used on these playing fields. I understand you have many supporters for organic lawn care of which I am one, but I do think there must be incontrovertible evidence that even the ball players themselves can’t deny. Show the ball players that evidence, and they won’t step foot on those fields knowing how they could be effected. That will certainly get the publics attention:)

      • Alan Cohen

        Yes, there is epidemiological evidence of soft tissue cancers and lymphoma, increases, (if I remember correctly), in golf course superintendents.

        Please visit: and search for this report. It was a study done at the request of an association of golf officials.

  • Parker/Midge Symmes

    Thank you Paul…for alerting us of this horror! The decision on the part of the National Wildlife Foundation to partner with Miracle Gro is astounding and deplorable!. Have just called them to register our dismay and announced that we will not be supporting or funding them anymore!

    Thank you Paul and SafeLawns…for all you are doing to educate and promote a healthy environment for us all…whether we fly with wings, or swim with fins, or slither, or crawl or walk on two or four legs!

    Parker and Midge Symmes
    Concord, Massachusetts
    January 25, 2012

  • Parker/Midge Symmes


    Why does our entry say that our reply is awaiting moderation?

    We feel strongly about this and do not think we can speak strongly enough against the National Wildlife Foundaton’s move to partner with Miracle Gro!


    • Paul Tukey

      It’s up there and we THANK YOU! We manually moderate all comments on here, though, so that spam and profanity don’t get up. That’s all.

      Let’s keep up the fight.


  • Sue Sweeney

    Even if we can’t change the NWF’s behavior, we certainly can make the whole environmental community aware that this was a big mistake and discourage other organizations from going down the same road. Our environmental advocates are not for sale.

  • George Richards

    Shame. Shame. Shame. Another damn shame in this world.

  • Alice

    Thank you for the alert. I am absolutely shocked. Guess it’s time to take down by NWF Backyard Wildlife Habitat sign.

  • Benjamin Vogt

    Absolute perfect response, summing up everything we’ve been talking about on FB and Twitter with NWF, and with Carole leading the charge. This is insane. We need less lawns, more habitat for wildlife, for our kids to cure their nature deficit disorder, more wonder for us, more joy and healing as some hospitals do creating gardens with no lawn. Lawns are not carbon sinks. Prairies and forests are. Ramble ramble. Agreed–they’ve not admitted the devil in bed with them, simply think they can pacify us with corporate quips that are half baked and tepid.

  • Ann

    Thank you Paul, for everything you do to make the environment safer. I emailed the NWF thanks to your alert. I understand the need for donations, but the fact that the NWF is allowing Scotts to use them as a PR booster without an acknowledgment of their products’ toxicity is reprehensible.

  • http://Idon'thaveawebsite J. Leney

    To the National Wildlife Federation:

    Your organization should not accept money from businesses that pollute the earth.

    I understand that you have accepted money from Scotts Miracle Gro.

    Shame on you.

  • Ann

    When calling the NWF to remove us immediately from their mailing list, I just asked them why they would partner with the shameless Scotts. The woman told me that they were partnering to show Scotts how to be better to the environment. This can’t be made up! They better start passing out talking points to ALL their staff. What a sad day it is for the environment.
    Keep fighting the good fight Paul. We appreciate all you and your staff is doing. Thank you.

  • Alan Cohen

    Great Alert! A Better number for NWF Headquarters in Reston, VA is: 703-438-6000
    Ask for their CEO’s assistant! Why not?

    (The 800 number you listed is for NWF, but their member services department, i.e., subscribing to Ranger Rick magazine).

    I bet Ranger Rick is mighty pissed-off today about NWF’s sell out!

  • Nancy Halloran

    Thanks, Paul, for alerting me to this situation. I went to the trouble and expense of getting my lawn Certified Wildlife Habitat. Why would the very organization who is promoting this certification team up with Miracle Gro, a company that is out only to make a profit and not make a healthy environment for us and our wildlife! I’m so disallusioned!

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  • Susan DeWitt Wilder

    Thanks Paul for the heads up. This was my message to NWF:
    To the President:
    Shame on you for accepting contributions from Scott’s Miracle Gro! As a fundraiser I understand the need to sustain an organization. As an ethical fundraiser I would never have solicited or encouraged acceptance of this money.

    I am also a member of Citizens for a Green Scarborough (Maine) which was successful last year in banning lawn chemicals from public properties in town. I am very concerned about the effects of lawn chemicals on wildlife, especially the potential chemical runoff into the Scarborough Marsh, at 3,200 acres, the largest saltwater marsh in Maine.

    I say shame again. How will you be able to accept this money with a smile and a handshake?

    Do not add me to your mailing list.

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  • Elizabeth Benway

    Thanks Paul. I just emailed the NWF explaining how I needed their help on both my inland property and especially my coastal properties. I have one property that has 2 acres of lawn that needs improvement before I build my retirement home. That 2 acres has a vernal pool on it and is next to another 8 acres of woods that I also own. Between the wildlife on those 10 acres, including deer and coyotes, I’ll be having grandchildren and their friends using the properties to play and investigate. I explained that as a retired statistics professor I was certain that they had carefully reviewed the data concerning the Scots’ products before accepting their donations and thus would be able to recommend which products would harm neither my grandchildren or the wildlife. I also mentioned the my son-in-law was a Native American of the Mohawk tribe, who would be living next door to me, and did not want me to use any of Scots’ products but might be convinced if the WLF recommended an item. I am awaiting a response!
    My best wishes to you, Paul, from a sarcastic, nature-loving, data-driven Grammy.

  • Lee

    Charity Navigator’s website ( allows comments about an organization to be posted. Type in the full, spelled-out name of NWF (without typos) to get to their page, then click on the “Reviews” link at the top of the page, then “Write a Review” at the top of the next page. It would be especially helpful if people with some experience with NWF (whether membership or volunteering) would write something, because that will give the commentary more weight.

  • Brian

    Thanks for the heads up on this disgraceful act of pure greed. I guess this truly shows where NWF has for values.

  • Paul Q

    I will never again donate to NWF, never purchase a calendar or any other item frm them.

  • Carole Sevilla Brown

    Thanks for the shout out in your post, Paul! Little did I know that post would spark this firestorm, but I’m so glad to see you and so many other respected folks taking up this story. It’s kind of sad that they’re in the middle of a PR nightmare and they haven’t learned how to respond with more than trite answers. We need to continue to hold them accountable, and your post is helping to do just that.

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  • Julia Vanatta

    How can we turn a negative into a positive? Gain the media’s attention and be sure they know why so many of us are aghast at this partnership; convince the media to “out” the marketing lies that drive sales of Scott’s and Monsanto products; reveal the legislative action they have lobbied in nearly every state that protects there right to sell their products.
    NWF still needs people to carry their message to schools and neighborhoods, and those passionate people are us, not Scotts. We can turn our support to groups such as The Nature Conservancy, Izaak Walton League, Wild ones, Land Stewardship, or other environmental education and advocacy groups who remain true to their cause.

  • Karak

    Just phoned the NWF & told them I wanted to return my sign & get my money back. This stumped everyone including the boss.

    They inffered that I was angry but I said:
    No I’m not angry, this is business.
    NWF broke our contract.
    Therefore I want to return the sign & get my money back.

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  • paul boardway

    as an active golfer who plays three or four days a week and lives on a golf course, should i be concerned that i am being overly exposed to chemicals

  • John Williams
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