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Tufts Rain Garden

Tufts’ Rain Garden represents the University’s ongoing commitment to Sustainability. Located between the Hogdon and Lewis Halls, the garden is designed as a Green Infrastructure project, absorbing stormwater runoff from the local area and filtering it cleanly into the groundwater table while also reducing the amount of water being sent to the city’s infrastructure. The rain garden is just one of Tufts’ many sustainable landscape features.

Permeable Pavement Installation

The Permeable Pavement installation is incorporated into the Miller Hall bicycle shelter on campus. As water drains through the porous asphalt, it is transferred to the underlying, open-graded stone bed beneath. The water then infiltrates slowly into the soil. The stone bed, often 18 to 36 inches deep, provides a sub base for the asphalt paving and must be designed so that the water level never rises into the asphalt.

Organic Turf Management Techniques

Turf is an ecosystem: a community of plants, microbes, insects, earthworms, and other organisms. The interactions among all these organisms determine the health and appearance of the turf. The goal of organic turf management is to understand and work successfully with all the elements of the ecosystem. The result is attractive, healthy turf that is easy to maintain.

For information on techniques, visit the following links:
Simple Steps towards a Healthy Lawn
Ten Tips for a Healthy, Pesticide-Free Lawn
Tips for a Natural Lawn

Information for turf management professionals:
Sustainable Turf Care: Horticulture Systems Guide
Guide to Ecologically Sound Lawn Care
Organic Landscaping Fact Sheets
The Organic Lawn Care Manual (book)

Pilot Project on Campus

The project currently involves just over 2 acres of campus: a southern area around residence halls and a children’s playground; a field used for informal sports by both college students and a community youth soccer league; and the varsity baseball diamond. These pilot areas were selected to provide experience with a variety of types of turf; the varsity baseball diamond, for example, is managed much more intensively than the informal sports field. All areas included in the project are receiving pro-active maintenance to ensure good turf quality, and are not being treated with any herbicides or other pesticides.


Click here for a report on Organic Turf Management at Tufts.

2009 update: weeds on the baseball fields were not acceptable to the athletic coach, and that field was converted back to conventional treatment. We are hoping that additional training might lead to some better techniques for future weed control.

Why Reduce Pesticide Use?

Pesticides are chemicals designed to kill living organisms, including microorganisms, insects, plants, and mammals. Herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and rodenticides are all examples of pesticides.

According to the U.S. EPA, “Pesticides can cause harm to humans, animals, or the environment because they are designed to kill or otherwise adversely affect living organisms.” Pesticides can irritate eyes and skin; damage the nervous system; act as endocrine (hormone) disrupters; disrupt immune function; affect the reproductive system; and cause cancer.1 Pesticide use can also disrupt ecosystems and harm non-target organisms. For an overview of basic information on effects of pesticide on health and the environment, click here.

Reducing the use of pesticides through alternative methods of pest control and turf management can significantly reduce threats to public health and the environment.

Pesticide Use at Tufts:

Tufts facilities monitors the grounds continually, and identifies problem areas which may require fertilizer. They use a spot treating technique for problem areas and always engage in sound horticultural practices. The grounds are seeded and fertilized regularly at rate of 4 pounds of Nitrogen per thousand square foot, per year, which is done by a licensed contractor. The most commonly used fertilizer at Tufts consists of methlene urea, or sulphur coated urea for a slower release.  On the grounds we do three applications and only treat broadleaf weeds and crabgrass where we find them. The applications are done in accordance with IPM specifications.  This occurs on approximately 20 acres of the grounds.

Model Policies: Municipalities

Marblehead Pest Management Policy
Newton Integrated Pest Management Policy
Wellesley Integrated Pest Management Policy
Wellesley Pesticide Reduction Resource Guide

Model Policies: Colleges and Universities

Darmouth College Integrated Pest Management Policy
Oberlin College Environmental Policy
University of Colorado at Boulder Integrated Pest Management Policy

Other Projects at Colleges and Universities

Student Project: Herbicide Alternatives at University of British Columbia
Harvard’s Organic Lawn Management project

Links for More Information

Massachusetts resources:

A Living Lawn : Marblehead’s organic lawn and garden demonstration project. Provides information and training on pesticide hazards, organic turf management, and organic gardening.

Healthy Lawns for Healthy Families: A resource for Massachusetts home owners and lawn care professionals.

Wellesley Pesticide Awareness Campaign: Resources on pesticide hazards and alternatives developed by municipal agencies and citizen groups in the Town of Wellesley.

Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute: A Massachusetts state resource for communities interested in reducing their use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals. Also includes information on grants available for toxics use reduction at the local level.

Regional and national resources:

Grassroots Environmental Education: A nonprofit organization that provides information and training on pesticide hazards and options for organic turf management, including training courses for lawn care professionals.

Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP): A national resource for information on pesticides and alternatives.

Beyond Pesticides: A national resource for information on pesticides and alternatives.

Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) pesticide database: A comprehensive database for information on pesticide hazards, searchable by product name or active ingredient.

Safe Lawns: A national coalition of non-profit and for-profit organizations promoting organic lawn care.

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Contact Us

For more information about the Tufts Organic Turf Management program, please contact:
Rachel Massey
Global Development and Environment Institute and
Toxics Use Reduction Institute, University of Massachusetts, Lowell or 978-934-3124
John Vik Grounds Supervisor, Tufts Facilities Department or 617-627-3169
Tina Woolston Director, Tufts Office of Sustainability or 617-627-5517

1 U.S. EPA Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances. 1999. Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings. Fifth edition. Washington, D.C..; Ecobichon, D.J. et al., 1990. Neurotoxic effects of pesticides. In The effects of pesticides on human health, ed. Baker, S.R. and C.F. Wilkinson, 131-199. Princeton NJ: Princeton Scientific Publishing Co., Inc.; Mattison, D.R. et al., 1990. Reproductive Effects of Pesticides. In The Effects of Pesticides on Human Health, ed. Baker, S.R. and C.F. Wilkinson, 297-389. Princeton NJ: Princeton Scientific Publishing Co., Inc.; Repetto, R. and S.S. Balliga. 1996. Pesticides and the Immune System: The Public Health Risks. World Resources Institute.; U.S. EPA. 1998. Office of Pesticide Programs List of Chemicals Evaluated for Carcinogenic Potential. Memo from W.L. Burnam, Health Effects Div. Washington, D.C., June 10.