Interview with the gravedigger Joel Hautfenne (the coordinator of the municipality plan for nature development is Marie Sengier)
The cemetery of Lasnes is considered to be one of the greenest in Wallonia. At the initiative of the maintenance and construction department, and particularly of the gravedigger Mr. Hautfenne, who was concerned about the use of pesticides for both the health of the workers and the environment, the municipality of Lasnes has started developing alternatives practices in cemetery maintenance long before the use of pesticides became prohibited in public spaces in 2019.
As soon as in 2012, the team of communal workers has stopped using pesticides in graveyards. This shift required a an in-depth modification of the layout of the cemetery: no more gravel paths, instead they were replaced by grass. The earth had to be turned over, lawns had to be sown, bushes, small trees and flowers had to be planted, in order to completely make this space green. As Mr. Hautfenne, who was in charge of these works, notices : “the greatest challenge was not technical, the difficulties rather came from the citizens. In the beginning, we were even insulted. Some citizens found it shameful".
Over time, and with a campaign of information on the greening of the cemetery, the citizens have come to actually appreciate this new maintenance : “it has become a commonplace now” the gravedigger concludes. In order to achieve this peaceful outcome, the municipality has put up explanatory signs, and above all, municipal employees have taken the time to talk with citizens and explain the risks associated with pesticide use.
What about maintenance? The municipality workers admit that a green cemetery requires more work than a cemetery where pesticides are commonly used, as the lawns have to be sowed regularly and the hedges have to be trimmed. Nevertheless, overall the employees of the municipality are very content to not have to use hazardous products anymore.
Apart from having completely stopped the use of pesticides, the municipality of Lasnes decided to go further and make the cemetery a haven for biodiversity. With its flowering lawns, nesting boxes, ponds and insect hotels, the graveyard is now particularly welcoming for pollinators and other animals who are delighted with this change. Indeed, the gravedigger is pleased to see foxes passing between the graves in the early morning, while barn owls have made their nest in a roof and a bat nesting box has recently been installed. As Mr. Hautfenne notes, with a certain pride for having succeeded in changing mentalities, “the cemetery, in addition to being a place of remembrance, has become a nice place for wandering and enjoying nature”.
Now the cemetery of Lasnes is considered an example to follow, and has received the label “Cimetière nature”. It has also been visited numerous times by various local authorities feeling inspired to do the same in their municipality. As Mr. Hautfenne concludes : “these kind of practices could be generalized to all cemeteries very easily. It just needs to be supported by local authorities and employees motivated to make this change happen”.
Interview with the Mayor of Oriolo Romano, Emanuele Rallo.
The village of Oriolo Romano, in the province of Viterbo, extends over the gentle hills of the Sabatini Mountains, surrounded by woods and not far from the nature reserve of the Lake Bracciano, where you can admire the splendid Faggeta, a UNESCO heritage site.
How important are environmental policies for your Municipality?
The Municipality of Oriolo Romano for years has developed environmental policies for the protection of the territory, started with the door to door separate waste collection since 2009 and intensified with a series of interventions regarding the environmental education in schools, the installation of a composter, new solar or photovoltaic systems, and finally the UNESCO heritage for the ancient beech wood of Monte Raschio.
Why did you decide to join the Pesticide Free Towns Network?
Because we believe that even in an area not as wide as ours, maintaining a strong focus on the quality of the interventions that our farmers carry out is an element of awareness for the community, especially considering that in Oriolo the city-country border is very blurred and that we are at the southern frontier of the area of expansion of hazel cultivation on which the whole province of Viterbo has for some time now been confronting the theme of intensive monoculture, also discussed on some occasions by the national media.
What are the sustainable alternatives you use in urban green management?
We have a historical maintainer and, in addition, we use a cooperative of young local foresters trained at the University of Tuscia for the management of trees, which compared to the urban green represent for us the most sensitive element given the urban parks that persist in our territory. Obviously we do not use chemical pesticides and, however little, we also use the compost produced by our composter.
What do you think the contribution of environmental policies could be from a tourism point of view?
In the incredibly complicated context following the COVID emergency, probably only the authenticity of a territory, declined through the protection of environmental assets, can mark a sustainable road to be able to intercept conscious and quality tourist flows, not related to the mere quick use of a village or event.
"Free from pesticides, Italy begins with municipalities": the conference giving mayors a voice || June 12th 2019
On June 12th, at Sala Aranciera of the Orto Botanico in Rome, a number of Italian mayors told the stories of local communities that have taken action to protect the health of citizens and the environment from the dangers posed by synthetic agrochemicals, starting from city regulations, such as the prohibition of pesticide use in public gardens, on trees and flowerbeds, and especially in playgrounds, schools and cemeteries. This represents concrete help to those who, in peri-urban agricultural areas, want to cultivate without resorting to synthetic chemicals such as pesticides or feritilizers. At the conference "Free from pesticides: Italy begins with municipalities" organized by Cambia la Terra - a campaign by FederBio with Legambiente, Lipu, Medici per l'Ambiente and WWF – mayors had the chance to tell their stories. The meeting was held in conjunction with one of the stages for the implementation of the next National Action Plan (NAP) for the sustainable use of pesticides, to be reviewed by the relevant ministries, before being sent to public consultation.
An increase in the areas under organic farming, elimination of pesticides harmful to protected species in areas protected under EU directives (Natura 2000 sites), organic techniques for the management of public and private greenery in the city, control of pesticide drift resulting from field treatments, safety distances between houses and fields where synthetic chemistry is used as well as between organic and non-organic crops to avoid accidental contamination. These are just a few of the many requests that a large coalition of associations addressed to the government for the drafting of the new NAP; they are inspired by the virtuous practices of pesticide-free municipalities who took part in the event. "With Federbio and a large coalition of associations of organic, environmental and civil society (Aiab, Association for Biodynamic Agriculture, Fai, Firab, Greenpeace, Isde-Medici per l'ambiente, Legambiente, Lipu, Pro Natura, Wwf) we have asked for the opening of a discussion that will bring progress compared to the previous NAP of 2014, an act of guidance that in fact has not defined tangible and monitorable objectives to reduce the use of synthetic chemical pesticides and has given priority to methods that make the extensive use of agrochemicals instead of encouraging agricultural practices that respect the health of citizens and the environment, as do organic and biodynamic agriculture", said Maria Grazia Mammuccini, spokesperson for Cambia La Terra.
In short, it is a reality that starts from local Italian experiences, from the concrete commitment of local mayors and administrators, and the requests of citizens’ groups organized on the territories (for example those who promoted the Marches against pesticides in Veneto, or the No Pesticidi Facebook group, which boasts tens of thousands of memberships and grows by the day). Not only did they tell the stories of experiences that are working, they also laid out proposals for the future direction of a national policy on agroecology.
Why do municipalities say no to pesticides?
There are many reasons to say no to pesticides and protect the territory they administer. The mayors who gathered in Rome recalled some such reasons during their speeches. Edoardo Prestanti, Mayor of Carmignano (Prato), emphasized that in a "context like that of Pistoia, which is a highly industrialized area with a massive presence of monocultures and nurseries, it is necessary to start from below" – what he calls “an alliance for the democracy of common goods”. The Mayor of Melpignano (Lecce), Ivan Stomeo, announced the arrival of a community apiary in his municipality, "because bees are extraordinary sentinels of environmental quality; they are an extraordinary engine: we need to start from these realities even when we talk about the extraordinary potential of agroecology. We are doing it".
It was the Mayor of Tollo (Chieti), Angelo Radica, who coined the slogan of the day: “(one must take) small steps, but fast”. Speaking of his reality - 84% of the land he administers is planted with pergola vines - he explains: "intervening in a situation like this can be explosive. We are applying the “small steps, but fast” policy. Everything always requires great attention to information, which must be capillary and constant: in this way dialogue and confrontation with the population can be kept open". In Vallarsa (Trento), explains Mayor Massimo Plazzer, "we wanted to work in such a way that future generations won’t have to face the damage caused by intensive agriculture. That's why we introduced insurance and guarantees". "Agriculture for a territory is very important", explains the Mayor of Belluno Jacopo Massaro. "It is important because it means that the territory is not given up for abandonment. I think that quality agriculture is the added value for an area that focuses on tourism. But the objective cannot be achieved through conflict. Conflict does not pay off. Instead, it pays for a system of incentives and disincentives for those who choose organic and those who do not”. Many of the above municipalities are part of PAN Europe’s European Network of Pesticide-Free Towns(link is external).
What are the demands?
The requests that emerged from the Roman meeting are timely.
1) To reduce all risks: adoption of biological techniques for the
2) To deal with the so-called 'drift' (i.e. the dispersion of pesticides) with adequate monitoring and control systems in order to guarantee the protection of the population, water bodies and organic productions that risk being downgraded in the event of contamination.
maintenance of non-agricultural areas (road and rail networks) with particular attention to public and private green areas.
3) To introduce minimum distances from organic houses and crops to conventional fields.
4) During treatments with synthetic plant protection products, ensure adequate information for citizens living in rural areas.
5) Evaluate new rules for the active substances most frequently found in water as a result of the monitoring conducted by Ispra.
6) Make up for the NAP’s delay compared to organic farming, with the aim to reach 40% of the agricultural area cultivated with organic farming with suitable training, consultancy and information tools.
7) Eliminate pesticides that have been found to be harmful for habitats and species of the EU Biodiversity Directives from Natura 2000 sites, promoting the conversion to the organic method for farms in protected areas.
8) Strengthen investment in research and innovation for agroecology towards cultivation techniques that exclude or drastically reduce the need for use of pesticides.
9) To promote training and technical support projects for innovation and for the diffusion of agroecological approaches and biological control means also supported by adequate investments in agro-meteorological monitoring tools and systems.
10) In the application of NAP, involve, in addition to public institutions, agricultural associations, environmentalists, organic farming, consumers and the scientific world.
In addition to Jacopo Massaro (Mayor of Belluno), Edoardo Prestanti (Mayor of Carmignano -Prato), Ivan Stomeo (Mayor of Melpignano -Lecce- and Anci delegate for energy and waste), Angelo Radica (Mayor of Tollo -Chieti), Massimo Plazzer (Mayor of Vallarsa -Trento), the conference was attended by Maria Grazia Mammuccini, spokesperson for Cambia la Terra and FederBio Bureau; Carlo Zaghi, Directorate General for Environmental Assessments and Authorizations, Ministry of the Environment; Emanuela Pace, Ispra researcher; Laura Viganò, Crea researcher; Patrizia Gentilini, oncologist and member of Isde Italia - Medici per l'ambiente; Daniela Sciarra, head of the Legambiente agri-food supply chain; Federica Luoni, Lipu Nature Conservation Area; Franco Ferroni, Head of Agriculture & Biodiversity WWF; Elisa Mussio, Pesticide Action Network (Pan)-Europe Campaigns and Communications assistant; the Marcia Stop Pesticidi Committee; Renato Bottiglia, coordinator of the Facebook group No Pesticidi.
Webinar Pesticides Free Towns || "The sustainable management of urban green areas: methods and good practices" || Thursday, 25 June from 11:00 to 13:00 a.m.
Is it possible to manage the green areas of our cities without using pesticides?
What are the most suitable plant species for the urban microclimate?
Is it possible to protect the biodiversity of local plants even in the city?
Can citizens' cultural approaches to spontaneous plants be changed?
How to turn green transition into opportunities?
We will answer these questions with:
- Michela Bilotta, PAN Europe, Coordinator of the Pesticide Free Towns
- Fabio Taffetani, Full Professor of Botany at the Polytechnic University of Marche and Director of the Selva di Gallignano Botanical Garden
- Elena Crescini, Gardens Management City of Bozen
- Nathalie Rose, Agricultural Consultant
The harmful effects of chemical pesticides are now scientific evidence.
The webinar will discuss the most effective sustainable methods, tools, best practices and initiatives for low- impact management of green areas, for a truly toxic free environment.
Municipal administrations, NGOs and environmental associations, stakeholders, experts and all citizens who care about their health and the environment are invited to participate.
The webinar will be held in Italian and it will be possible to ask questions to our speakers.
Any question about this online event? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
'Cities and local authorities are reducing exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals' - in partnership with EDC Free EU Coalition, June 25th 2019
Local and regional authorities across Europe are taking action to reduce the daily exposure of citizens to harmful chemicals. Chemicals that interfere with our hormonal system, also known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), are especially under scrutiny.
On 26 June, the European Committee of the Regions is likely to adopt an official opinion on the proposal that the European Commission made on the roadmap “Towards a comprehensive European Union framework on endocrine disruptors”.
This opinion is expected to highlight some of the initiatives that many EDC-Free Europe partners have launched over the years in partnership with local and regional authorities. These include the "EDC-Free cities and territories" campaign in France and Spain, the cross border "Non-hazardous cities" initiative in the Baltic Region, and the "Pesticides-free towns " in Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, and the Netherlands.
Many concrete actions have already been adopted by local and regional authorities with the aim to reduce the exposure of their inhabitants to endocrine disrupting chemicals, in order to protect in particular the most vulnerable groups in our society.
Update: On 26 June, the European Committee of the Regions adopted an official opinion on the proposal that the European Commission made on the roadmap “Towards a comprehensive European Union framework on endocrine disruptors”.
Pesticide Free Towns: European policies, local strategies and future perspectives on 27 September 2018 at the European Parliament
A total ban in the use of chemical pesticides in public areas: this is what European MEPs and Mayors have been clamoring during the round table "Pesticides free towns: European policies, local strategies and future perspectives", which took place at the European Parliament in Brussels last 27 September.
Organized by PAN Europe (Pesticide Action Network), in collaboration with the coordinator of the Agriculture Committee Nicola Caputo, the president of the Pesticide Committee Eric Andrieu and the vice president of the Environment Committee, Pavel Poc, the event was a precious opportunity for inspiration and comparison.
The highlight of the meeting was the signing of a joint declaration in order to call the European Commission for a total ban of chemical pesticides in public areas. "A dutiful act of great responsibility towards European citizens, especially the weakest groups, such as children" - says Nicola Caputo.
Very interesting the presentations of the speakers, from the case of Malles, the first European Municipality to have called a popular referendum for a total ban of pesticides, to that of Occhiobello, the first Municipality to join the PFT Network. Ivan Stomeo, president of the Association of Borghi Autentici d’Italia, highlighted how a green policy can have a positive impact on local economy and on the tourist appeal of towns, while Luis Newton, president of the Estrela district (Lisbon) illustrated alternative methods to glyphosate used in its territory. The mayor of the Belgian municipality of Watermael Boitsfort, Olivier Deleuze, spoke about the initiatives taken to actively involve citizens in a path free from pesticides.
The meeting was, therefore, a concrete and effective example of how different realities can be the spokesman of shared needs: protecting public health and the environment.
Pesticide Free Towns campaign lauched in Portugal (May 2018)
PAN Europe member organisation Quercus, in collaboration with PAN Europe, has launched a local campaign in Portugal to inspire and convince municipalities to join the European Network and to become pesticide free. The parish Estrela from Lisbon has been the first municipitality, a pioneer in Portugal, to sign the pledge and to take the first by use non-chemical weed control methods in the public areas in the parish.
Interview with Ivan Stomeo - President Associazione Borghi Autentici d’Italia (April 2018)
Why a partnership between Borghi Autentici d’Italia and the Pesticide Free Towns Network?
By signing the Manifesto of Borghi Autentici d’Italia, our Municipalities undertake to develop, together with our Association, concrete actions in order to contribute to the socio-economic development of their territories and to improve the quality of life of their citizens, also from an environmental and public health point of view. The agreement with the European Pesticide Free Towns Network, therefore, is fully coherent with all the actions promoted by us and helps our municipalities in improving the quality of life of their local communities (Read more)...
New towns in the Pesticide Free Towns Network (March 2018)
Thanks to the partnership signed with the Associazione Borghi Autentici d'Italia, another 15 cities have joined the European Network of Pesticide Free Cities.
A concrete step that demonstrates how many municipalities have undertaken an environmental policy based on sustainability, to protect the health of their citizens and the biodiversity of their territory.
Here, below, the 15 beautiful villages that have decided to protect their artistic beauties by including them in a broader vision of land protection: Melpignano, Aggius, Cassano Murge, Copertino, Fallo, Galatone, Matino, Miglierina, Salve, Sorradile, Roseto Capo Spulico, Acquaviva delle Fonti, Biccari, Montesegale, Aradeo, Forni di Sotto, Montesano Salentino.
The PFT Network in Croatia ( March 2018)
Following the good example of Italy also the Municipality of Zagreb decided to join the Pesticide free Towns Network.
“The Mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandić, in his desire to enhance the quality of life of its citizens, has recognized the importance to ban the use of pesticides in public green areas and decided to join the Mayors across Europe who are involved in the Pesticide Free Towns Network”.
These are the words we love the most, because, following the example of Zagreb, also the city of Ozalj joined the Network. Welcome Zagreb and welcome Ozalj!
PFT Network and Borghi Autentici d’Italia
PFT Network and Borghi Autentici d'Italia have signed an agreement to help many Italian villages to go free pesticide. Borghi Autentici d'Italia is an association that brings together small and medium-sized municipalities, local authorities and local development bodies, around the goal of a model of sustainable development, respectful of places and people and attentive to the enhancement of local identities. The goal: to rediscover the Italian villages as places to live, sustain and preserve. All the municipalities of Borghi Autentici are invited to join the PFT Network for a better quality of life, for a better Europe.
Trentino Alto Adige, a virtuous place
Good examples must always be followed. And that's exactly what happened in Trentino Alto Adige where the Italian village of Mals set an international precedent and a model for other communities to follow. In fact the citizens of Mals and their forward-thinking mayor, Ulrich, joined forces to become the first place in the world to ban all synthetic pesticides by a referendum vote. The Municipality of Bolzano, not far from Mals, has followed the same direction and, after having abolished the glyphosate in compliance with the National Plan, has decided to use only natural products for the weeding of public areas. In the development of this pesticide free path, the municipality of Bolzano has decided to join the Free Pesticide Towns Network.
A journey of a thousand-mile begins with a single step
The European Pesticide Free Towns Network grows: four new towns have decided to say no to the use of chemical pesticides in common areas and to protect the health of their citizens. Volvera, Barge (Piedmont) and Bastida Pancarana (Lombardy), Guardia Sanframondi (Campania): four small Italian jewels united by a sustainable policy and by the use of alternative methods to chemical pesticides. A further testimony of commitment aiming at the envision of a Europe without pesticides. Because a journey of a thousand-mile begins with a single step.
Alternative techniques to pesticides: we gave the floor to the Municipalities
“For some time now, our best practice has been to replace glyphosate with asteam burner at 400 °C for weeding purposes in public green areas” told us the environmental councillor of Ragusa. “We also use electric brushcutters, hedge trimmers and shredders in order to leave the mowing directly on site”.
“In green public areas we use only vinegar and manual / mechanical methods, without any use of chemical products. We encountered lower costs in obtaining the material, but also a greater work commitment (more hours to be dedicated). Obviously this choice brings health and environmental benefits” - told us the mayor of Lozzolo, Vercelli, ing. Sella.
"Manual, steam and fire weeding are the methods we use the most in our Municipality" - told us Filippo Moretto from the environment office of Occhiobello, Rovigo. "In relation to sustainability objectives related to a social background held on the United Nations sustainable development agenda, we have now decided to favor the manual work of disadvantaged operators or of those experiencing difficulties in finding a job (ex. People in their fifties/ sixties who have lost their jobs, socially useful workers, people followed by municipal social services, migrants ...).
The Mayor of Morozzo, Mauro Fissore says: "It’s been a year since we stopped using pesticides in public areas in our Municipality: gardens, sidewalks etc. are freed from weeds using mechanical means, brush cutters, very often even tearing them out manually. It requires hard work, of course".
"We have not yet completely banned chemical pesticides in our public areas, but we are close to reaching this goal" says Mario Dalmasso, environmental councillor of Robilante. "Manual weeding for now is the only alternative we are putting in place, especially thanks to the help of the migrants we host in our town".
"Since 2015, thanks to a municipal ordinance, we have banned the use of glyphosate in the whole town, so for our parks and gardens we use just manual weeding" - told us the Mayor of Casalduni, Benevento, Pasquale Iacovella.
An unanimously voting for the town of Morozzo
Another Italian town joins the Pesticide Free Towns Network: Morozzo, Piedmont. The Mayor, Mauro Fissore, told us: "We have unanimously voted for participation in the Pesticide Free Towns Network and we will work to implement initiatives in order to raise awareness among our citizens about this environmental and health emergency. We are a predominantly agricultural village, which is why we are particularly interested in starting this path with you. Thanks for this opportunity”.
Lozzolo: wine, nature and sustainable development
Lozzolo is a nice, small village in the province of Vercelli, Italy. It is surrounding by beautiful hills and vineyards and it is famous for a red wine with a suggestive name: Bramaterra.
It’s been a year since the town of Lozzolo has banned chemical pesticides in its public areas, becoming pesticide free. The Mayor, Roberto Sella, has decided to join the Pesticide Free Towns Network in order to improve a policy in relation to the environment and sustainable development and for the further promotion of environmental awareness.
We give Lozzolo a hearty and warm welcome in our family. What better way to celebrate the New Year?
Varese: a beautiful and sustainable town
When a city is endowed with such natural beauty it cannot but preserve it. That's why we are particularly happy to welcome the city of Varese in the Pesticide Free Towns Network. We wish to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Environment Councilor, Dino De Simone, for his great support.
Varese has always been attentive to environmental policies and sustainability, so, starting from today, there’s a further reason to visit this wonderful Italian town, rich in castles and in beautiful landscapes.
The Municipality of Varese wrote us to be totally “agree on the need to reduce the use of chemical pesticides in cities as indicated and / or prescribed by several European directives and regulations and by the National Action Plan for the sustainable use of pesticides”. Their participation in the Pesticide Free Towns Network is a further, important step towards the sustainability.
PAN Europe welcomes Ragusa to the Pesticide Free Towns Network
The Municipality of Ragusa, in Sicily, has signed the pledge to join the Pesticide Free Towns Network. In doing that the town of Ragusa is committed to achieve a significant reduction of pesticide use in its public areas, to promote campaigns aimed at informing citizens about the transition to become pesticide-free, to exchange good practices and experience with other European towns. “Our Municipality always gave a great importance to the environment" – says Antonio Zanotto, the person in charge of the green areas of Ragusa. "We already use sustainable alternatives to glyphosate and this project is a great opportunity to us to develop our vision and to share good practices in order to protect the environment and to have a better quality of life”.
The town of Robilante joins the Pesticide Free Towns Network
Launched a few days ago in Italy, the Pesticide Free towns project has already found important adhesions. After the municipalities of Malles (BZ) and Occhiobello (RO) it is the turn of Robilante, in the province of Cuneo.
The picturesque town of Piedmont has an ancient water mill for milling corn and offers visitors beautiful landscapes and three museums: the museum of the accordion, the railway museum and the museum of sound and communication.
By joining the Pesticide Free towns Network, the municipality of Robilante reaffirms its commitment to ban pesticides in the common areas of the territory, using mainly manual weeding. One more reason to visit it and to taste its excellent polenta!
"Going pesticide free it is not only possible but beneficial!" Municipality of Occhiobello
"Our first step towards a sustainable future was... a step back! In particular a step back from business as usual, starting reconsidering every single public work aiming at minimizing its environmental impact. Walking that way, pest control turned into integrated pest management and the role of pesticides become naturally irrelevant. Public decisions are assumed as consequence of a fact driven approach and the Municipality is now involved also in a scientific work in collaboration with local and regional health authorities. Going pesticides free it is not only possible but beneficial! As Daniele Chiarioni, Mayor of the Municipality of Occhiobello, underlines: “Going pesticides free it requires a strong effort towards innovative practices and the involvement of the population. It implies a new perception of the territory, where the health of our future generation and a safe environment can not be compared with an artificial cleanliness of public spaces. There is also an aesthetic value to consider, when we foster a natural environmental equilibrium of territory” Since Summer 2015 herbicide use has been being phased-out and replaced by mechanical, manual and steam and flame approaches to weed management." Municipality of Occhiobello, May 2017
First steps towards a pesticide-free Edinburgh!
“The City of Edinburgh Council has undertaken trials to investigate alternatives to the use of herbicides in controlling weeds in its streets, parks and public open spaces. As a result, from Spring 2017 herbicide use is being phased-out and replaced by more mechanical, manual and mulching approaches to weed management. In other, more natural areas, weeds will be increasingly tolerated as part of the city’s Living Landscape” David Jamieson, Head of Parks, Greenspace & Cemeteries, City of Edinburgh Council, April 2017.