The world is going green. “Green” is the color of environmental concern, the impetus that drives cutting-edge technology, the buzz word of the socially conscious. Concern for the environment and man’s impact on it is bringing a slew of new products to market, and pest control is no exception. Environmentally-friendly pest control services are growing in popularity, particularly in the commercial sector. Even eco-savvy residential consumers are asking about natural alternatives to traditional pesticides, but their ardor often cools when confronted with the 10% to 20% cost differential and lengthier treatment times, sometimes several weeks.
The raising of America’s environmental consciousness, coupled with increasingly stringent federal regulations governing traditional chemical pesticides, appears to be shifting the pest control industry’s focus to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques. IPM is considered not only safer for the environment, but safer for people, pets and secondary scavengers such as owls. Of 378 pest management companies surveyed in 2008 by Pest Control Technology magazine, two-thirds said they offered IPM services of some sort.
Instead of lacing pest sites with a poisonous cocktail of powerful insecticides designed to kill, IPM focuses on environmentally-friendly prevention techniques designed to keep pests out. While low- or no-toxicity products may also be used to encourage pests to pack their bags, elimination and control efforts focus on finding and eliminating the causes of infestation: entry points, attractants, harborage and food.
Particularly popular with schools and nursing homes charged with guarding the health of the nation’s youngest and oldest citizens, those at greatest risk from hazardous chemicals, IPM is catching the attention of hotels, office buildings, apartment complexes and other commercial enterprises, as well as eco-conscious residential customers. Driven in equal parts by environmental concerns and health hazard fears, interest in IPM is bringing a host of new environmentally-friendly pest management products — both high- and low-tech — to market.
“Probably the best product out there is a door sweep,” confided Tom Green, president of the Integrated Pest Management Institute of North America, a non-profit organization that certifies green exterminating companies. In an Associated Press interview posted on MSNBC online last April, Green explained, “A mouse can squeeze through a hole the size of a pencil diameter. So if you’ve got a quarter-inch gap underneath your door, as far as a mouse is concerned, there’s no door there at all.” Cockroaches can slither through a one-eighth inch crevice.
IPM is “a better approach to pest control for the health of the home, the environment and the family,” said Cindy Mannes, spokeswoman for the National Pest Management Association, the $6.3 billion pest control industry’s trade association, in the same Associated Press story. However, because IPM is a relatively new addition to the pest control arsenal, Mannes cautioned that there is little industry consensus on the definition of green services.
In wasp infestation in london to create industry standards for IPM services and providers, the Integrated Pest Management Institute of North America developed the Green Shield Certified (GSC) program. Identifying pest control products and companies that eschew traditional pesticides in favor of environmentally-friendly control methods, GSC is endorsed by the EPA, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and HUD. IPM favors mechanical, physical and cultural methods to control pests, but may use bio-pesticides derived from naturally-occurring materials such as animals, plants, bacteria and certain minerals.