Eddie manages a 1 million-square-foot facility that houses almost 4,000 workers. He called this week about a 6-foot snake that had taken residence in the garden at the main building’s front entrance. The snake enjoys sunning near the park benches, where the employees sit to have lunch and enjoy the beautiful, native landscape and pond. Even though the snake isn’t poisonous, he was still causing some near heart attacks. As we are taking the project through LEED® certification, Eddie called to ask, “What is the green thing to do about the snake?”
In the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance (LEED-EB O&M) rating system, the Sustainable Sites Credit 3 (SSCR3) calls for exterior Integrated Pest Management, among other things. The credit is worth 1 point, and its intent is to preserve ecological integrity, enhance natural diversity, and protect wildlife while supporting high-performance building operations and integration into the surrounding landscape.
So, what is Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and how is this green pest management different than traditional pest management? IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life-cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest-control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.
Effective IPM will include:
- Preferred use of non-chemical methods.
- Using least-toxic chemical pesticides.
- Minimum use of chemicals.
- Use only in targeted locations (vs. broad applications).
- Use only for targeted species (vs. general applications).
- Use of less-polluting alternatives to artificial chemicals.
- Inspection and monitoring.
- Defining emergency conditions under which a pesticide other than a least-toxic pesticide can be applied. If a pesticide other than least toxic is to be applied, it must include universal notification of between 24 hours and 72 hours, depending upon the emergency.
Some pesticides are, by nature, less risky. For example, many biological pesticides derived from natural materials (animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals) pose a lower risk. Canola oil and baking soda have pesticide applications and are considered biopesticides. Other plant-derived pesticides (such as nicotine), however, can be quite toxic. Biopesticides include naturally occurring substances that control pests (biochemical pesticides), micro-organisms that control pests (microbial pesticides), and pesticidal substances produced by plants containing added genetic material plant-incorporated protectants (PIPs).
An Integrated Pest Management plan (vs. a traditional pest management plan) calls for the most effective, lowest-risk, least-toxic pesticide. This will vary according to target species. Some examples are outlined in Table 1 (below).
Effective IPM will use services rather than materials to address pest species. For example, consider hand weeding, adding ladybugs, or pruning to reduce the introduction of pest species, instead of using chemicals to eliminate them. If the management plan uses plants and beneficial organisms effectively, pesticide services can be provided, for free, by nature.
The snake mentioned earlier is, no doubt, free from nature and acting as a pesticide. Removing the snake will create an opening in the garden’s ecosystem. Something will fill that opening, and it may be more or less desirable than the current snake. The garden snake, however, is being relocated to the retention pond by popular vote.
For more information on IPM, visit:
- Beyond Pesticides, a non-profit organization that provides useful information on pesticides and alternatives to their use.
- The EPA’s site on Integrated Pest management.
- The Bio-Integral Resource Center (BIRC), a non-profit organization formed in 1978 through an EPA grant; it has information on least-toxic methods for pest management.
- The directory of least-toxic pest control at www.birc.org/products.pdf.
- This report by the EPA, which provides toxicity of certain pesticides (pdf).
- A list of inert ingredients at the EPA’s website.
Table 1: List of Least-Toxic Options for IPM.