How YOU Can Make Real Change In Your Community

This post is sponsored by Stonyfield Kids.

Last fall, we talked about StonyFIELDS. It’s a new initiative from Stonyfield Kids and it’s their biggest mission yet. They are working with communities across America to stop the use of harmful pesticides on all playing fields.

Their goal is to help communities across America take the necessary steps to convert to organic field maintenance, and to help you (yes you!) make change locally and in your own backyard, by providing tools and resources.

Now that spring has arrived, we’ve been spending more time at the park, and it seems like a good time to talk about StonyFIELDS again. YOU can change your community. You really can. Yes, the goal is ambitious (the best goals always are!), and I know it can feel overwhelming. But don’t get discouraged, because you’ve got help.

There are four easy steps and different levels of involvement, so anybody can get involved to help make their community parks and play areas safe from harmful pesticides.

STEP 1: Find out what your community policy is on spraying chemicals in your public playing areas.

How do you do this? The easiest way is to call your local Public Works or Parks and Recreation Department and ask. It’s that simple.

You can also search your local .gov website for the words “pesticides” or “herbicides” to find recent articles, meeting notes or other documents that could help you uncover the policies and usage. You can also call your Homeowners Association, School District, Apartment Management Company, and Corporate Office to find out about pesticide use in these common areas.

STEP 2: Look for groups or organizations in your community already working to create change.

Not sure where to start? The Non Toxic Neighborhoods website is filled with cities already making progress. The links on their site will bring you to your local community page, if there is one. You can also check out Beyond Pesticides — it has a listing of state, national, and international organizations that are working to make change. Take a look here to see if there’s a way you can get involved and support their efforts. 

Don’t forget social media. Search Facebook for groups that have already formed and organized. Try searching your city name and words like “organic parks” or “pesticide free parks” or “clean playing fields”.

There’s also the Stonyfield Momentum Map — it lists towns with organic policies, and/or towns who are making good progress towards organic guidelines.

STEP 3: Form a Group of concerned community members.

Talk to your neighbors, friends and family — then form a committee to meet regularly and take on the challenge to create change. Maybe a regular Fields coffee hour? Happily, it’s more straightforward than you might think. As a group, your first tasks should be:

1. Identify the key decision makers in your community. Find the group of people who make the decisions to use chemicals and who oversees the maintenance of the parks and fields.

2. Collect studies, data and personal stories that bring the issue to life for your town.

3. Engage local experts who will support you ie: organic lawn care experts, sustainability leaders, and passionate parks & rec employees. Even community members from other towns who have successfully created change.

4. Identify what specific actions are needed to change the policies in your community. This could range from needing to start a petition and/or attending town meetings to bring attention to the issue and making the request or sending a demand letter.

STEP 4: Learn from communities who have already experienced success.

Check out these amazing tool kits that are jam packed with information about how to get started, data, and examples of making it happen:
•  Non Toxic Neighborhoods Tool Kit
•  Beyond Pesticides “Tools for Change”
•  Midwest Municipal Pesticide Reduction ToolKit
•  Midwest Pesticide Action Center The Activists ToolKit
•  Union of Concerned Scientists — Local Advocacy Tools

And here are examples of communities with successful policies:
•  South Portland Maine, Grow Healthy South Portland
•  Takoma Park, Maryland Safe Grow Act

Your turn. Have you ever gotten involved in a community initiative like StonyFIELDS before? Or maybe even started one? Making change on a local level is an incredibly satisfying thing to do — you can see the effects with your own eyes, and often, you know and love the people who are affected. I love this quote from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

As for the Blairs, whenever we head outdoors this spring, we’ll have organic Stonyfield snacks in tow. Have you tried the whole milk pouches made with real organic fruits and veggies?? There are four different options — Strawberry Beet Berry and Pear Spinach Mango are our favorites. They’re seriously so yummy!

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