A climate action evanston program

Avoid Pesticides and Synthetic Fertilizers

Make our yards nontoxic.

More about this key action Item

most recent version posted on:
February 20, 2024

Skip insecticides and herbicides

It will help birds and other wildlife, improve soil health, and encourage microorganisms and even beneficial fungi.

Avoid chemical fertilizers by leaving leaves, a natural fertilizer. Populations of insects and birds are declining.

Avoid scheduled Mosquito spraying

It can build resistance to pesticides in mosquitos. Instead:

  • The North Shore Mosquito Abatement District will visit your property to confirm mosquitos are present and to help you find solutions. Usually they find that some mosquito-breeding water is on the property, as mosquitos don't fly far. Call for a visit: 847.446.9434
  • Dump objects that catch water.
  • Dump birdbaths weekly. (It interrupts mosquito development.)
  • Rain gardens ABSORB standing water.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors, and concerned about mosquitos.
  • Use mosquito repellent.
Mosquito larvae in water
Mosquito larvae in water

Avoid Neonicotinoids ('Neonics") in your garden

The most common pesticide in the US, they do not just kill target insects, but also pollinators and birds. They have been found in drinking water, soil, dust and vegetables.

  • Common brands?  Bayer and Ortho products.
  • Read the Labels.  Neonic most common active ingredients: Imidacloprid, Clothianidin, Thiamethoxam, Dinotefuran, Acetamiprid.
  • Neonics are often applied to cultivars, trees and non-native plants to kill unwanted bugs and earthworms.
  • Neonics are used for flea and tick treatments for pets.
  • Learn to live with insect damage. Insect damage signifies that our plants are providing ecological services, acting as host plants to a range of insects and feeding birds.

Why are Neonics bad?


  • Persist. A treated woody plant can remain toxic up to 6 years. Xerces Society.
  • Poison the entire plant. Often used as a soil drench, neonics touching plant roots will make the whole plant toxic: pollen, seeds, foliage, etc.
  • Are highly toxic. A single treated seed can kill a sparrow. American Bird Conservancy.
  • Migrate. A treated plant can cause neighboring plants, and water to be toxic.  Studies have found neonics in drinking water. U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Don't just kill targeted insects. Studies have found Neonics kill pollinators and other beneficial insects and birds, and deer fawns. The National Institutes of Health has called for more studies of human and other mammal impacts.

What about Herbicides?

In our backyards, avoid them.

  • Hand pull small weeds.
  • Smother weeds with cardboard, covered with compost and mulch. You can sow seeds on top of the cardboard, and keep them moist. Leave the cardboard and it should turn into mulch in @4 months, depending on moisture. The advantage is that this method does not disturb tree roots or soil and helps build soil.
  • Smother with black plastic. This 'solarizes' your weeds, killing them. However, the plastic should be removed to plant.

In ecological restorations or to remove large non-native invasive trees (e.g., buckthorn), painting the cut trunk with Garlon can be the least disruptive and most effective means to eradicate the invasive. Beyond Pesticides' Pesticide Gateway provides abundant information by brand or chemical name.

What about Glyphosate? Farmers use 'Roundup Ready' genetically modified crops that allow them to spray Roundup (Glyphosate) across fields without ruining the crop. There are ecological consequences, and soil health, microorganism and wildlife can be casualties. In addition, Roundup Ready crops may be sprayed immediately before harvesting to 'ripen' grains, leaving the herbicide residue on the food crop. Glyphosate has been found in the milk and meat of cows, and in human urine. (Forbes). In addition, Roundup was originally developed as an antibiotic; the Society for Microbiology reports that Glyphosate (and Dicamba) "could make strains of Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium less sensitive to antibiotics". (Forbes)

Avoiding pesticides and chemicals is one of the six items in the Pollinator Pledge.

Improve habitat for birds and pollinators when you Take the Pollinator Pledge.


Take our Pollinator Pledge

Six steps toward a biodiverse, sustainable yard (plus make your windows bird-friendly)

Take the Pollinator PledgeTake the Pollinator Pledge

Our Pollinator Pledge yard signs

Pollinator Pledge yard signs

Donate for a Pollinator Pledge signDonate for a Pollinator Pledge sign

Evanston Host Plant Initiative for the Rusty Patched Bumblebee

Evanston Host Plant Initiative for the Rusty Patched Bumblebee

Evanston Host Plant InitiativeEvanston Host Plant Initiative

NWF WIldlife Certification

Certify your habitat with NWF

Certify with NWFCertify with NWF

Our Eco-Friendly Yard and Garden Landscaping flyer

Our short guide to get your garden buzzing with life — attracting butterflies, bees, fireflies and birds.

Access pdf file of flyerAccess pdf file of flyer

Gardening that Matters PPT

NHE presentation to North Shore Senior Center tuesday club. Variations used for other groups. March 2023

Check out the PowerPointCheck out the PowerPoint

NHE - why certify as a National WIldlife Federation community habitat

NHE video presentation for Greener Glenview: why certify as a National WIldlife Federation community habitat

NHE video presentation for Greener Glenview: why NWFNHE video presentation for Greener Glenview: why NWF

Our Natural Habitat Newsletter Signup

Sign up for the NHE Newsletter

NHE Newsletter SignupNHE Newsletter Signup

Transitioning from Turf PPT

Presentation on Transitioning from Turf (Powerpoint), January 2023. Touches on the issues with turf, why native plants, why leave leaves, concerns about neonicotinoids and outdoor lighting.

Transitioning From Turf PowerpointTransitioning From Turf Powerpoint

Transitioning from Turf presentation to FLOW

Transitioning from Turf presentation to FLOW (Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed, Columbus, Ohio) lead by Leslie Shad, NHE Lead. DIscusses the issues with turf, why native plants and why leave leaves, the concern about neonicotinoids, and how to navigate outdoor lighting.

Transitioning from Turf Video PresentationTransitioning from Turf Video Presentation

Gardening that Matters video presentation

Gardening that Matters. Get Started or Enhance your Native Garden.  March 2023 presentation to North Shore Senior Center's Tuesday Club. A simple way to take action for climate, community healthand biodiversity: Swap out your lawn for native plants.  Reconsidering theculture of lawns. Why it matters, steps to prioritize, how to get started, andhow to amplify the change. Leslie Shad of Natural Habitat Evanston presents.

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Neonics: Bee-Toxic Pesticides to Avoid, Center for Food Safety

Center for Food Safety flyer

See the flyerSee the flyer

Neonics: Brands of Insecticides, Xerces

Xerces Flyer Insecticides in your Garden

See the flyerSee the flyer

Understanding Pesticides: Insecticides, Herbicides and Fungicides, Xerces Society

Webpage on diverse pesticides - insecticides, herbicides and fungicides

See the webpageSee the webpage

Glyphosate and Antibiotic Resistance, Forbes

Article in Forbes on antibiotic resistance, problem sources, 2015

Read the articleRead the article

Do Bug Zappers Work? Yeah—About As Well As Any Other Indiscriminate Wildlife Slaughter

NY Times, June 2023. Do Bug Zappers Work?

Read the articleRead the article

Latest updates on Mosquito populations on the North Shore

North Shore Mosquito Abatement District weekly reports

Read about Mosquito populationsRead about Mosquito populations

Mosquito Spraying: Insecticide resistance from repeat spraying

Prairie Research Institute and Illinois Department of Public Health factsheet on mosquito resistance to insecticides, 2021

Read the flyerRead the flyer

NY Times Why Do You Still Have Lightning Bugs? Ours Are All Gone.

New York Times ‘Why Do You Still Have Lightning Bugs? Ours Are All Gone.’ April 17, 2023 By Margaret Renkl,

Read ArticleRead Article

Neonics: Huge Decline in Songbirds linked to common insecticide, National Georgraphic

Article on neonics and birds, 2019

Read the articleRead the article

You're Needed! Here Are Some Involvement Opportunities

Donating to Climate Action Evanston and earmarking your donation for Natural Habitat Evanston. You can further earmark your donation to one of our initiatives.

Take the Pollinator and Bird Pledge

take the pledgetake the pledge

Join our Pollinator Pledge and let the city and landscapers know we care about sustainable yards. Take an optional yard sign to spread the word.

Join the Natural Habitat Evanston Newsletter


Stay updated on green goings on in Evanston, workdays, advocacy issues and more.

Buffalo Grass Anyone?

Buffalo GrassBuffalo Grass

$25/bag to local residents (pickup; no shipping). We also have some $5 seed packets of bottlebrush and little bluestem grass. While supplies last. Emails should include your phone number and which species you are requesting. Pay by check payable to Citizens’ Greener Evanston at pickup.

Volunteer at plantings and invasive removals: parks and schools

Outdoor workdaysOutdoor workdays

Help at outdoor workdays

Join No Mow May

No Mow MayNo Mow May

Rethink how you Lawn

Sign on: Northwestern students Petition for Bird-Friendly Films at Mudd Library

Sign onSign on

Northwestern students Petition for Bird-Friendly Films at Mudd Library. Mudd Library accounts for over 14% of bird deaths and injuries on campus each year. Applying patterned window film to a portion of the building would dramatically reduce collisions that are fatal to birds.

More Ways to Volunteer: Spread the word

Email usEmail us

Share out brochures, doorhangers, or flyers. Collect a bunch of materials on the 5th Ward Tree Giveaway, Pollinator Pledge, Eco landscaping, Yard care, Light pollution, Leaf blowers are an eco-disaster, or Buffalo Grass.

Join our Facebook Group

NHE FB GroupNHE FB Group

Get updates and share your thoughts on our FB Group. You can also check out our FB page here https://www.facebook.com/NaturalHabitatEvanston

More yard signs: Mowing, Leaves, Leafblowers?

2-Sided Yard Sign2-Sided Yard Sign

Just want to spread the word on certain steps? Mow Less-Leave Leaves (2-sided yard sign) or Leafblowers sign

Join the Isabella Woods Newsletter

Isabella Woods NewsletterIsabella Woods Newsletter

Get news the next time there is a threat to Isabella Woods. (Only sent when there is news.)

Certify with National Wildlife Federation

Certify now with NWFCertify now with NWF

Provide Food, Water, Shelter, Places to Raise Young and Sustainable Steps for wildlife. It helps Evanston maintain its NWF Community-wide Wildlife Habitat certification.