The world’s environment is being dramatically affected by climate change, as evident by ice on rivers breaking up earlier than they should, glaciers shrinking, trees flowering at a quicker rate and animals having to relocate. Scientists have provided predictions that global temperatures will continue to increase over the next few decades though, citing greenhouse gases produced as a result of human activity as a main cause.
Is there any way to fight back against climate change though? Cutting our carbon footprint could help, while the creation of more urban gardens should certainly help our environment too. Take note that over 85 per cent of the British population currently live in towns and cities, according to this Royal Horticulture Society (RHS) study, with gardens making up a quarter of the total urban areas of many cities.
Here’s how to use the garden space you have available to help in the battle against climate change…
The benefits of composting
One way to combat climate change is with eco-gardening, such as by adding compost to your soil so that it can provide the earth with crucial nutrients and microorganisms. 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.
When you use composting as a technique, greenhouse gas emissions like methane can be reduced. This in turn means that you won’t need to resort to using 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
At the moment, our personal outdoor space is used to replace up to 20 per cent of all food that is bought. With this, ambitious gardeners can reduce their carbon footprints by up to 68lbs of CO2 on an annual basis. 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.
Other benefits of choosing to grow your own vegetables include avoiding the need to make unnecessary packaging, getting peace of mind that your food is free of chemicals, and cutting the cost of your weekly food shop.
Increase the number of plants in your garden
Think of a domestic garden as an air-conditioning system for a city. Did you know, for example, 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 evergreen 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.
As they provide shade, vegetation in a garden can offer aerial cooling throughout the summer months too. 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.
A worry here though is that according to RHS research, almost one in four front gardens in the UK are now completely paved. Furthermore, more than five million don’t have a single plant growing in this space. London was the worst culprit and the impact of this is raising urban temperatures and the loss of biodiversity.
It must be remembered that every plant absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen though, meaning they are all crucial for enhancing the quality of air we breathe. With vehicle usage ever increasing, plants are playing a vital part in offsetting some of the emissions automobiles are releasing.
Be smart with water use
It’s been reported that summers which are hotter and drier could soon become the standard across the UK. Great, right? 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.
When temperatures go up, it’s estimated that the proportion of household water that is used in the garden rises by more than 30 per cent. Therefore, a water butt can be an effective tool to have on hand — 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.