Making Our Gardens Carbon Positive
The world’s environment is dramatically changing due to climate change. Glaciers are shrinking, animals and birds are losing their habitats and forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate. It’s predicted by scientists that global temperatures are going to continue rising in the near future, with greenhouse gases that are produced by human activity being the main cause.
So, how can we slow the effects of climate change? While there are many ways for us to cut our carbon footprint, there are several ways in which the urban garden can benefit our environment. After all, according to the Royal Horticulture Society (RHS), with more than 85% of the British population living in towns and cities, our gardens make up a quarter of total urban areas in many cities.
Have more plants in our gardens
In our big cities, gardens can act as an air-conditioning system. Did you know that the shelter of trees and hedges can act as insulation in the winter to help bring down energy consumption and heating costs? Place shrubs and bushes carefully around your property to reduce the speed of the air movement reaching your building. However, make sure you don’t create any unwanted wind tunnels directed towards your house.
It’s also able to provide aerial cooling in the summer by using vegetation to offer shade. It’s predicted that If we increased our vegetated surfaces in urban areas by as little as 10% then we could help control the summer air temperatures that climate change is bringing. This would also help reduce CO2 emissions.
Obviously, larger trees and plants have benefits, but figures released by the RHS, (The Royal Horticultural Society), revealed that nearly one in four UK front gardens are entirely paved, with over five million not have a single plant growing in it. London was the worst culprit and the impact of this is raising urban temperatures and the loss of biodiversity. All forms of plants are crucial to improving the quality of the air we breathe as they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. With vehicle usage ever increasing, plants are playing a vital part in offsetting some of the emissions automobiles are releasing.
It’s great to think that the hotter and drier summers could soon become normality, isn’t it? Well, yes, for any sun lovers out there, but this could have a knock-on effect for our gardens — which in turn will continue to affect our environment. So, what should you do? If you don’t already have one, get a water butt. If you do have one, add another! Catching rain water to use on your floral displays and lawn will help you minimise your mains water usage, thus helping the environment and aiding self-sufficiency.
The amount of water used in a household increases by more than 30% when temperatures rise, meaning a water butt can be an effective tool — especially with hosepipe bans becoming more regular. Another way to cut your water usage is by re-using any ‘grey water’ which has previously been used to wash dishes or have a bath.
Eco-gardening is crucial to helping us combat climate change, and by simply adding compost to your soil can provide crucial nutrients and microorganisms to the earth. Why not look into this next time you plant your vegetable seeds? If you want to cut costs too, instead of buying compost, you can also use kitchen scraps, so long as it’s not meat or fish. This will also reduce the waste transported to landfill. Composting can effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially methane, by reducing the need to use chemical fertilisers and pesticides. It also helps soils hold any carbon dioxide and improves tilth and workability of soils. However, it’s important to carefully maintain your composting or it may reverse the desired effect.
Grow your own vegetables
For all the gardeners out there who like a challenge, why not grow your own? Our personal outdoor space is used to replace up to 20% of all bought food, reducing their carbon footprint by up to 68lbs of C02 each year. This is thanks to several factors, including the time it takes to get your food to your plate being cut considerably. It’s estimated that the average distance your food travels before it’s consumed is a staggering 1,500 miles, meaning that transportation of the goods is burning fossil fuels.
Growing your own produce also means that your goods are free from chemicals, don’t require packaging, and saves you money on your weekly food shopping.
It’s clear that there are many ways we can help combat climate change and it really can start at home. If we all started with our gardens, we could have a positive effect and help protect our planet.