By now, we’re all aware of the growing environmental impact mankind is having on our beautiful planet, and how excessive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the earth’s atmosphere is leading to global warming – which, in turn, is changing the global climate. The solution to the problem lies in finding ways to slow down the creation of atmospheric carbon and increase carbon stored in the soil, plants, and oceans. While reducing energy usage in your house, using transport more efficiently, buying eco-friendly products like swiss ortho sleep mattress etc., makes a substantial impact on reducing emissions, gardeners can also play a vital role.
Preserve the natural habitat
If you’re building or starting a garden on a site where indigenous vegetation already exists, try to keep as much of the natural habitat as possible. At all costs, avoid clearing ‘bush’ and indigenous trees indiscriminately. A tree takes 10 minutes to cut down but 30 years or more to grow – and it absorbs carbon dioxide.
Planting trees and keeping plants at home has been proven to be a very cost-effective way of offsetting our carbon emissions. Trees can absorb carbon dioxide and convert it into carbohydrates in order to stimulate growth. Besides they are releasing oxygen right back into the atmosphere. The recent studies show that over about 15 years, about 500kg of carbon is stored per tree.
Plant shrubs and climbers Shrubs and climbers planted against the north- facing walls of a house help to insulate it and can reduce the inside temperature by as much as 5% in summer and reduce heat loss in winter by up to 30%. In the garden, shrubs shade the soil, helping it to retain carbon. Use water-smart plants for easy maintenance and less watering.
Use a water feature to cool the house Keep your home cool in summer by placing a pond or water feature where prevailing winds can blow across it before reaching the house. This works best if you create a wind tunnel with trees and bushes to direct the airflow to where you want it.
Chemicals have a significant carbon footprint as a result of the raw materials from which they’re made and the energy consumed during their manufacture and transportation.
Use natural products
Organic products actually return carbon to the soil in the form of carbohydrates, so carbon-conscious gardeners use organic compost, soil conditioners, lawn top dressing, mulches, and organic pesticides.
Make your own compost
Home composting simply and effectively benefits your garden and the environment. It enables you to:
• Re-use and recycle waste that would otherwise be thrown away.
• Avoid sending organic waste to landfills, thereby assisting in reducing the amount of methane gas produced when wet waste decomposes in a landfill.
• Assist in reducing the carbon emissions created in transporting waste to landfills.
• Reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, as home compost makes your plants healthier and helps them build a stronger immune system.
Enrich the soil with organic matter
The soil is the ultimate carbon sink: it contains organic matter derived from plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria. About 60% of organic carbon in the soil occurs in a form that binds tightly to clay particles and cannot easily be dislodged. Soil enriched with organic matter can store large amounts of carbon for a very long time; it’s also more fertile and holds more water.
Plant a food garden By growing fruit and vegetables at home, using organic fertilizers, you can reduce your household carbon footprint because no chemicals are used, and there is no transportation from farmer to market, to the supermarket.
Practice companion planting
Companion planting is all about which plants work well together when planted next to each other in the garden. Particular combinations increase yields, while certain plants ward off unwanted garden pests, reducing the need for chemical pesticides.
Avoid digging over the soil
This tends to dry the soil, thereby breaking down organic matter and releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. Minimum tillage conserves organic matter, stabilizes the soil structure and reduces erosion while increasing levels of organic carbon in the soil.
Keep lawn clippings and fallen leaves
Leave grass clippings on the lawn so that they return nutrients to the soil as they decompose. Alternatively, put them on your compost heap. Fallen leaves can also be used as a mulch or compost.
Invest in a shredder
This is an essential tool for carbon-conscious gardeners. Use it to shred fallen leaves, garden clippings, and prunings to make mulch, or add it to your compost heap.
Re-use and recycle South Africans produce 540 million tonnes of waste per year, 70-80% of which could be recycled. You are not only conserving natural resources by recycling your waste, in a small but significant way, you are creating a positive impact on global climate change too. Recycling also helps to conserve our coal-produced energy, thereby reducing the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere.