Luisa Garza, University Housing gardening specialist, was recently presented with an individual award as part of the 17th annual statewide "Governor's Employee Safety Awards" ceremony in Sacramento. She was honored for developing a series of public health and employee safety measures.
Ever since the fifth grade when, as a junior firefighter sporting a big hat and shiny badge, she inspected her house for safe fire exits and non-hazardous wiring, Luisa Garza has been concerned with safety issues.
Recently she was lauded for her efforts to educate students about recycling their changed motor oil so that it wouldn't end up in Big Chico Creekthose stencils around the storm drains in campus parking lots are part of that effortand, in her job as gardener, to reduce the use of pesticides. Earlier this year, Garza, who works as a gardening specialist for University Housing, also garnered the Campus Safety Award.
As a gardener, Garza is a firm believer in integrated pest management, or IPM as it's dubbed in the trade. "There are very few pesticides available that just kill pests and not beneficials as well," she said, insisting that soil health and variety in the garden plant palette, both of which encourage the proliferation of "good bugs," eliminate pests as well as, if not better than, pesticides. "Pests go to stressed plants first, before they go to healthy ones," she said. "There has even been a study that claims plants under stress emit a high-pitched frequency that alerts pests."
Part of the problem with getting people to use IPM, she thinks, derives from the misconception that using pesticides saves time. "But it doesn't. You have to buy the right product, you have to store it properly, you have to understand how to mix it properly, and then you have to apply it and make sure the equipment is functioning properly." She hastened to add that reading about alternative solutions and implementing them also takes time, but the pay-offa cleaner, healthier environmentis worth it.
Discussing her awards, Garza praised the dedication of colleagues Jeff Mott and Marvin Pratt in Environmental Management, Health and Safety, and expressed gratitude for the support she has received from University Housing. "I couldn't have done this without them," she said. Not far from her office next to Esken Hall, a purple buddleia was blooming, and pollinators flitted and hummed. Interview finished, Luisa Garza returned to her work among them.