NO plastic grass in LGUSD!

NO plastic grass in LGUSD!

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Question Fake Grass started this petition to LGUSD Board of Trustees and

Sign this petition imploring our elected school board to say NO to the plastic grass (a.k.a. artificial turf) being planned and proposed for Los Gatos K-8 school campuses (LGUSD). 

Plastic grass does NOT belong on the playing fields or in outdoor classrooms of our elementary and middle schools. We all share a duty of care to keep our children safe and healthy.

The district's proposal to swap tire crumb infill for an alternative infill, possibly plant-based, is NOT sufficient to mitigate the litany of downsides to using plastic grass. Many of the downsides stem from the plastic itself, 80,000 pounds of which would need to be replaced by LGUSD every 8-10 years. [1] 

Plastic grass jeopardizes our:

  • health and safety
  • holistic sustainability of the environment [2]
  • financial sustainability

Skeptical? Ask the experts!

  • UCSF doctors recommend to LGUSD a moratorium on plastic grass even if alternative infill is used. [3]
  • Valley Water does NOT promote plastic grass as a responsible water conservation strategy. [4]
  • LGUSD itself concluded plastic grass does NOT save the district money. [5]

LGUSD, we ask you to reject plastic grass and opt for more sustainable landscaping. Practice holistic stewardship of the environment via:

  • adequately maintained and efficiently irrigated real grass athletic fields
  • environmentally sustainable surfaces for play spaces and outdoor classrooms
  • drought-tolerant plantings

This landscaping approach can support all your goals:

  • health and safety
  • usage needs of students, teachers, Home & School Clubs, athletes, sports leagues
  • equitable use of water
  • healthy ecosystems
  • fiscal responsibility

Attention supporters:

All supporters of this cause are encouraged to sign and recruit the support of friends and neighbors. 

Please indicate in comments any current, former, or future affiliation with LGUSD schools. 

Those who signed the original petition are encouraged to also sign this petition, because there's reason to be concerned the original petition may have been misconstrued by leadership as primarily representing opposition to tire crumb rubber infill, even though LGUSD, from the start, has been proposing to use an alternative infill product.

Thank you for your support!      

#NoPlasticTurfLGUSD

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For more information, review the fast facts and references below.  (Content below last updated 1-24-2022.) 

 

FAST FACTS ON DISTRICT PLANS

Where is LGUSD planning/proposing to use plastic grass?

  • First phase of construction (schematics approved 12-14-2021) = Elementary school outdoor classrooms at Van Meter, Daves Avenue, and Blossom Hill.
  • Second phase of construction (approval of TBD materials and plans expected spring 2022) = Elementary school playing fields at Van Meter & Daves Avenue.
  • Potential future targets = Fisher Middle? Lexington Elementary? Blossom Hill Elementary School playing fields?
  • For more information on the district's plans, proposals, and motivations, contact LGUSD's project manager, Terese McNamee.


FAST FACTS ON HEALTH & SAFETY

  • "No government agency has concluded artificial turf is safe - not the EPA nor the CPSC." [6]
  • Turf injuries: Heat [7], twisting/torque ('sticky'ness hinders rotation), harder on joints, concussion, turf burn/friction (raw and limb-length, exacerbated by heat, humidity, sweat, and prior injury; frequent reinjury and infections; increased risk of MRSA [8]). Foot & ankle injury is twice as high on artificial turf as on grass. ACL [9] and knee injury rates also significantly higher. Concussion studies confirm that younger children are most vulnerable to brain injury as their development continues, in addition to having thinner skulls and less developed neck muscles to support the head during a fall or impact. Frequent industry misrepresentation of reputable studies, e.g., by picking their own cohorts from the data to reach different results.
  • Simulated nature does not provide the same physical and mental health benefits as authentic nature. [10,11,12] These benefits positively impact academic performance as well. [13,14]
  • In December 2021, UCSF's Department of Pediatric Environmental Health recommended, directly to LGUSD, a moratorium on artificial turf based on child safety concerns! They were clear this recommendation also applies to the district's proposal to swap recycled tire crumb infill for an alternative infill product. [3]
  • The California Department of Toxic Substances Control selected plastic grass as a priority product to study the toxicity of during its 2021-2023 cycle, citing concerns over PFAS chemicals. They are explicit that their concerns apply to both plastic grass systems that use recycled tire crumb infill as well as systems that use alternative infill products (the kind proposed by the district). [15]
  • PFAS (a.k.a. "forever chemicals" because they never break down) are used in artificial turf manufacturing.  They have been found in the blades and backing of fields in use, most later landfilled or possibly incinerated. [16] So from site of manufacture to site of use to site of disposal, artificial turf potentially contributes to PFAS in people, environments, animals and water.
  • PFAS build up in human bodies. PFAS is linked to cancer, reduced immune systems, decreased response to vaccines, developmental delays in children, accelerated puberty, hormone interference, decreased fertility, increased risk of prostate/testicular cancers, high cholesterol, etc. [17] 
  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency has tasked local governments, including the LGUSD Board of Trustees, with preventing new PFAS contamination. [18]
  • It's not just OUR health and safety at risk. Communities near artificial turf component manufacturing and disposal sites suffer toxic drinking water. [19] Are consumers of plastic grass unknowingly supporting environmental racism and injustice?

 

FAST FACTS ON WATER USAGE

  • Even Los Gatos's own water district which urges water conservation does NOT promote plastic grass as a responsible water conservation strategy! [4] The approach trades one environmental problem for a slew of others.
  • Per the water retailer that services Los Gatos, even during the highest stage of water conservation, watering school grounds constitutes a reasonable use of water. [20] Maintaining natural green spaces for 1000+ children to share daily is a matter of equity. [21, 22] This becomes even more relevant as dense urban housing increases here in Los Gatos. 
  • It is a misperception that no water or even minimal water would be needed for plastic grass fields and outdoor classrooms in an elementary school setting. Water will be needed for safety: (a) for hygienic purposes, (b) to reduce extreme surface temperatures [7], and (c) to hydrate some of the alternative infill products. While food, sticky beverages, sweat, blood, vomit, bird/goose/dog poop, etc. naturally decompose into the soil of real grass, they bake onto plastic grass carpets.
  • University of California Cooperative Extension stresses it's crucial to set priorities for landscape irrigation in severe drought. First on its short list of recommended priorities is sufficient water for public parks, school playgrounds, & sports fields. [23]  Real grass "provides the ideal surface for safe play, sport, and exercise activities needed by children and adults engaged in healthy lifestyles." Another priority is mature trees, as they are among the most valuable and difficult-to-replace elements of landscapes. Overly-restrictive watering of the Van Meter field jeopardizes the health of the giant redwoods surrounding it. 

FAST FACTS ON USAGE NEEDS

  • The primary users of these spaces are students and the primary use is during the school day for play and learning. Students need, now more than ever, the mental and physical health benefits that come with authentic nature. In addition, research shows spending time in nature enhances educational outcomes by improving children's academic performance, focus, behavior, and love of learning. [24, 25]
  • If we limit students' outdoor experiences to primarily asphalt and plastic, they will have many days with no escape from noon time and early afternoon heat. [7] Counting these days as "usable" artificially inflates the appeal of plastic grass. [5]
  • As long as it is adequately maintained, athletes prefer real grass. The district's cost analysis accounts for adequate, i.e. increased, maintenance. [5]
  • Plastic grass has onerous usage restrictions [26]. Stakes can't be driven through to support shade structures or bounce houses [27]. No food or beverages other than water. No shoes, tables, chairs that could puncture the plastic.
  • Schoolyards do not have to be limited to asphalt, real grass, and water-hogging ornamental plants. Our campuses have enough space to incorporate efficiently-irrigated real grass athletic fields, outdoor classrooms with natural surfacing, native plantings, shade trees, AND nature-filled play spaces. Boulders, logs, paths, multi-level play areas, and natural building materials for unstructured play make students happier, healthier, and smarter. [24]
  • This landscape renovation opportunity could be used to build for our kids a richer natural environment to support immersive environmental education, one that stimulates inquiry-based learning and promotes environmental stewardship. [28]

 

FAST FACTS ON HEALTHY ECOSYSTEMS

  • Plastic grass trades one environmental problem for many others. A holistic approach to environmental sustainability includes and goes BEYOND responsible water use. [2]
  • Plastic is a fossil fuel product!
  • Plastic grass is made from virgin plastic, NOT recycled plastic!
  • Recall the efforts you, your children, and the district have made to cut back on single-use plastic?  Artificial turf is classified as single-use plastic. [29]
  • There exist NO facilities in the U.S. to recycle plastic grass carpets! [30] It's piling up in landfills. [31]
  • Plastic grass is anticipated to require replacement EVERY 8-10 years! Each replacement would involve the district sending 80,000 pounds of plastic to our landfills! [1]
  • Plastic grass blades and infill migrate off the field and into the environment, regardless of quality of maintenance, due to wind, heavy rain and clinging to shoes, balls and clothing.  Regardless of where it ends up, these plastics eventually become microplastics!
  • Living landscapes are an essential part of addressing climate change. They sequester carbon. They enable groundwater recharge. They support biodiversity. Their evapotranspiration provides natural cooling of the environment. [32] Asphalt and artificially turfed surfaces, on the other hand, absorb and radiate heat, creating urban heat islands. [33]
  • Installing plastic grass shows disregard for the Town of Los Gatos's active campaign for community reductions in stormwater runoff.  Plastic grass increases stormwater runoff from LGUSD campuses into Los Gatos Creek and the San Francisco Bay, carrying pollutants with it. [34] Living landscapes, on the other hand, reduce flooding [35] and filter pollutants.
  • With real grass, the district can continue with chemical-free maintenance. [36]
  • LGUSD's attention to environmental stewardship matters, even seemingly smaller decisions like using plastic grass in outdoor classrooms. 1000+ kids will visit these spaces every school day for 6 years. LGUSD's environmental stewardship, or lack thereof, will be amplified by the larger community.

FAST FACTS ON FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

  • Choosing renovated real grass fields frees up $2 million for the district to spend on other capital projects! [36]
  • Plastic grass does NOT save the district money! [5] LGUSD staff came to this conclusion based on a lifecycle cost analysis they performed. The analysis included complete renovation of real grass fields, their water costs, and adequate (increased) maintenance. The district has acknowledged having not prioritized adequate maintenance for years. 
  • While the district concluded lifecycle costs for real and plastic grass were nearly equivalent, one major difference is where that money will go, to local green jobs [37] like LGUSD groundskeeping staff versus to industry for petrochemical products.
  • It is a misperception that no maintenance or even minimal maintenance would be needed for plastic grass fields and outdoor classrooms in an elementary school setting. [38] Plastic grass needs continual cleaning: food, sticky beverages, sweat, blood, vomit, bird/goose/dog poop, etc. Sweeping/leaf blowing. Loosening (aerating) and redistributing of infill. Brushing to keep pile up. Repairs. Requires regular testing of surface and infill hardness for safety.  [39, 40]
  • Choosing plastic grass is likely an irreversible decision! The district is unlikely to have the funds to revert to real grass in future as it would likely be as costly as the initial install. The $5 million [36] needed for installation of plastic grass is only available to LGUSD due to one-time windfall that has resulted from a unique arrangement with the North 40 developers. These funds are intended to address the need for expansion of school facilities to accommodate future impacts to school district enrollment. [41]
  • Plastic grass is a cost center that never ends and is controlled by the plastic grass industry. Plastic grass wears out relatively quickly. The district anticipates at least $1.2 million in replacement costs will be needed every 8-10 years. There is no reliable source of funding for this. Don't leave this excessive and recurring financial burden for future leaders and community members.
  • What happens if the replacement costs are unavailable? A plastic grass field at the end of its life becomes a petrochemical dump making it unusable for health and safety reasons. Whereas a real grass field, if not maintained, at worst becomes a meadow and will always be a usable playground. Mow down that meadow and the fields would still be in better condition than the fields our children are using today, conditions the district has considered safe enough for our kids to use for many years.
  • Risk of lawsuits. [42, 43]

 

REFERENCES

1: Fields of Waste: Artificial Turf, Touted as Recycling Fix for Millions of Scrap Tires, Becomes Mounting Disposal Mess

2: 8 Principles of Regenerative Landscapes. Each input effects the whole system.- ReScape  

3: Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit for Western States at UCSF Dept of Medicine recommends LGUSD moratorium on using artificial turf where children play

4: Even in drought, Santa Clara Valley Water District does NOT promote installing artificial turf.

5: Plastic grass fields won't save LGUSD money!

6: Is artificial turf safe if the recycled tire crumb is left out? Doctors say serious cause for concern remains. LGUSD, wait for an answer. It's unnecessary to declare it either safe or unsafe.

7: HOW hot will artificial turf get in Los Gatos!?

8: Los Gatos kids bound to get serious abrasions on artificial turf increasing risk of MRSA

9: Parents of Los Gatos soccer players, don't injury rates on artificial turf alarm you?

10: Dirt has a microbiome, and it may double as an antidepressant  

11: Advancing Sustainability through Urban Green Space: Cultural Ecosystem Services, Equity, and Social Determinants of Health

12: Green Time: A Natural Remedy for ADHD Symptoms

13: Green urban landscapes and school-level academic performance

14: Student performance and high school landscapes: Examining the links

15: How can LGUSD conclude artificial turf WITHOUT recycled tires is non-toxic when our own state agency has this as a high priority open question??

16: Toxic Forever Chemicals Infest Artificial Turf

17: United States Environmental Protection Agency: Our Current Understanding of the Human Health and Environmental Risks of PFAS

18: EPA has tasked local governments, including LGUSD Board & the Town of Los Gatos, with preventing new PFAS contamination.

19: Rivers of Doubt - The North Georgia Water Crisis

20: Even at highest stage of water conservation, San Jose Water considers watering playing fields reasonable use of water.

21: But what about the drought?? What about water expenses??

22: LGUSD, provide equitable access to nature for Los Gatos elementary school students.

23: 9%: Perspective on the California drought and landscape water use - Landscapes and the water they use are under relentless attack as California confronts ongoing drought. Most of these attacks are misguided when one looks at the facts, however.

24: Learning Outside - Nature Play Spaces: A visual tour 

25: Nature can improve academic outcomes

26: The Dirt on Turf - The Truth about Artificial Turf (turf use restrictions on pg 9)

27: Can bouncy castles go outdoors on artificial grass? No.

28: A variety of teaching strategies based on students' levels of development and brain-based research. - Center for Ecoliteracy

29: LGUSD, refuse this single-use plastic like LGUSD students have been taught to do.

30: LGUSD touts it's "recyclable". But artificial turf is NOT being recycled in the U.S.

31: The Dangerous Pileup of Artificial Turf - The Atlantic

32: 'A single high-school-sized baseball field provides up to 70 tons of air conditioning' 

33: LGUSD's artificial turf will create more urban heat islands in Los Gatos.

34: LGUSD's artificial turf will *increase* stormwater runoff while the Town of Los Gatos actively campaigns for community to *decrease* it.

35: Artificial turf contributes to climate change and reduces resilience of Los Gatos in the face of climate-induced weather extremes. Los Gatos, be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

36: Los Gatos Union School District Outdoor Classrooms & Campus Landscaping  Update - 11-08-2021

37: Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low‐Carbon World -United Nations Environment

38: Synthetic turf is not maintenance-free.

39: Artificial turf hardness has to be maintained to prevent concussions (3 min video)

40: Portsmouth HS Synthetic Field is Unsafe For NFL Players – Why Do Our Kids Deserve Less?

41: North 40 Specific Plan Area - Voluntary Contribution Agreement between the Los Gatos Union School District and North 40 Developers

42: Synthetic Turf Lawsuits 

43: Virtually No San Diego Schools Perform Key Field Safety Test


ADDITIONAL ONLINE RESOURCES

(Please keep in mind that issues related to tire crumb infill are NOT pertinent to LGUSD's proposal.)

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