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Study: Lawns and gardens and the environment

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The Daily

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The number of Canadian households using pesticides on their lawns and gardens has edged down, especially in Quebec, but two-thirds of households use polluting gas-powered lawn mowers, according to a new study.

The study examined the prevalence of a number of techniques for lawn and garden care with potential environmental or health impacts, including the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and watering and lawn-mowing devices. The study was published today in Envirostats, Statistics Canada's new quarterly bulletin on environmental and sustainable development statistics.

The proportion of households using pesticides on their lawns and gardens dropped from 31% in 1994 to 29% in 2005. The trend was most pronounced in Quebec, where the proportion of homes using pesticides on their lawns and gardens was cut in half, from 30% in 1994 to 15% in 2005. This likely reflects the municipal pesticide bans put in place in the province in recent years.

Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta led the country in pesticide use in 2005, with about 2 out of every 5 households using them on their lawns and gardens.

Although overall household pesticide use was highest in the Prairie Provinces, Manitoba (41%) and Saskatchewan (42%) had the lowest proportions of households using pesticides as part of a regular maintenance routine in 2005. The remaining households only applied pesticides when a problem arose.

Household use of chemical fertilizers, which can contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, was also highest in the Prairies. Chemical fertilizer use was highest in Saskatoon (57%), Regina (54%), Calgary (49%) and Edmonton (48%), and lowest in Montreal (13%), Saguenay (15%), Sherbrooke (16%) and Trois-Rivières (17%).

Two-thirds of households with lawns and gardens owned a gas-powered lawn mower in 2006. In one year, the average gas-powered mower can emit the same amount of a key smog pollutant as the average car travelling about 3,300 kilometres.

More than 4 out of 5 households watered their gardens in 2005, and over half watered their lawns. While garden watering was relatively consistent across the country, lawn watering varied. In Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, about 2 in 10 households watered their lawn, compared with 6 in 10 in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

In 2005, nearly a quarter of households with lawns or gardens used sprinkler timers, which can reduce water use. Sprinkler usage rates were higher than the national average in only British Columbia and Quebec.

About 14% of households used water-conserving rain barrels and cisterns, a practice that was most common in the Prairie Provinces.

Lawn and garden care is a booming industry in Canada. Sales of related products and equipment hit more than $2 billion in 2006, up by more than $600 million from 2002.

Note: This study is based primarily on data from the 2006 Households and the Environment Survey, conducted as part of the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators project. Household pesticide use data was also derived from the 1994 Households and the Environment Survey. Data on households with lawns or gardens, ownership of gas-powered lawn mowers and the use of rain barrels or cisterns is for 2006. Data on lawn and garden practices, such as pesticide and fertilizer application, lawn watering and the use of water sprinkler timers, is for 2005.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3881.

The study, "Canadian lawns and gardens: Where are they the 'greenest'?", part of EnviroStats (16-002-XWE, free), is now available from the Publications module of our website.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact the information officer (613-951-0297;, Environment Accounts and Statistics Division.