The environment is being dramatically affected due to climate change. It’s causing glaciers to shrink, ice on rivers to break up earlier than it should, animals to relocate and trees to flower sooner. It’s predicted by scientists that, because of greenhouse gases, global temperatures will continue to rise for several decades.
But, how can we prevent climate change? With many examples of how we can cut our carbon footprint, there are several ways in which the urban garden can benefit our environment. After all, more than 85% of the British population living in towns and cities according to the Royal Horticulture Society (RHS), and our gardens make up a quarter of total urban areas in many cities.
It’s becoming the norm to have hotter, drier summers it seems. Great, right? Well for all the sun lovers out there, yes, 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.
A water butt can be an effective tool to limit your water usage. The proportion of household water used in the garden increases by more 30% when temperatures rise, so this addition can be effective, 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.
Domestic gardens can work as an air-conditioning system for our cities. 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 your shrubs and bushes carefully around your property to reduce the speed of the air movement reaching your building. It’s never too early to start planting these either. If you would like to grow such plants from the early stages, make sure you purchase plant supports to enable them to grow in the direction you intend. However, make sure you don’t create any unwanted wind tunnels directed towards your house.
Vegetation can also offer shade which in turn provides aerial cooling. 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.
It’s clear that larger plants and trees can have significant benefits, but the RHS, (The Royal Horticultural Society) released concerning figures that found that nearly one in four UK front gardens are entirely paved. On top of this, over five million don’t 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.
Plants in all varieties are vital to improving the quality of the air we are breathing in as they release oxygen after absorbing carbon dioxide. With vehicle usage ever increasing, plants are playing a vital part in offsetting some of the emissions automobiles are releasing.
Our personal outdoor space can replace up to 20% of all bought food. For the ambitious gardeners, this can reduce your 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.
Also, growing your own food enables you to know exactly what is in the product, avoids unnecessary packaging and shaves the pennies from your shopping list.
Eco-gardening can help combat climate change too and adding compost to your soil helps to provide vital microorganisms and nutrients to the earth. 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.
This effectively helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, by reducing any 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.
So, although there is an array of factors that must be looked at as we try to combat climate change, it really can start at home. If we all sorted our gardens, we could have a positive effect and help protect our planet.