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What is Herbicide-Free Brandeis?

Herbicides are substances used throughout the world to maintain agriculture and help with landcare. Herbicides are composed of synthetic chemicals that are detrimental to the environment and human health. They lead to many environmental issues including soil degradation, natural ecosystem degradation, mass extinction of animals (such as pollinators) and water pollution. In addition, they have negative effects on public health such as impairing reproductive functions, hindering developmental growth, causing cancer and harming the liver and kidneys among other effects. Due to the unhealthy effects of these herbicides, many organizations are calling for their use to be limited or eliminated.

Herbicide-Free Campus (HFC) is one of the organizations dedicated to spreading awareness of the negative effects. HFC was founded in 2017 at UC Berkeley with 11 areas on campus dedicated to transitioning to organic landcare. This movement was student-led and worked in collaboration with professors, the grounds crew and invested community members. These initial efforts were focused locally, but since its start, HFC has spread to other campuses nationwide, promoting environmental justice and student leadership. HFC’s values are summed up with the acronym CARE: Collaborate, Advocate, Re-imagine and Empower. HFC is helping other campuses to establish sustainable and organic landcare practices by providing the tools and resources students need to achieve an herbicide-free campus.

Even though Brandeis promotes the principles of social justice and sustainability, they continue to frequently use synthetic fertilizers for aesthetic purposes on campus lawns such as Fellows Garden and Chapels Field. Brandeis uses the herbicide Proscape Mesa that is composed of toxic synthetic chemicals that are harmful to the environment. One of the ingredients, Dimethylamine salt of 2,4,D, negatively impacts animals that are crucial for the environment. Proscape Mesa contains another dangerous chemical compound called Dithiopyr, which is highly poisonous to bees. The Brandeis campus has two pollinator meadows to attract beneficial pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, but continues to use synthetic herbicides that harm those same creatures, which contradicts the school’s environmentally friendly and ecological principles. Brandeis should follow an organic landcare plan that will promote soil health and biodiversity on campus.

Herbicide-Free Brandeis (HFB) wants to eliminate the usage of all synthetic chemicals on Brandeis’ campus in order to improve public health and environmental concerns. Our mission is to implore the school to be more candid about their application of synthetic herbicides and unfavorable groundskeeping practices as well as be willing to initiate a transition to organic landcare on campus. Our campaign is supported by Herbicide-Free Campus, as they have been providing resources and guidance to help us with this transition. Herbicides disproportionately affect the health of minorities, and this is because marginalized communities tend to be the ones working directly with these chemicals in the industrial agricultural sector. Brandeis has a diverse and progressive community and considers social justice central to its mission. The use of herbicides like Proscape Mesa is an economic and social justice issue as well as an environmental one. HFB has been working directly with Mary Fischer, Manager of Sustainability Programs, and Chris Gould, the manager of the Grounds and Fleet, to jumpstart a landscaping system that won’t disrupt animal habitats and promote biodiversity. 

Herbicide-Free Brandeis is still very new to campus, but it is growing rapidly, continuing to gain student and faculty support. HFB is in the process of becoming an official Brandeis club, and in order to reach even more students, there are a number of ways you can join. You can follow us on Instagram (@herbicidefreebrandeis), sign our petition (located in our Instagram bio) or attend weekly meetings on Sundays at 8:15 p.m. in the Village Seminar Room. Help us support our cause and attend our many upcoming events!

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