Dear Mr. Hagedorn,

You killed my compost worms

B. Lorraine Smith
10 min readSep 6, 2022


Houseplants enjoying the summer days on my fire escape, encouraged by the rich nutrients that come from the castings of my worms, in the composters just off to the right of this image. (Image by me.)

I am pretty sure you didn’t mean to. As the CEO of Scotts Miracle-Gro, it’s clear you are doing a lot to address the negative impacts of your products.

I realize this is a tough time for the company, financially speaking.

The thing is, I think those two things are related — that you killed my worms, and that you’ve had to lay people off and go into short-term financial regroup mode.

I also think there is a lot we can do to shift the conditions that killed my worms, and that created financial hardship for your company — they’re directly related. Although it is going to be challenging and complex, it’s worth doing. It will help us look after our own “piece of the Earth” as you call it, so much better than we do today.

Hence my reaching out with this letter, following your example of public stakeholder dialogue.

It’s not greenwash, it’s profitable death

Even though a lot of people I know and respect would call the stuff you say “greenwash”, I believe you mean it and have a lot of credible data to back you up. To be honest, that’s more worrying to me than greenwash.

The fact that you produce a product that my landlady bought in good faith to make her tenants more comfortable, but that instead gassed us out of our homes and killed my compost worms, is the effect of a dangerously broken set of market incentives, not greenwash.

I’ll offer some context. And then I’ve got some ideas about how we can make things right.

A bad day for compost worms

My wonderful landlady Rose noticed there were a lot of spiders around the doorways and windows of the six units in our typical Montreal walk-up. There were mosquitos, too. So she did what a lot of people do: she went to Home Depot and bought a product to kill — or as your industry likes to say, “control” — these insects. (Even though malathion is not allowed for domestic use here, there was no meaningful restriction on her purchase or use of it.)



B. Lorraine Smith

Recovering ESG "expert"; yarn spinner; distance runner; magical realist. Sensing a path to an economy serving life. also at