Long Island's Earth Day: A Commitment to Clean Water

April 4, 2017


Marshall Brown, Save the Great South Bay
(212) 380-8418

Doug Wood, Grassroots Environmental Education
(516) 883-0887

Port Washington, NY—A coalition of more than thirty environmental and civic associations is planning to make a big splash on Earth Day this year with the public announcement of the I Love Long Island campaign, a consumer awareness initiative designed to protect ground and surface water from pollution by reducing the use of high nitrogen fertilizers and chemical pesticides used on lawns.

"Not only do we live on an island, but we live on a very special island where we get our drinking water from aquifers under our feet," says Doug Wood, Associate Director of Grassroots Environmental Education who conceived the campaign. "My guess is that most people who buy high nitrogen synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides for their lawns have no idea they're polluting their own water. We're going to change that."

While the groups concede that high nitrogen lawn fertilizer is not the primary cause for algal blooms and fish kills, they cite water experts who peg the impact of lawn fertilizer at somewhere between 8 and 15 percent, depending on the season, the weather and hydrogeology of the area. The campaign is advocating the use of slow-­release lawn fertilizers with less than 10% nitrogen. A list of available products is on the campaign website.

"We've got a vibrant oyster industry here on Long Island," says Chris Quartuccio, President of the Blue Island Oyster Farm and a founder of non-­profit Operation Blue Earth. "But we absolutely depend on clean water. Algal blooms and brown tides caused by too much nitrogen are a real threat to our future."

"This is the low hanging fruit in the fight against excess nitrogen," says Marshall Brown, one of the Co-­Founders of Save the Great South Bay and a primary sponsor of the campaign. "If we can get homeowners to make this simple change, we could have a major impact on the quality of our water with virtually no cost."

Chemical pesticides designed to kill insects, weeds and fungus also take their toll on the environment and find their way into our drinking water. Some of the chemicals contained in the most popular "Weed and Feed" lawn products are the same as those used in Agent Orange during the Vietnam war.

"Using high nitrogen fertilizers and chemical pesticides creates a drug-­dependent lawn that is unsustainable," says landscape designer Edwina von Gal whose organization, Perfect Earth Project, is also sponsoring the campaign. "We have to face the fact that we live in a fragile environment here on Long Island—one we need to protect for the sake of our children and grandchildren."

The I Love Long Island campaign will kick off on Earth Day, April 22nd, and consists of consumer Pledges not to use pesticides or high nitrogen fertilizers, large bright blue yard signs for homeowners, online listings of landscapers offering natural lawn care services, and in-store signage for participating retailers. Pledge cards and lawn signs will be available through dozens of participating organizations. Residents can also sign the Pledge and order lawn signs online at the campaign website, www.ILoveLongIsland.org.

Organizations supporting the I Love Long Island campaign include Save the Great South Bay, The Perfect Earth Project, Operation Blue Earth, Grassroots Environmental Education, Group for the East End, The Pine Barrens Society, Water for Long Island, Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE), The Peconic Baykeeper, Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor, North Shore Audubon Society, Peconic Green Growth, The Sustainability Institute at Molloy College, Huntington-­‐Oyster Bay Audubon, Neighborhood Network, Operation Splash!, the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island (CRESLI), Seatuck Environmental Center, Defend H2O, The Open Space Council, The North Shore Land Alliance, Accabonac Protection Committee, South Shore Audubon Society, Save the Sound, North Fork Environmental Council, North Fork Audubon Society, Concerned Citizens of Montauk and Audubon New York.

I Love Long Island campaign logo