News & Updates

November 9, 2018

Getting to Know You – Rika Gopinath


Getting to Know You

Rika Gopinath – YardSmartMarin

Interviewed by Gretchen Reed


Today we are getting to know Rika Gopanith and her projects as Co-Lead of YardSmartMarin.

YardSmartMarin is a community-driven, grassroots outreach project in Marin County to raise awareness among residents about alternatives to the use of toxic chemicals in their homes and landscapes. The project’s educational effort emphasizes easy accessibility to resources and information on least toxic solutions and their benefits, with a goal of developing behavior changes that ultimately reduce the volume of toxic chemicals in the natural environment and in our neighborhoods.

The outreach campaign engages the public with information about integrated pest management strategies and advocates least toxic solutions for home and landscape challenges. Integrated pest management (IPM) is a wholistic, knowledge-based approach to sustainably reduce pest damage by integrating cultural, physical, biological and chemical management techniques.


Tell us about your organization/business/group.

YardSmartMarin is collaborative and community driven.  We bring resources together through collaboration and we welcome anyone to get involved! Whether it is to learn more about the topics or because they want to help with education and outreach in their communities.

One of our core goals is to educate people about integrated pest management in a simple and engaging way. Our motto is “Stop.Think.Protect” which is really the core of what it means to take an IPM approach. Through this process, we give ourselves the chance to evaluate. Is this really a problem? It’s the wholistic thinking and problem solving that IPM brings and it’s about helping people have a thoughtful science-based approach to solving problems that uses the least toxic solutions possible.


How did you get interested/involved/engaged?

Serving on the IPM Commission at the County and learning as a layperson the challenges of managing public landscapes and parks specifically.

It’s not as easy as making a decision not to use a pesticide. Managing a natural landscape requires education and an approach. Nature changes all the time so you have to be willing to dig in and really understand the problems. And what I love about IPM, and YardSmartMarin, is that it demonstrates that if you can understand the problem and nature and the science of what is going on, you can find lots of creative solutions that don’t rely on an easy, quick fix. I kind of think about it like medicine. You cannot just take a pill and solve the problem, you need to see what’s causing the problem – it becomes a problem-solving mentality that is super engaging and there is always something new to learn.

This is an opportunity to take the lessons and the success that the county parks have had out to the public to share the knowledge that there are lots of safer alternatives. This includes everything from bugs in your house, to weeds in your yard, to rats in your compost bin. Parks have dealt with these same issues on a large scale, and the safer solutions here can be shared so that people do not have to learn by trying things that do not work. The knowledge of least toxic alternatives and their benefits is what YardSmartMarin is working to spread.


What do you want to people to learn/do in your work with them?

We want people to know there are less toxic alternatives to pesticides (which include rodenticides) and to stop, think and protect. Stop before you use something toxic. Think about what resources you have and whether it’s really a problem, what your threshold is, and what’s causing the problem. Protect your health, the environment and the wildlife around you and let us help you find the least toxic way solve your problems.


What do you most value in your colleagues?

That we are collaborative, that we respect diversity of opinions and we work together for positive solutions. I really appreciate that everyone is respectful and collaborative.


Who are your heroes?

The people I am working with! I am doing this work because I am inspired by the people I work with and the people I see making positive change in the face of challenge.


What would you tell your younger self?

Listen. Even when you disagree, listen well. And when there are disagreements, seek understanding and opportunities where interests overlap and where there are shared values. Everyone can find something they have in common and can agree upon, even in the biggest of disagreements, and move forward from there.

One thing that has helped me to be effective, now that I’ve learned this, is to focus on being grounded in scientific facts and pragmatic solutions. Telling people to stop doing something doesn’t work as effectively as helping someone focus on possible solutions. Don’t just come with a proclamation, come with solutions and facts. And that context is really thinking about making change in the public realm.


Is there anything else you would like ReScape advocates to know?

A message of thanks to the network of ReScape California landscape professionals for educating people! There are a lot of people who care about what’s being used in their yards, but may not know how to talk about this with their landscaping companies. Please don’t be afraid to help educate your clients on the different ways things can be done, and to share the approach of IPM for least toxic solutions.


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