Climate change is having a huge effect on our environment. Glaciers are shrink, ice on rivers is breaking up earlier than it should, animals are being forced to relocate to survive and trees are starting to flower sooner. Scientists are warning that because of greenhouse gases, we are likely to see rising temperatures continue for several decades.
But, is there a way in which we can prevent climate change? We are able to cut our personal carbon footprint and the urban garden is one way to do so. With 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, this alone can make a huge difference.
Have more plants in our gardens
Our domestic gardens can offer their services 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.
Aerial cooling can also come in the form of vegetation. 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 noticeable that trees and large plants have huge benefits, but the RHS released damning figures that revealed that almost a quarter of UK front gardens are completely 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.
All kinds of plants help improve the quality of air in which we are breathing as they release oxygen following the absorption of carbon dioxide. With vehicle usage ever increasing, plants are playing a vital part in offsetting some of the emissions automobiles are releasing.
As we begin to experience hotter, drier summers, we could witness 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 used as a tool to help you limit the amount of water you are using. 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.
Grow your own veg
If you use your outdoor space appropriately, you 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 is another way for us to tackle climate change. 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 can help to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, by limiting 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, while there are plenty of ways for us to battle climate change, it really is clear that we can start at home. If we all sorted our gardens, we could have a positive effect and help protect our planet.