Pesticide Free Overlook FAQ

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about the Pesticide Free Neighborhood project. Don’t see your question here? Email!

What does the Healthy Lawn and Garden Pledge involve?
Metro’s pledge program asks residents to choose the least toxic solution to landscape problems. That includes trying natural gardening methods like feeding your soil with compost, mulching to prevent weeds and using tools instead of toxics to weed. When you pledge to eliminate pesticides like ‘weed and feed’ on your lawn and yard you’ll receive a free yard sign in honor of your commitment. The yard sign lets your neighbors know that your yard is healthy and safe. Find out more at Metro.

What is the difference between pesticides and herbicides?
The term pesticides broadly refers to all chemicals that are designed to kill insects (insecticides), weeds (herbicides), fungi (fungicides) and bacteria. This includes ‘weed n’ feed’ and Round-up (glyphosate).

Are pesticides really that bad? They sell this stuff at the big box store right next to the kiddie pools.
Unfortunately the science and marketing of lawn and garden products are very different. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement in 2012 “that calls on the government, schools, parents and medical professionals to take concerted action to protect children from pesticides.”  There are many sources of environmental toxins; Pesticide Free Overlook chooses to focus on reducing this known and unnecessary route of exposure to help protect of the health of all of us, especially our most vulnerable community members. Learn the facts at Pesticide Action Network,  Beyond Pesticides and the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides.

My yard is kind of scruffy. Should I still put up a lady bug yard sign?
Yes! The signs show your commitment to a healthier community and lets neighbors know your yard is healthy and safe. That said, not everyone is a ‘sign person’, but you can still register your yard to help with the neighborhood-wide effort to be pesticide-free.

I’ve been pesticide free forever! How do I get one of those ladybug yard signs?
Sign up at on this pledge form and we’ll bring you a yard sign plus a magnet with Metro and Master gardener contact info for all your natural gardening questions.

I am pesticide free! I want to do more! What’s next?
Thanks for asking! We’re got lots of fun ideas: Consider asking your neighbors to take the pledge. Come volunteer with Sustainable Overlook or attend a meeting. Check out some of our workshops and organic garden tour. Join the Backyard Habitat program and create healthy habitat for birds and pollinators. Join with many neighbors growing organic food in their yards – check out North Portland Food Not Lawns.

I’m a renter. What can I do?
If you are the one who cares for the landscape, first go pesticide-free. Let your landlord know a healthy yard is important to you and your neighbors. If there is a landscape service, ask for information about how the yard is managed. Let them know your preference for non-toxic lawn and garden care. Talk with your landlord about making a change if necessary. The language and resources on Metro’s natural gardening pages are a good place to start.

What about our city parks, do they get sprayed?

Yes. Portland Parks and Recreation follows an IPM (Integrated Pest Management Policy) that includes the routine use of pesticides (including herbicides such as Round-up (glyphosate)). You can read the policy here: Portland Parks IPM. They do not routinely spray or use herbicide granules on turf areas. Ball fields in most parks are sprayed, as are tree circles and around poles, fences and signs. Recent legislation has been adopted that will ban the use of neonicotinoid chemicals (a class of insecticide that kills bees and birds) on city property with exception, for now, of the rose gardens. The exception to the use of the IPM strategy are 3 parks that are pesticide-free due to a 2004 pilot program with the Pesticide-Free Parks Partners including Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides in which parks were maintained with volunteer labor instead of chemicals. The efforts of volunteers have kept Arbor Lodge Park, Sewallcrest and Lair Hill Park pesticide free.

I don’t live in Overlook Neighborhood but I really care about healthy neighborhoods. Can I still take the pledge?
Yes, you can pledge through Metro if you live in the 25 city Metro area. If you live elsewhere in Oregon or anywhere in the US you can take the pledge at Beyond