People decide to garden for a variety of reasons. Many enjoy edible gardening because of the mental, physical and social health benefits it provides. What you may be unaware of, is that edible gardening can also positively impact the environment and help to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Here are some reasons how edible gardening can benefit the environment, and how you can become a more sustainable edible gardener:
Reducing CO2 emissions: Plants as natural cleaners
Plants and green spaces can act has highly effective air and ground cleaners. Plants absorb many air pollutants including carbon dioxide, while releasing clean oxygen that we breathe in.
Roots uptake much of what they come into contact with, such as chemicals and metals found in the soil. This may not always be best for your plant, but this can help alert you to poor soil quality and problems that lie below the surface.
Reducing food miles
Food miles is a measure of carbon-based fuel used to get food to you. On average, fruit and vegetables in Australian supermarkets travel an average 745km from farm gate to shop. This creates an average of 49g of CO2 emissions per kilo of fruit (CERES, 2007).
If you grow your own fruit and vegetables, even just a few on a balcony or courtyard, you are reducing food miles as well as reducing time, energy and waste.
- Tip #1: Grow from seed using seeds you saved from previous harvests to reduce your carbon emissions even further (resource coming soon to our website about seed saving!). Selecting heirloom and heritage seeds can also promote plant biodiversity.
- Tip #2: To maximise benefits, choose to grow something that you and your family eat a lot of and/or that is expensive to buy in mainstream supermarkets. For example, herbs are easy to grow in small spaces, they do not need too much watering and there is something to grow all-year round. Choosing to grow foods that are often packaged in single use plastics (like herbs and berries etc.) at supermarkets, will further reduce your carbon footprint.
- Tip #3: Supplement or diversify your own home-grown produce by coordinating different crop varieties to swap with neighbours and friends, or attending local ‘crop swaps’ to keep our food local and environmental impact low.
Reduce use of chemical pesticides
Using natural pest management, organic gardening techniques, and companion planting are changes you can make in your garden to help further reduce carbon emissions. Many chemical pesticides require a high amount of energy and emit carbon dioxide in their production and transportation. In addition, the chemicals used in these products can also be harmful to your soil and plant quality and can kill off the ‘good’ bugs we need in our garden. Make sure to keep an eye out on our Resource page for a new resource coming soon all about Natural Pest Remedies.
Reducing waste: composting
Reducing the amount of organic waste (i.e. food scraps and edible garden waste) we send to landfill can reduce the amount of methane produced, which is a harmful greenhouse gas. Although your compost heap at home produces some carbon dioxide, applying it to your soil helps to increase you soil quality, helping it to retain more carbon. Some local councils also offer rebates to residents buying compost bins, bokashi systems and worm farms! If you don’t have the space or equipment to compost, try looking into community composting schemes like Share Waste, where you can drop your organic waste to your neighbours who may have chickens, worm farms, or compost bins!
Click links below to learn more:
Casey rebate system
Cardinia rebate system
Reducing waste: thrifty gardening
Get creative! There are lots of clever ideas for reusing and recycling in your edible garden which means less waste and plastics going to landfill.
Here’s some crafty ideas to get you started:
- Using newspaper seedling pots instead of plastic ones,
- Planting out old wheelbarrows, furniture or kitchen appliances (bowls etc),
- Using old chicken wire as a trellis for vertical plants,
- Shopping at local op-shops to find terracotta pots and other old furniture you can transform to garden material.
Local plant/produce swaps or ‘Buy Nothing‘ groups are also a great way to give away old or unwanted tools, pots and plants without them going to landfill – you might find one or two recycled treasures yourself!
Take home messages:
- Do not underestimate the collective impact of individuals in taking action at a household and community level.
- Do what you can – you don’t have to have a large backyard to grow food at home – transforming any space to a green space is a step towards a greener and brighter world.
Cheers to sustainable living! 🌱
– Georgia (FFH team)