Philosophy

Why the Bicycle Trailer?

It doesn’t make sense to work for the environment, and unnecessarily burn gasoline in the process. The impacts of carbon dioxide include warming ocean temperatures (climatecentral.org) that decimate migrating salmon (Mackerel Blamed for Wild Salmon Decline). Climate change is largely responsible for repeated droughts that threaten west coast forests from Mexico to Canada (Western Wildfires).

Despite the hypocrisy of “eco-name” truckscapers, the reality of a growing business and retaining employees requires accepting jobs outside of bicycle distance. The founder of Garden Cycles continues to be car-free (approaching 30 years), and recently adapted to an electric bicycle (and loving it!), thanks to a sponsorship from Alki Bicycles and Bafang E-Components.

Not all employees are able to sustain hard work by bicycle, however, the trees we plant do mitigate some of our carbon, and we purchase carbon credits from Evergreen Carbon. We also offer wage and profit sharing incentives to employees to “green commute.” Not everyone can do without a car, but those looking to reduce their “ecological footprint,” can buy and hire locally.

Restoration Practices

We’ve all heard “Right plant, right place.”  Let’s add, “Right tool, right timing,” and look at what’s right according to soil type, moisture, and sunlight exposure. It’s all about working with nature.

Our approach to restoration is simple: 1) Thoroughly eradicate invasives, 2) incorporate woody debris (woodchips, woodstraw, branches, logs) into and on the soil to increase the stormwater sponge capacity (to recreate the “fungal food web” that existed before bulldozing, root removal, and soil compaction (call811.com/ before you dig), 3) emphasize evergreen plantings at groundcover, shrub and tree levels to intercept stormwater and reduce weed reinvasion, 4) plant diverse evergreen and deciduous native plants for ecosystem resiliency, and 5) take measures to reduce kindling loads while retaining nurse logs for soil moisture.

Web of roots for slope stabilization

For slope restoration, our goal at the toe of the slope is to establish a buttress/retaining wall of large-tree roots (photo illustration left) that compress and hold soils above, and a blanketing underground web of diverse roots throughout the slope that pins everything together. Unlike geo-engineering with immediate benefits, healthy vegetation grows increasingly stronger with age, improving wildlife habitat, stormwater filtration, and natural beauty.

Why Herbicide (!?)

While Garden Cycles supports organic farming and the founder personally practices organic gardening in his own backyard for health and peace of mind. However, ecosystem managers require a different approach, given their responsibilities to find the most environmental outcome within limited budgets. Organic control (digging or cutting) of many invasives can cause 20 times the root suckers, particularly holly and knotweed. Soil disturbance from manual grubbing exacerbates stormwater runoff that harms salmon, orcas, and Puget Sound. Stormwater runoff comes mostly from air pollution deposited and sequestered in soil, plus toxins from roads, pet feces, and repeated chemical lawn care.

In restoration, herbicides are a tool intended to be once or twice applied for site preparation before planting weed-resistant native vegetation. Herbicide is required to minimize soil disturbance (leaving roots in the ground to decay and build soil structure), and required for cost and carbon efficiency given the magnitude of the invasive problem. Our environment can no longer afford to send crews to do ineffective work that does more damage than good, whose trucks emit far worse, far greater quantities of toxins than the well-researched, vetted herbicides that are carefully considered for their environmental tradeoffs.

Of the herbicides mainly used – triclopyr, glyphosate, and imazapyr – the aquatic formulations are vetted for use in sensitive areas (wetlands) by the EPA, Dept. of Ecology and by King County Noxious Weeds when used by a licensed professional. While the relative toxicity of certain herbicides are perhaps toxic in large amounts in their concentrated form (see below), and certainly a crutch in farming and misused by consumers not following the legal-label recommendations, the consensus in the restoration community (who are willing to accept the personal risks despite their own health-organic bias) is that herbicides are a far lesser evil than invasive monocultures that harm diversity, pollinators, and create conditions in which insect and disease outbreaks may be impossible to control, region-wide. Herbicides are proactively applied to reduce the future use of more worrisome rodenticides and insecticides, all of which are technically labelled “pesticides.”

Regarding glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup), 1.7 million tons (3.4 billion pounds) have been used mostly on factory farms since 1974, because it has proved not to harm groundwater or have residual cleanup issues. Compared to the 143 billion gallons of gasoline consumed in the US in 2017, ounce for ounce, there’s no comparison even according to the industries’ own Data Safety Sheets.

A recent OSU glyphosate report explains the WHO (World Health Organization) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reporting of glyphosate as a “Probable human carcinogen.”

The IARC report was intended as “(potential) hazard identification,” not actual-risk assessments. The governmental bodies that have published such risk assessments find glyphosate “unlikely to cause cancer in humans” when used according to the label directions as required, including:

  1. US Environmental Protection Agency, December 18, 2018
  2. European Food Safety Authority, November 12, 2015
  3. Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority, March 15, 2017
  4. New Zealand Environmental Protection Authority, August 2016
  5. Health Canada, April 2015

The IARC put glyphosate in the same (Group 2A) category of “Probable human carcinogens,” including: 1) Red meat, 2) Indoor emissions from burning wood, 3) High-temperature frying, 4) Late-night work shifts.

To put the relative glyphosate risk in context, the IARC listed a stronger-evidence category of “Known human carcinogens,” including: 1) Processed meats, 2) All alcoholic beverages, 3) Sunlight, 4) Engine exhaust, 5) Outdoor air pollution.

Given new research raising questions about glyphosate, we strongly recommend eating local organic food. However, for restoring ecosystems, it is our view that an ounce of prevention is the most environmentally-friendly approach to protect forest diversity, soil health, and water quality. Invasive species are ranked second behind habitat destruction as the main causes of extinctions, so we cannot let invasives become regionally entrenched, destroying our diversity, pollinators, salmon, orcas, and public health.

Consumers should do their own research before using chemicals or employing crews that have their own biased approaches, and consider tradeoffs while weighing actual emissions from transportation and/or chemicals used. Beware of a media environment in which “fear sells” on both the left and right political spectrums, so look for “.edu” and “.gov” websites and peer-reviewed publications. Know that chemical researchers employ protocols to test exposures at 1000 times normal conditions, so their ultra-conservative findings may be taken out of context in order to elicit outrage, attention, and donations for the “non-profit industrial complex.”

It is unfortunate that WSDA laws limit availability of wetland-safer herbicides to the general public (who typically use five-times the label-recommended rate). The skill of restoration practitioners is plant identification and care to preserve native diversity, and not needlessly overusing herbicide. Garden Cycles LLC has licensed applicators on staff with Aquatic and Right-of-Way endorsements (WSDA # 74158), and we’ll gladly provide referrals to other qualified practitioners.

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