Archive for April, 2010

What Happens to Pesticides

When a pesticide is released into the environment many things happen to it. Sometimes what happens is beneficial. For example, the leaching of some herbicides into the root zone can give you better weed control.

Sometimes, releasing pesticides into the environment can be harmful, as not all of the applied chemical reaches the target site. For example, runoff can move a herbicide away from target weeds. The chemical is wasted, weed control is reduced, and there is more chance of damaging other plants and polluting soil and water. Or some of the pesticide may drift downwind and outside of the intended application site.

Many processes affect what happens to pesticides in the environment. These processes include adsorption, transfer, breakdown and degradation. Transfer includes processes that move the pesticide away from the target site. These include volatilization, spray drift, runoff, leaching, absorption and crop removal.

Each of these processes is explained in the following sections.

Environmental degradation of pesticides

Transfer Processes
Adsorption is the binding of pesticides to soil particles. The amount a pesticide is adsorbed to the soil varies with the type of pesticide, soil, moisture, soil pH, and soil texture. Pesticides are strongly adsorbed to soils that are high in clay or organic matter. They are not as strongly adsorbed to sandy soils.Most soil-bound pesticides are less likely to give off vapours or leach through the soil. They are also less easily taken up by plants. For this reason you may require the higher rate listed on the pesticide label for soils high in clay or organic matter.

Volatilization is the process of solids or liquids converting into a gas, which can move away from the initial application site. This movement is called vapour drift. Vapour drift from some herbicides can damage nearby crops.

Pesticides volatize most readily from sandy and wet soils. Hot, dry, or windy weather and small spray drops increase volatilization.

Where recommended, incorporating the pesticide into the soil can help reduce volatilization.

Spray Drift is the airborne movement of spray droplets away from a treatment site during application.

Spray drift is affected by:

  • spray droplet size – the smaller the droplets, the more likely they will drift
  • wind speed – the stronger the wind, the more pesticide spray will drift
  • distance between nozzle and target plant or ground – the greater the distance, the more the wind can affect the spray

Drift can damage nearby sensitive crops or can contaminate crops ready to harvest. Drift may also be a hazard to people, domestic animals, or pollinating insects. Drift can contaminate water in ponds, streams, and ditches and harm fish or other aquatic plants and animals. Excessive drift also reduces the pesticide applied to the target and can reduce the effectiveness of a treatment.

<!–Ways to reduce spray drift are discussed in the Drift Management section of the Environmental Protection heading on this website.

–>Runoff is the movement of pesticides in water over a sloping surface. The pesticides are either mixed in the water or bound to eroding soil. Runoff can also occur when water is added to a field faster than it can be absorbed into the soil. Pesticides may move with runoff as compounds dissolved in the water or attached to soil particles.

The amount of pesticide runoff depends on:

  • the slope
  • the texture of the soil
  • the soil moisture content
  • the amount and timing of a rain-event (irrigation or rainfall)
  • the type of pesticide used

Runoff from areas treated with pesticides can pollute streams, ponds, lakes, and wells. Pesticide residues in surface water can harm plants and animals and contaminate groundwater. Water contamination can affect livestock and crops downstream.

Pesticide runoff can be reduced by:

  • using minimum tillage techniques to reduce soil erosion
  • grading surface to reduce slopes
  • diking to contain runoff
  • leaving border vegetation and plant cover to contain runoff

Pesticide losses from runoff are greatest when it rains heavily right after you spray. Reduce the chances of runoff by watching the weather forecast. If heavy rain is expected, delay spraying to avoid runoff. Irrigate according to label instructions.

Leaching is the movement of pesticides in water through the soil. Leaching occurs downward, upward, or sideways. The factors influencing whether pesticides will be leached into groundwater include characteristics of the soil and pesticide, and their interaction with water from a rain-event such as irrigation or rainfall. These factors are summarized in the table below.

Leaching can be increased when:

  • the pesticide is water soluble
  • the soil is sandy
  • a rain-event occurs shortly after spraying
  • the pesticide is not strongly adsorbed to the soil

Groundwater may be contaminated if pesticides leach from treated fields, mixing sites, washing sites, or waste disposal areas.

Summary of Groundwater Contamination Potential as Influenced
by Water, Pesticide and Soil Characteristics
Risk of Groundwater Contamination
Low risk
High risk
Pesticide characteristics
Water solubility low high
Soil adsorption high low
Persistence low high
Soil characteristics
Texture fine clay coarse sand
Organic matter high low
Macropores few, small many, large
Depth to groundwater deep
(100 ft or more)
(20 ft or less)
Water volume
Rain/irrigation small volumes at infrequent intervals large volumes at frequent intervals
Based on: McBride, D. K. 1989. Managing pesticides to prevent groundwater contamination. North Dakota State University Extension Service, Publication E-979.

Similar factors influence pesticide movement in surface runoff, except that pesticides with low water solubility may move with surface runoff if they are strongly adsorbed to soil particles and have some degree of persistence.

Soil characteristics are important to pesticide movement. Clay soils have a high capacity to adsorb many chemicals including pesticides and soil nutrients. Sandy soils have a much lower capacity to adsorb pesticides. Organic matter in the soil also can adsorb pesticides. Soil structure influences the movement of water and pesticides. Coarse textured sandy soils with large air spaces allow more rapid movement of water than fine textured or compacted soils with fewer air spaces. Other characteristics of the site, such as depth to groundwater, or distance to surface water, are important. Finally, the pattern of water falling on the soil through irrigation or rainfall is significant. Small volumes of water at infrequent intervals are less likely to move pesticides than large volumes of water at more frequent intervals.

Absorption is the uptake of pesticides and other chemicals into plants or microorganisms. Most pesticides break down once they are absorbed. Pesticide residues may be broken down or remain inside the plant or animal and be released back into the environment when the animal dies or as the plant decays.

Some pesticides stay in the soil long enough to be absorbed by plants grown in a field years later. They may damage or leave residues in future crops.

Crop Removal through harvest or grazing may remove pesticide residues.

Degradation or Breakdown Processes
Degradation is the process of pesticide breakdown after application. Pesticides are broken down by microbes, chemical reactions, and light or photodegradation. This process may take anywhere from hours or days to years, depending on environmental conditions and the chemical characteristics of the pesticide. Pesticides that break down quickly generally do not persist in the environment or on the crop. However pesticides that break down too rapidly may only provide short-term control.Microbial breakdown is the breakdown of chemicals by microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria.

Microbial breakdown tends to increase when:

  • temperatures are warm
  • soil pH is favourable
  • soil moisture and oxygen are adequate
  • soil fertility is good

Chemical breakdown is the breakdown of pesticides by chemical reactions in the soil. The rate and type of chemical reactions that occur are influenced by:

  • the binding of pesticides to the soil
  • soil temperatures
  • pH levels – Many pesticides, especially the organophosphate insecticides, break down more rapidly in alkaline soils or in spray tank water with a high pH level.
  • moisture

Photodegradation is the breakdown of pesticides by sunlight. All pesticides are susceptible to photodegradation to some extent. The rate of breakdown is influenced by the intensity and spectrum of sunlight, length of exposure, and the properties of the pesticide. Pesticides applied to foliage are more exposed to sunlight than pesticides that are incorporated into the soil. Pesticides may break down faster inside plastic-covered greenhouses than inside glass greenhouses, since glass filters out much of the ultraviolet light that degrades pesticides.



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Ron, my husband, returned last night from a week in Seattle at a conference bearing gifts for us all. The toys for the kids did not contain one ounce of plastic packaging – on the contrary the toys were made from recycled plastic milk containers and came in 100% recycled boxes that could be recycled without any fuss.

Luka who is 2 received a green recycling truck to play with which reinforces his learning of the importance of our earth. He loves it. Of course Maxime loves it as well so they are fighting over it….sigh.

Maxime who is 5 received a set of 3 recycled plant pots to place on her sunny window sill. They are a sunny mellow yellow and she will learn not only about the beauty of natural dyes and recycling milk jugs (we drink 16 litres of milk a week) but also of how to care for a living plant. We will plant herbs so we can enjoy them in our meals as well.

It was such a relief to see such earth friendly toys. As I tidied up after the recycling was a breeze and not one stitch of the packaging had to go to the landfill.

Of course a better step to this would be purchasing gently used toys from the thrift stores. I have been doing more of this lately as well as giving our old toys away. This summer the kids are going to collect a large selection of their toys and donate them. I think they get the idea but I am waiting to actually see if they can part with them. I have told them nothing more comes into this house until something is given away.

So week 9 sees us moving forward in a deeper more thoughtful realm with our children as they get deeper into this challenge and learn very early the critical importance of rethinking how we consume.

Happy day!

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Reasons to Try This Alternative

Every cat owner is familiar with the smell of a litter box that needs to be cleaned. Traditional clay kitty litter doesn’t absorb any smells created in the litter box and it tends to turn into a gooey mess when it gets saturated. It then sticks to the bottom of the litter box and makes the smell even worse. Clay kitty litters get stuck to the bottom of the cat’s feet and then are tracked throughout the entire house. Pine pellet kitty litter is an alternative that is often overlooked. There are many benefits to using pine instead of clay litter.

Odor Control

Pine has a naturally pleasing scent and it overpowers the smell of urine that causes the majority of litter box odors. The odor problem that clay litters make worse is due to the urine being collected in a ball of clay. This ball holds in the smell and it then sits at the top of the litter box. Pine pellets break apart and turn into sawdust allowing the urine to dry and sink to the bottom of the litter box along with the smell.

Environmentally Friendly

Pine kitty litter is very safe for the environment. It is 100% natural and contains no chemicals. Pine is simply a wood product that is biodegradable so it won’t collect in a landfill site. No trees are cut down to make pine litters. Manufacturers often take pride in the fact that they use wood by-products that would otherwise be going to waste.

Less Mess

Pine pellet kitty litter does not get tracked through the house like traditional clay litters tend to. The pellets are too large to stick to a cat’s feet so they stay put in the litter box where they belong. When the saturated pellets turn into sawdust it falls to the bottom of the litter box and stays below the fresh pellets so even when the litter is used the sawdust will not get tracked around either.

Easier Cleaning

When litter boxes are cleaned out the mess has to be placed in a garbage can and the horrible smell still hangs around. If the bag is tied up and thrown out in the trash immediately it has caused yet another plastic bag to be wasted and sent to the landfill. When cleaning a litter box where pine pellet litter has been used the mess can be flushed down the toilet. Pine will not clog the drain because it turns into sawdust when it gets wet and will not clump like clay litters do. When it is time to completely empty the litter box it can be dumped outside and used as mulch in the garden or around trees and shrubs.

Healthy and Safe

Pine kitty litter is a much healthier alternative for both cats and their owners. Pine is a natural product and it is dust free. The dust from clay litters can cause respiratory problems in both animals and people; not to mention the mess the clay dust can leave in the house once it settles on furniture. Pine litter is a wood product and it does not contain any chemicals that could cause health problems for animals and people.

Other Litter Uses

Pine pellets can also be used in cages for small animals such as rabbits, hamsters, and ferrets. It can even be spread out along the bottom of birdcages to control messes. If a cat owner has other animals it is very convenient only having to purchase one type of litter.

Pine kitty litter is an excellent alternative litter choice because it is safe, clean, and easy to use. The environment will be thankful and so will cat owners who no long have to vacuum up kitty litter messes on a daily basis.

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Ok so it’s been a few days and we have collected 7.5 lbs of diapers to go to the recyler. This is crazy I never would have thought that it could add up so fast. We have been using the Tushies as this is one of the brands that they will compost on site. They have been pretty good only a couple explosions. We are going to try Seventh Generations next week to see how they do. It’s been so easy to collect and store and making a trip out once every couple of weeks is routine. 

Looking forward to Monday weigh in with our veggie compost, diapers and now green cone waste it’s going to seem like we have hardley anything to put on the curb. Ya Goyan Team…

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“For me, I was finally able to verbalize how I feel and have managed to reduce my garbage so much – the key I believe is to RETHINK.  Therefore, there would be 4 R’s in this order of importance:

                                                                        RETHINK, REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE

Rethinking has allowed our family to drastically reduce our waste output to only 8oz for a family of 6 last week.  Even my kids are catching on – two of them snuck out to Subway while Wade & I were out for dinner last night.  But their consciences told them to tell the server “no napkins and no plastic bag”, so they only had the paper wrap to dispose of when they brought it home, which fortunately was clean enough to go into paper recycling.  I also just found in the garbage on one of my “policing rounds” a waxy greasy package from microwave popcorn.  I believe we got it from Rogers from a free coupon.  I refuse to buy the stuff myself.  However, part of the rethinking philosophy for me is to learn to say no to the freebies.  I usually do, but there is pressure to say yes, so I try to respond with “I am trying to keep my garbage to a minimum, so no thank you”. 

This photo shows how a few little “slips” of conscience (and I’m going to blame this one on the kids) of fast food and convenience food produces a lot of garbage.  Our five days worth of regular garbage in the plastic bag on the right is outsized by the bulk of the four convenience food packing items on the left.  Hmmm… this is where the rethinking comes in, and the learning to say no next time.  Not always easy for everyone.”

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Diaper companies don’t want you to know it, but there’s a greener option than the typical contenders in the cloth versus disposable diaper debate. Early potty training. That said, cloth can facilitate early potty training, so combining the two can be significantly better for the environment than either cloth or disposables alone; you just use fewer diapers.

Elimination Communication (”EC”), Infant Potty Training, Natural Infant Hygiene, Potty Whispering… all sorts of names cover what used to be, and still in some cultures, are common social practices that help babies eliminate in the right places. Contrary to beliefs in the U.S., babies can understand when they need to eliminate, and can learn to go on cue–a practice allowing parents worldwide to carry babies diaperless because they know how to time and watch for elimination cues. And it’s not nearly as weird or hard as it sounds.

I stumbled upon “EC” in a mother-baby support group. The mother’s baby had been having reflux problems and had heard that EC could help. It did, but I was interested because it seemed wonderful to use less diapers.

I never read a book on EC or infant potty-training, but just learning the general philosophy and guidelines allowed me to get my kids out of diapers by 18 and 19 months. And, my second daughter used about 1/3 less diapers than my first because we started at birth; she used the potty rather than diapers whenever I could get her to it.

But my favorite part of potty communication was not the environmental benefit. It was that my children LOVED it. They were pleased and excited because they were able to communicate with me about something so fundamental to their very physical existence…before they could to do so verbally.

Because we started potty communication before my girls were a year old, the “I want to do it my way” 2-year-old independence had not yet budded. We therefore skipped what for most families becomes one of the hallmark power struggles of parenting. My eager-to-please baby girls were not just “ready” for potty training, but thrilled to do it because it made me happy.

So here are the guidelines I followed to potty train early. (I’d be described as a “partial EC’er” because I practiced EC most but not all of the time. The girls wore cloth and even disposables part-time because my goal was to create communication around elimination, providing easy freedom to take the children out and about, or to focus on a given task without interruption when I needed to.)

1. Give my signals: I started giving Chloe a word for “pee pee” and “poo” as soon as she was born. Whenever she peed or pooped, I’d tell her.
2. Watch the timing: I used a cloth diaper without a cover on Chloe to notice the frequency of her peeing. (Pooping is very obvious!) Usually about 5 minutes after nursing, she peed, and I’d just say the word. I would immediately change her diaper so she was not accustomed to feeling wetness on her skin.

3. For several months, that’s all I did.

4. Place baby on the potty: As Chloe developed the ability to sit up on her own, I began placing her on the potty when she indicated she needed poop. And, about 5 minutes after nursing, I’d sit her on the potty and entertain her for a few minutes. Usually, she would pee and I’d tell her what a good job she was doing. She loved it. I’d also place her on the potty when I used it and found it often helped her do the job.

5. As Chloe began to walk around 11 months, I kept her diaperless in the house. As soon as there was a sign she needed to use the potty, I’d take her. There were, however, many accidents on the floors (thankfully hardwood) during this time. I used the accidents to reinforce my potty words and then put her on the potty. This was the time when parents told me they “couldn’t do it” because of the messes. For me however, a few months of easily-cleaned-up wood floor instead of messy diapers, was well worth no poopy diapers in the following months and years

6. As Chloe hit 14-15 months, I noticed that she preferred to have her own small potty next to my big potty, and that if she could get to it herself, she was happier. We relaxed into a new phase of training in which she initiated more of the potty sessions, but I reminded her regularly and gently rebuked her if she went on the floor after I’d reminded her to try on her potty. Before an outing, we’d try to use the potty in advance. If she succeeded, I’d dress her in panties and pack an extra pair of pants for any accidents. On days when I was rushed, she’d just wear diapers.

7. Diaper-Free at 19 months! It wasn’t long before Chloe was gleefully shouting out “PEE PEE!” on her own, and urging me to rush to the potty with her. At 21 months, she’s traveling on planes, in cars, in her jogger, and even sleeping through most nights dry.

As I mentioned, I’m no expert on Elimination Communication. I just do a lot of research and follow my instincts and in this fantastic, but sometimes messy, parenting adventure. Feel free to share your own tips or thoughts on early potty training below in comments!

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Queensborough Community Centre 604.525.7388

Everyone can help, and no step is too small

Sunday, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

April 25, 2010

Queensweep – Earth Day is a community driven clean up to clean our communities’ waterways, parks and other areas.

The clean-ups have recovered hundreds of pounds of debris from plastic bags, shopping carts, cans, bikes to car tires.

Beyond just trash removal, the clean-ups provide the opportunity to educate people about wildlife, natural habitats and the effects we have on the natural world in hopes to minimize our impacts.

So pitch in and help preserve our community and keep it clean and beautiful.

Volunteers are treated entertainment, refreshments and BBQ after the big clean up.

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