About Us

Turning Concern Into Action

Speak Up Green Up is a youth-led 501(c)4 environmental organization focused on eliminating the use of harmful pesticides/herbicides on school and park district grounds in the North-West Suburbs of Chicago. Founded in 2019, Speak Up Green Up is the first student-led organization of its kind.


Our Story

On one sunny Saturday morning in July, our founder Mary Catherine was playing a softball game in her local park. While playing shortstop, she started to smell something chemical wafting through the air. When she looked over to an adjacent field, she saw that groundskeepers were spraying exorbitant amounts of pesticides on the fields. As she scanned the stands, she noticed that there were young children running around and dogs sniffing in every corner of the park. After that, Mary Catherine researched the harmful effects of pesticides on human, animal, and aquatic health, which led her to start Speak Up Green Up.


What Are Pesticides?

Pesticides are a broad term for products that kill, and include all of the following:

Fungicides (fungus killers), herbicides (weed killers), insecticides (bug killers), rodenticides (rodent killers), and antimicrobial (bacteria and virus killers).

Pesticides were first widely used during WW2 to combat diseases such as Malaria and Typhus. After the war, they were commercialized and sold to farmers, state governments, and schools as safe products to use on grass. 

Herbicides (Roundup and Atrazine) are the most commonly used pesticides in the world. Herbicides present mostly chronic risks, meaning that long-term exposure increases one's risk of cancer, Parkinson's disease, infertility, or other reproductive issues

Insecticides act immediately and target the nervous system and brain of insects. However, the effects of insecticides are not limited to bugs. Insecticides can also negatively affect humans, animals, and other wildlife. 


The Problem


an estimated one billion pounds of pesticides are applied to U.S. farms, forests, lawns and golf courses.


have pesticides in our bodies, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Pesticides have been connected with an increased risk of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, autism and ADHD.


is also greatly impacted by the usage of pesticides. During heavy rainfalls, pesticides run off into rivers and streams. As a result, fish, frogs, turtles, mussels, water birds, and other wildlife can be hurt or even killed. These pesticides also get into our drinking water: the herbicide atrazine is found in 94% of U.S. drinking water tested by the USDA.



These are the current laws that regulate the use of pesticides in the United States.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act:

This act provides federal regulations for selling, distributing, and using pesticides. Essentially, this law allows the EPA to classify each pesticide based on its risks and benefits.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act:

This act sets maximum residue limits for pesticide residues on foods. This helps ensure that our food is safe for consumption. 

The Endangered Species Act of 1973:

This act requires that pesticides that will harm endangered species will not be registered. DDT is an infamous chemical that was outlawed due to this act. 

Illinois currently does not have any state-wide regulations on pesticides/herbicides.



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