Parsing through what it means to be Green is akin to wading through a jungle of confusing buzzwords, special interests and spin. It is very challenging to distinguish fact from fiction. After 32 years pioneering the pest control industry, Ron Lingenfelder is prepared to clear up any confusion. What does it mean to be Green? The answer to this question is complicated by the fact that green means different things to different people. Let us take this opportunity to describe how being green effects pest control at Scientific Insect. When it comes to structural pest control, LEED is the dominant standard. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes and neighborhoods. The foundation of the LEED standard for pest control is a process called IPM (Integrated Pest Management). This is a decision tree method, first developed for agricultural use and later adapted to structural pest control. Scientific Insect has practiced IPM since it’s founding in 1982, thus we are fully LEED compliant.
Protecting the environment does not have to stop at LEED. There are a wide variety innovative and effective steps that can be taken to be environmentally sound. While it is important to protect the environment, the first priority must always be protection of public health and safety. Scientific Insect does not take a political stand on environmental issues. Often environmental politics go far beyond issues of the environment, thus we chose to remain apolitical. We rely solely on the scientific method to determine the environmental, public health, public safety, and global impact of any treatment protocol.
First we must put into perspective several keywords, as they relate to Scientific Insect and our application of “Green” pest control. Lets begin start with Green Pest Control. “Green” is a popular buzzword; not everything claiming to be “green” is actually good for the environment. Use of the word “Green” is unregulated and is not subject to standards by the EPA, FDA, or Department of Agriculture. The best example of a misleading statement within the pest control industry is that heat treatments for bed bugs are environmentally friendly. A heat treatment may effectively kill bed bugs without the use of insecticides. However, a heat treatment is not environmentally friendly. The energy required to reach lethal temperatures is obtained, at least partially, by burning fossil fuels. Combustion of fossil fuels emits copious amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This fact indicates that heat treatments are not green. In saying that heat treatment is a form of green pest control, one fails to take into account the macro environment. The micro-environment of the structure is not exposed to insecticides at the expense of the global atmosphere.
What does it mean to be “Environmentally Friendly”? Scientific Insect practices a holistic, scalable, and sustainable approach to what it means to be environmentally friendly. The existence of a structure implicates environmental impact. It is important to understand the environment and habitat have been altered by humans erecting a structure. Often the modification of the habitat causes in pest infestation. The goal of any Integrated Pest Management Protocol should, first, consider impact on the environment that is downstream, down wind or down hill from the structure. There should be considerable care given to identifying the condition of the habitat that is conducive to the infestation and altering that to make the area less favorable to the pest. If a structure has fleas, it would be advisable to have the grass cut shorter to limit flea habitat and to make the area more hostile to fleas, flea larvae and flea eggs. Most flea infestations start in the lawn. Wild animals like squirrels, rats, and raccoons, as well as domestic animals will cross the lawn and drop fleas, papua and eggs on the lawn that will be picked up by pets and enter the structure. The pet is the carrier and also needs to be treated by a vet. The inside has become a harborage for the fleas and it’s larvae. The inside should be vacuumed and cleaned to eliminate dust and reduce adult fleas, eggs and larvae. All of this should be done before one drop of insecticide is applied. Taking these mechanical precautions significantly reduces the amount of material needed to obtain good results and people and pets can enjoy their space without concern for fleas or dangerous amounts of pesticide. This is environmentally friendly from a proven scientific view.
There are serious concerns with regards to the common understanding of “Organic Pest Control”. The terms “Organic” and “natural” pest control are sometimes used interchangeably. The greatest misunderstanding about organic pest control is that it is safer than its inorganic counterpart. The fact is, all organic pesticides are broad spectrum materials. Broad spectrum means it will kill many different animals across the board. This makes these products less safe for non-target species, especially beneficial insects; as well as pets and people. Organic materials are also among the most toxic of poisons. This fact often goes unreported or understated in discussions of organic pest control. Organic materials have little or no residual effect, which will result in a less effective treatment and require more frequent applications, causing more insecticide to be laid down over time. Organic methods are not scalable. The material is limited by the availability of the organics from which they are derived. These organics are frequently limited and result in high cost and shortages. The more difficult obstacle is organic methods are not sustainable because insects can build a resistance to organic material over time, eventually rendering them useless. There is a place in the toolbox for organic materials and methods, however, we should not restrict our approach to organic as a stand-alone solution.
Botanical materials are often mentioned as an alternative to traditional insecticides. Scientific Insect includes this type of insecticide in our arsenal of available materials. They are effective but usually expensive. The greatest concern is odor. These materials have a strong and I do mean foul. If a customer is insistent on using only Botanicals, it is important to prepare for numerous complaints regarding odor. Strong odors can make a space unlivable. People associate strong odor with toxicity and danger. It is not unusual for occupants insisting on different accommodations when botanicals are used.
Integrated Pest Management: Integrated pest management (IPM) is a proven, cost-effective strategy to combat pest problems without unnecessary risk to the environment, pets, and people by using less pesticide while integrating mechanical controls, harborage elimination, and altering the habitat to create conditions less conducive to infestation. This protocol takes advantage of all available methods and materials in order to best solve the pest problem. The goal is to be effective, efficient, cost conscious, sustainable and scalable. The extensive experience of Scientific Insect Control puts us in a unique position to solve problems, and protect the earth for generations to come!