by Dan McCabe
In my quest to fully understand what “green” really means I found myself searching feverishly for a clear cut definition. Hours upon hours I plugged in all kinds of terms associated with green. Green environment, green this, green that, and to my surprise no one seemed to be able to offer me anything that I could define with any consistency.
The best one I found was this “Environmental technology or "green technology" is the application of the environmental sciences to conserve the natural environment and resources, and by curbing the negative impacts of human involvement.”
This seemed like a pretty sound definition but, it still seems to me to be fairly wide open to interpretation. What I also found is, because of the lack of clear guidelines many companies claim to be green but in practice they really only just put their toe in the water and claimed they went swimming.
The industry I work in is the pest control industry and as you can imagine the use of pesticide to solve a pest infestation is really being watched carefully. With the resurgence of the bed bug I find we are all caught between a rock and a hard place.
Herein lies the dilemma. No one wants bed bugs, but no one wants pesticides either, what to do? Is there another way? The answer is yes and I am proud to say that this concept of solving pest issues with the least evasive ways as possible is not new to my industry. This concept has been around long before the “green” movement took hold; we just had a different name for it. We called it IPM or Integrated Pest Management.
This is how the Environmental Protection Agency in the US defines IPM.
“Integrated 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”.
Unlike the wide sweeping vagueness of the “green” definition our industry led the way by defining what this meant in practice. We agreed that the details were important and we were going to be committed to putting them into action.
Firstly we agreed that we needed to set action thresholds.
Before taking any pest control action, IPM first sets an action threshold, a point at which pest populations or environmental conditions indicate that pest control action must be taken. Sighting a single pest does not always mean control is needed. The level at which pests will either become an economic threat is critical to guide future pest control decisions.
Secondly we agreed that we should monitor and identify pests.
Not all insects, weeds, and other living organisms require control. Many organisms are innocuous, and some are even beneficial. IPM programs work to monitor for pests and identify them accurately, so that appropriate control decisions can be made in conjunction with action thresholds. This monitoring and identification removes the possibility that pesticides will be used when they are not really needed or that the wrong kind of pesticide will be used.
Thirdly we agreed that pest prevention was important.
As a first line of pest control, IPM programs work to manage the crop, lawn, or indoor space to prevent pests from becoming a threat.
And lastly we agreed on control methods.
Once monitoring, identification, and action thresholds indicate that pest control is required, and preventive methods are no longer effective or available, IPM programs then evaluate the proper control method both for effectiveness and risk. Effective, less risky pest controls are chosen first, including highly targeted chemicals, such as pheromones to disrupt pest mating, or mechanical control, such as trapping or weeding. If further monitoring, identifications and action thresholds indicate that less risky controls are not working, then additional pest control methods would be employed, such as targeted spraying of pesticides. Broadcast spraying of non-specific pesticides is a last resort.
It is no secret that the most difficult pest we are facing today is the bed bug. In the 32 years I have been in this business I have never seen a pest cause such upheaval in peoples’ lives. Last year while I was speaking to a group of seniors at a retirement home I heard stories of how family members would no longer come to visit because they heard that the retirement home had had reports of bed bugs.
This pest has changed the way we live and I can tell you, it’s not going to get any better at least not in the short term.
Never before until now did I ever do an inspection of a hotel suite before I unpacked my belongs for an overnight stay. And never before would I have thought twice about sitting in the nice comfortable sofas an apartment or condo lobby, but I do now.
As a pest control company and as multi-dwelling building owners and managers we are faced with a challenging task, but because of our commitment to achieving better control of this pest and being committed to proper IPM practices we will succeed. This commitment has led us to explore other options, namely heat treatments and cyonite (freezing).
While this in no way means we are abandoning the use of pesticides, which would be a mistake, it does mean is this. As part of the green initiative we are working smarter by being better informed and by using the safest products possible while still achieving the desired results.
What I liked about the IMP definition is the term “pests and their interaction with the environment”. Heat treatments do this by actually changing the pests’ environment into one that they can’t survive in.
Too many times I have tried green products and found them to be inferior but I can truly say this green option (heat) leads the way in solving bed bug infestations.
Many pest control companies claim to be green, but truly green companies offer heat as an option. If they don’t you might want to question the sincerity of their green claims.