Carbon Footprints in the Garden

The Environmental Footprint of Gardening and how to reduce it

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There has been a lot of discussion about carbon footprints – though I prefer to call it environmental footprint, for when we concentrate just on carbon we forget the other impact that we have on the Planet – in the news and elsewhere for some time already, but how does this relate to gardening?

For one thing: if you are already gardening in a sustainable fashion, then your environmental footprint is already significantly diminished and relatively low, and even more so if your are growing your own food as well and especially.

Using native plants, rain barrels to collect water; using permeable paving materials, and there are some great ones around now made from recycled rubber tires, or better simply sand, gravel and vegetation (instead of tarmac or cement) that keep the earth cool and allow water to dissipate; using kitchen waste to make your own compost; avoiding chemicals and synthetic fertilizers that use petroleum products in their manufacture; using a manual push mower; and reducing the amount of lawn area are a couple of things that gardeners can do to reduce their environmental footprint.

In fact, simply having a garden itself, especially one in which fruits and vegetables are grown, helps reduce your environmental footprint immensely. After all, most food travels quite a long distance by truck or rail before it gets to your table, resulting in significant CO2 emissions. Some ever arrives with us by plane, such as the “organic” green beans from Kenya that I hate with a vengeance.

Growing food in your garden rather than just have a little area of flowers and the rest lawn decreases your environmental footprint of your garden by a huge amount, and in addition to that it gives you great fruit and vegetables for your table that are better for you and the Planet than the stuff that has come long distances.

You also know what is on your own veg and fruit and if you have not used any serious chemicals to fight pests and diseases than they should be as safe as can be, even though you cannot factor for the fact that your neighbor may have been spraying and some hit yours.

For those that may be wondering what a "carbon footprint" is, it refers to greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere as a result of human activities. It is measured in units of carbon dioxide, hence the name carbon footprint.

However, as I have said before, I hate the expression of “carbon footprint” simple because it does not take every human activity and its impact of the Planet into consideration.

The amount of water that we waste is one aspect that cannot be measured in units of carbon dioxide and there are so many other things that do not fit into that category of carbon footprint either but would be very well covered with environmental footprint or eco-footpint.

The amount of waste that we generate and especially the amount of which we sent to landfill also is one of those things that cannot be covered well with the carbon footprint term and is much better served by the alternative term that I use.

If we can put all that under one umbrella and then talk about the broader impact that our activities have on the Planet maybe, just maybe, we all will come to understand as to what we are doing to Mother Earth.

Having a garden, growing your own food, with some nice flowers too, and herbs and spices, is one of the great ways to reduce you environmental impact in that the stuff you grow you do not buy and hence it does not have to be carted about. If we all but did a little of that things would be so much better.

In addition to that working with the soil is good for the soul and thus gardening is also good for you.

Now, let's sharpen those green fingers...

© 2010