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BayScaping helps you grow green lawns that keep Casco Bay blue

Our BayScaping program works with Casco Bay communities to keep pesticides and fertilizers from polluting the Bay.

Stormwater testing by Friends of Casco Bay found that rain picks up pesticides as it runs off into Casco Bay. Our goal was simply to determine “presence” or “absence” of pesticides in the runoff. Lab analysis of the jars of rainwater we collected, between 2001 and 2009, identified 10 different pesticides at 14 shoreside locations from South Portland to Brunswick.

We have detected pesticides in stormwater running into Casco Bay.

We also tested for and found nitrogen and phosphorous, key components of fertilizer, all around the Bay. These nutrients can pollute drinking water wells, and when washed downstream can cause algal blooms, degrade marine water quality, and create conditions that worsen coastal acidification.

We created our BayScaping Program as a public education campaign to stop pollution from lawn care practices. BayScaping reaches out to homeowners to encourage them to reduce their use of pesticides and fertilizers.

BayScaping Socials

BayScaper Sign in Garden
If you use lawn care practices that eliminate the need for pesticides and fertilizers, please come by our office on the Southern Maine Community College Campus to get our new BayScaper sign.

Peer pressure can be an incredibly effective motivator. Perhaps no one wants to be the only family on the block with dandelions on their lawn. Our neighbors to the North, in Canada, have turned that concern upside down. Recognizing the harm that lawn chemicals cause to people, pets, and the environment, Canadians created a culture change among their neighbors. In many provinces, neighbors now look down on neighbors who have perfect, weed-free yards, suspicious they could be sneaking banned pesticides onto their lawn in the dead of night.

We are trying to create the same cultural shift here. A staple of our BayScaping outreach has been neighborhood socials, which connect neighbors with the notion that lawn care practices can affect the water quality of Casco Bay. We have found that providing evidence of pesticide runoff from a particular neighborhood is one of the most compelling ways to inspire behavioral change of those who live in that community.

Meeting with people in their homes, churches, libraries, and town halls is intended to get them to take action as a community to reduce their use of pesticides and fertilizers. We suggest practical, Bay-friendly lawn care practices for mowing, watering, weed control, and more. Now, the not-quite-perfect lawn can be acceptable—and maybe even envied.

We offer free BayScaping yard signs that proclaim to your neighbors that this lawn is a chemical-free zone!

Working at the local, state, and national levels

Despite nearly two decades of outreach, Maine homeowners still use large amounts of pesticides. We became involved in “grassroots efforts” with local communities that are developing ordinances to restrict or ban lawn chemicals. Our data on pesticides and nitrogen runoff have been requested by communities such as South Portland, Portland, Harpswell, and Falmouth.

Maine is one of only seven states and the District of Columbia that allow local governments—using home rule—to restrict the use of pesticides. A bill introduced before the State Legislature in 2017 would have prohibited municipalities from passing their own pesticide ordinances tailored to the needs of the community. We sent out an urgent call to action. Impassioned emails and letters from our members helped persuade legislators to vote 13 to 0 to kill the bill in committee.

Because of the work that Maine citizens are doing to curb pesticides locally, Portland was chosen as the site of a national conference organized by Beyond Pesticides, a nonprofit headquartered in Washington, D.C., which works to protect public health and the environment from pesticides. In 2016, we helped organize and spoke at Cultivating Community and Environmental Health.  

As communities continue to develop and refine pesticide ordinances, we will continue to sound the alarm about the need adopt restrictions on the uses of fertilizers, as well.

What is Friends of Casco Bay doing to reduce use of lawn chemicals?


  • We offer BayScaping socials to help neighbors work together to reduce pesticide and fertilizer use. Whenever possible, we tag team with an experienced gardener, who can answer practical lawn care questions, such as how to deal with grubs and crabgrass.
  • We share our BayScaping message at all our community outreach tabling events, as well as through letters to the editor, op-eds, social media, emails, newsletters, and interviews.


  • We work with municipalities and community groups as they explore restrictions on the use of lawn care chemicals.
  • We press the Maine Board of Pesticides Control, an early partner in our BayScaping program, to renew its commitment to public engagement, which has fallen off dramatically in recent years.
  • We follow bills in the Maine Legislature that reference lawn chemicals and enlist citizen support to weigh in on bills of concern.


  • We encourage the Maine Board of Pesticides Control to do more sediment sampling for pyrethroids.
  • Our goal is to collect and plot newly collected pesticides data in Casco Bay to keep information fresh, relevant, and motivating.
  • We are assembling and assessing data about the impact of pyrethroids on lobsters.+

What you can do to reduce use of lawn chemicals

Cover photo: Photograph by Kevin Morris • Aerial support provided by LightHawk

+“Pyrethrins [for mosquito control] are lethal to lobsters in parts per billion.”
Dr. Robert Bayer, Director, Maine Lobster Institute, personal communication, March 24, 2014

J.L. Van Geest, L.E. Burridge, K.A. Kidd, “Toxicity of two pyrethroid-based anti-sea lice pesticides, AlphaMax® and Excis®, to a marine amphipod in aqueous and sediment exposures,” Aquaculture, Vol. 434, October 20, 2014, pp. 233-240.

Anna N. Walker et al., “Bioaccumulation and Metabolic Effects of the Endocrine Disruptor Methoprene in the Lobster, Homarus americanus,” Integrative and Comparative Biology, Volume 45, Issue 1, January 1, 2005, pp. 118–126.

*A study at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine found that exposure to lawn pesticides, specifically those applied by professional lawn care companies, raised the risk of canine malignant lymphoma by as much as 70%.

A study at the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Purdue University concluded certain garden and lawn chemicals are linked to canine bladder cancer, including common herbicides containing 2,4-D, MCPP, and/or Dicamba (all pesticides that Friends of Casco Bay detected in stormwater flowing into Casco Bay).

More on BayScaping:

BEE a BayScaper!

September 13, 2019

We are proud to see a BayScaper sign on the lawn of one of Friends of Casco Bay’s volunteers, Jane Benesch. Her South Portland yard is bedecked with flower beds, vegetable patches, and wood chip-lined paths—and just a little turf. BayScaping is our educational program that encourages residents to restrict… Read more

And how is your summer going?

July 23, 2019

Summer is going swimmingly here at Friends of Casco Bay, and we have a lot of good news to share: Our priority legislative bill to create a state-level Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Council was incorporated nearly word-for-word into the Governor’s comprehensive Climate Change Council bill. An Act to Promote… Read more

BayScaping Takes Root in the Community

October 29, 2018

  We first met Jesse O’Brien of Down East Turf Farms when South Portland was considering passing an ordinance to limit the use of pesticides. Jesse is a practicing agronomist, who says, “If you want to get good turf, you need to start with good soil.” Initially, Jesse expressed concern… Read more