Skip to main content

Home Depot and Lowe's: buzzkill for environmentalists?


Environmental advocates and building industry pros have long circled each other in conflict and cooperation, but it seems that there's a loud and growing faction of activists putting a relatively new issue on the map.

That's because bees are dying -- suddenly, and often at once, numbering in the millions -- a troubling effect known as Colony Collapse Disorder that has been linked to the use of neonicotinoids, a type of insecticide that can be found on Lowe's and Home Depot shelves nationwide.

Citing the precedent set by Europe -- which enacted a partial ban on neonics after many large retailers, reacting to consumer pressure, voluntarily stopped selling them -- activist group is mounting a similar campaign here in the U.S. to get big boxes to follow suit.

On Oct. 29, SumOfUs orchestrated a demonstration right in two Lowe's parking lots in Brooklyn and Philadelphia. Activists dressed as bees handed out educational materials aimed at building awareness regarding neonic pesticides and the inaction displayed by Lowe's. Adding to the pressure is a petition signed by more than 750,000 people and a "Twitter swarm" aimed at Lowe's and Home Depot.

“From all over the world, tens of thousands of everyday Lowe’s customers and shareholders are urging Lowe’s to think about the impact that these dangerous bee-killing pesticides have on our food supply chain and the company’s brand,” said Nicole Carty, U.S. senior campaigner at, in a statement. “It’s long past time for Lowe’s to remove bee-killing pesticides from its shelves and supply chain.”

According to the organization, Home Depot is apparently getting closer to complying with its wishes and removing the chemicals from its shelves.

Over at Lowe's, things have quieted down since the bee demonstrators packed up for the day, but the message didn't fall on totally deaf ears. At the very least, the retailer is aware of what's at stake.

"We discuss this important issue regularly with our suppliers and vendors and expect them to abide by local, state and federal guidelines governing the application and labeling of all pesticides and intended to protect pollinators," said Lowe's spokesperson Karen Cobb.

However, Cobb continued, Lowe's prefers to take a "market may care" approach for the time being, giving customers the choice to select a more bee-friendly alternative, and, so they say, enough information to allow them to make educated choices.

Given the literature that's been coming out on this topic, it seems as though it may become increasingly more difficult to defend the use of neonicotinoids. A new report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that the benefits of using three popular neonicotinoids on soybean crops were "negligible," and that "in most cases there is no difference in soybean yield when soybean seed was treated with neonicotinoids versus not receiving any insect control treatment."

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds