What is the difference between Organic, Natural and Eco-Friendly Pest Control?

In the last 10-15 years, we all have seen a proliferation of the above terms.  Toss in green, environmentally safe, environmentally friendly, environmentally sensitive, and non-toxic into the mix.  Few places do you find more misuse of these terms than in the pest control industry. To be upfront, we use some of these terms, so we will explain the context in which we use them so that you can have a proper understanding and not be misled.

Following are some helpful category clarifications to help you better understand the whole topic.  Keep in mind that all of these are still generalities.  Additionally, there is often crossover between these categories.

Non-toxic Pest Control

The strictest definition of non-toxic means that it doesn’t contain ingredients that could kill even a small organism.  Therefore, in the truest sense, non-toxic either has to refer to purely mechanical means of killing or deterring pests (i.e., traps) or treatments that don’t actually kill, but rather deter by making an area less attractive.

Natural Pest Control

Natural pest control generally refers to non-toxic solutions to discourage pests.  Elements of IPM (Integrated Pest Management) that involve methodologies to reduce and avoid pest infestations can be considered natural.  Natural pest control can also involve the usage of natural predators to reduce infestations.  A great example would be introducing lady bugs (beetles) into your garden to stem the onset of aphids.

Organic Pest Control

Organic pest control refers to products that do not include any synthetic chemicals or substances in their composition.  Their ingredients are naturally occurring. Examples might includes items such as spices, essential oils, ciders, and vegetable or fruit rinds.  Note – organic pest control treatments still can be and usually are  harmful or toxic.  In general, they usually need to be applied much more frequently. Lower volume production of organic treatments matched with more frequently needed application typically result in consumer costs being 20-100% more expensive than conventional treatments.  Additionally, successful, proven, organic treatments are not available for many pests, particularly once an infestation is already present versus pest prevention.

Eco-Friendly Pest Control

We now foray into the first of the terms that can mean different things to different people.  The term eco-friendly pest control implies that it is not harmful to the environment, that it contributes to preserve natural resources, and/or is produced with sustainable ingredients.  Yet sometimes in the real world, treatments that don’t meet these requirements are still used under the title of eco-friendly pest control.  Eco-friendly is sometime linked in the strictest sense with non-toxic.  Other times, it can refer to the use of organic solutions or items that will still kill pests.  Yet in other instances, it’s usage may be justified within the context of a conventional treatment which has a lower impact on the environment than other available options.  It is not a tightly defined term as it is more of a concept than an actual classification of products.

Environmentally Safe or Environmentally Friendly Pest Control

The description for these two terms, environmentally friendly and environmentally safe are interchangeable with eco-friendly.  Please see above.

Environmentally Sensitive Pest Control

While environmentally sensitive can imply the same as environmentally friendly, we feel it is a more honest term. Sensitivity makes no promises, claims nor implies that there is exclusive usage of natural or organic treatments.   A great analogy is that you can be sensitive to the needs and preferences of an individual whom you are not friends with.  An environmentally sensitive approach involves an awareness and desire to find a proper combination of effective and progressively more natural methods when available. IPM (Integrated Pest Management) is always promoted and encouraged as part of being environmentally sensitive.

Conventional Pest Control

Convention pest control exclusively involves usage of synthetic chemical treatments.  These days, many conventional pest control treatments are synthetic emulations of organic treatments.  The days of using what we call “cross and skull bone” chemicals in residential settings are gone.  This is not to imply that any convention treatment is non-harmful if misused.  Aside from completely natural and non-toxic methods, any treatment, conventional or organic, if misused can be harmful and a responsible company should never seek to imply otherwise.

Toxic Treatments

Toxic applies to both organic and convention treatment.  They all can be harmful.  Again, this is a general term, but it implies the possibility of considerable danger to people, pets, plants or all three, even in relatively low dosage.

Restricted Use Chemicals

These have been deemed too dangerous for usage by the general public.  In the past, some treatments either now restricted or prohibited were used in the pest control industry.  In  residential and virtually all commercial settings in the Portland area, there is no longer any need to use restricted chemicals.

Piecing It All Together

Ultimately, we believe that the best approach involves communication, education and honestly.  We have seen competitors try to justify their services as being very “green” because, as their logic goes, they kill termites, termites eat wood, and needing new wood requires cutting more trees.  So by killing termites, they are a green company. To us, this seems disingenuous. While the logical progression follows a correct path, what is missing is scope and scale of the scenario which they lay out. You just can’t assume that the trade off is even without looking at the specific details involved. This competitor’s marketing claim is a great example of the lack of effort and dishonesty in this industry in taking the time to try and help customers understand the differences in all this relatively new terminology.

At All Pest Control Company, we tend to think that a comparative understanding of these terms is most useful.  We know that it is virtually impossible, with the level of quick success desired by the vast majority of homeowners, to accomplish elimination of some pests while strictly using only non-toxic, natural or organic pest control solutions.  Additionally, different pest have different treatment options available.  The most effective treatment for some pests might be more closely aligned with organic pest control methods while the best treatment available for another pest requires conventional solutions.  We offer some solutions that are natural, some that are organic, and some that are conventional.  To paint oneself as employing only natural or organic solutions for all pests is usually dishonest.

Our Approach

We feel the most accurate and honest way to categorize our all of our various service offerings is with the term Environmentally Sensitive.  With that terminology, our desire is to communicate our goal to be aware of the need to respectful to the environment and to seek out new treatment options whenever they become available and have been proven effective.  This terminology encompasses solutions for specific pests for which we are able to offer non-toxic solutions, for those in which organic solutions that provide solid results exist, and those pests for which our only successful choice might be to offer a newest generation conventional treatment that while not organic or natural, successfully requires minuscule dosage to accomplish its results.

If you have read through this explanation, chances are that you care about trying to do the right thing.  We hope that you will appreciate both our honest approach and desire to progress toward ever improving options as they become available and effective.  If so, we might be a good match for each other.