How Producing Your Own Food Can Actually Preserve the Environment
It may sound like a tagline from a blockbuster movie, but gardening can save the world. If COVID-19 has taught us anything more, besides the importance of washing our hands, it’s the planet thrives better when we’re locked up in our homes. We are part of this planet as much as it’s part of us, and learning to coexist is the key to resolve serious environmental disasters looming over the future.
The good news is everyone can chip in and help reduce some of the burning issues, even by doing something as simple as gardening. As a gardener, you choose the ways to tend to the plants and soil, as well as decide on the resources you use. So let’s discuss how producing your own food can preserve the environment and life on Earth.
Can One Person Change The World?
If you inspire only one person to start producing their own food, you have done plenty for the environment. You’ve might have noticed, especially in recent years, the average temperature increases and weather has changed its usual patterns. This is because the pollution from carbon and other gases is getting higher every year, leading to the greenhouse effect.
One gardener can contribute to the everyday fight of green movements by setting a positive example, switching to a sustainable lifestyle, and helping in community gardens. Moreover, growing your own food is not a new concept. After both world wars, people had to turn to so-called Victory Gardens to feed their families since food was scarce. Today, we are facing another kind of war against pollution, degradation, and destruction of the environment and it’s time to grow Victory Gardens once again.
Plants Are Natural Air Purifiers
The one thing we all know about plants is they create oxygen. During photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide through leaves and release oxygen into the environment. But their purifying work doesn’t end there, since they can also recycle some chemicals and pathogens.
This means by growing your own food, you will improve the quality of air in your house. It doesn’t sound like much, but the power is in numbers. If most of the houses in your neighborhood would have gardens, food-producing or not, it could make a difference. After all, setting an example is the best way to inspire others to follow positive behavior and contribute to change.
Your Garden Can Contribute To Home Cooling
Air conditioning is something modern man can’t seem to live without, especially since the temperatures feel like they’re getting higher each year due to global warming. Strategically planted trees and shrubs can cool your home and provide shelter to your food garden from the scorching sun.
When you turn on your air conditioner, it releases gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. Tall trees and leafy plants provide shade so you won’t have to use your AC unit as much or at all. Not to mention, you might notice a reduction of your power bill, as well.
It Can Also Prevent Soil Erosion
Soil erosion happens when the topsoil is removed by wind, water, and farming activities. This is problematic because topsoil is where all the nutrients are needed to grow plants. The loss of this fertile layer can not only make the land barren, but also lead to pollution of waters, like lakes and rivers.
More importantly, the loss of vegetation in areas with soil erosion means more carbon dioxide in the environment. Cultivating plants with a strong root system can prevent this from happening and help the soil retain its quality. Besides the favorite veggies and fruits, plant shrubs great for erosion control, such as sun-loving creeping junipers and flowery forsythia.
A Garden Can Be A Buffer Against Noise
It may sound like noise pollution is not as serious as the greenhouse effect, but it actually presents a health hazard to humans and animals. According to the World Health Organization, environmental noise is responsible for cardiovascular diseases, sleep disturbance, tinnitus, and other health conditions. One of the ways to fight this is to plant trees and shrubs, as well as use vertical planting methods.
Vegetation can create a sound barrier between the traffic and noise coming from the streets and help you create a quieter space that won’t scare away wildlife and pollinators. Fruits trees are not hard to grow, if you find the varieties native to your region and used to the climate there. Berry shrubs are also a good choice and may give you fruit to make jams and other delicious canned food.
Gardens Offer Shelter To Beneficial Animals And Insects
Choosing the right plants and properly using garden tools are essential to being a gardener. However, even gardeners need some help from nature to have the desired yield. This is where natural pollinators come in. Insects you regularly see among the greenery, like bees, butterflies, and beetles are good for your crops. The same applies to some birds and mammals, such are hummingbirds and bats, respectively.
But your garden is not the only one depending on this beneficial wildlife. The whole world does since these creatures transfer pollen from male to female flowers, causing pollination and in the end, bringing fruit. According to data, 75% of food in the world depends on natural pollinators and the extinction of some species is a reason to worry. However, by growing wildflowers, building bird feeders, and offering shelter, you can help replenish the numbers of these natural pollinators and prevent world hunger.
Rainwater Harvest As An Alternative Irrigation Method
Plants need water to survive and yield crops, but conserving water is one of the most important environmental challenges. One of the most popular practices among sustainable gardeners is rainwater catchment. To become a rain harvester, you will have to invest in a few large barrels with taps and pumps to help with irrigation.
Install the gutters so the rainwater from the roof drains directly into the barrels. Not only will this lower your water bill, but also come in handy during dry periods to reduce peak demands in the summer. Since the rain has the right pH levels, your plants will love it and grow much better. To not waste any rainwater, install automatic sprinklers or drip systems to make sure your plants are watered even when you are not there.
Gardening For Food Means Less Plastic In The Environment
Store-bought food is packed in cardboard, as well as plastic bags and wrappings. That plastic usually ends up in the landfills, but also nature, waterways, and oceans. What’s more worrying is half of this plastic waste was manufactured in the last two decades, amounting to 448 million tons in 2015.
You won’t need plastic packaging when producing your own food, helping reduce the quantities of this harmful waste. Plastic takes years to decompose and while doing so, it dissolves into toxic chemicals that enter the soil and water. When burnt, plastic releases poisonous substances into the environment and contributes to air pollution.
You Can Help Lower Vehicle Exhaust Emissions
The veggies, fruits, and herbs you buy are produced far away from your store or market. This means they had to be transported by vehicles that release exhaust emissions. Unless those transporters use electrically-powered vehicles, they are contributing to global warming by emitting carbon monoxide, mercury, and nitrogen oxides into the air.
Furthermore, ground vehicles are not the only way of transport and many producers use airplanes which create 50% more emissions than sea shipping. Statistics say it takes food 1,500 miles from the farm to the plate in the United States. Producing your own food can lower the demand for these environmentally-hazardous travels and even revive local farming.
You Can Prevent Poisoning Of Soil And Waterways
As we mentioned before, plastic waste is one of the byproducts of the food industry. However, the way commercial food production pollutes the environment doesn’t end there. Pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers can contribute to a great extent to the pollution of waters and soil. Also, they can kill some of the valuable insects and other species, like bees whose number is already in serious decline.
By producing your own food, you have a say in what kind of resources you use in your garden. Organic options and homemade agents are eco-friendly and won’t harm your health. Some methods are both not harmful and efficient, such as mulching and composting. In case you need pesticides and herbicides, make some in the kitchen with white vinegar and dish soap.
Individual Gardening Prevents Monocropping
Growing only one type of plant is called monocropping and it’s something farmers commonly do. This destroys the nutrients in the soil and makes it weaker, damaging the healthy growth of the plants. To remedy this, these farmers use strong chemicals to fertilize the soil and get a better yield. These chemicals end up in the groundwater and crops, as well as destroy local wildlife and pollinators.
By turning to organic farming you can preserve the environment and put much healthier food on the table. The more diverse the crops, the better they will fight off pests and you won’t have to use pesticides at all.
Having A Garden Means You Can Reduce Organic Waste
Have you noticed how much food you throw away? When food waste is taken to the landfills, it rots and releases methane into the air. Methane is stronger than carbon dioxide, so it contributes more to the greenhouse effect and climate change.
There’s a simple solution for this — composting. Organic matter from your kitchen can be food for your plants, if you let it sit in a container for a while with some other waste, like grass clippings and branches. Eggshells, fruit peels, used coffee grounds, and tea bags are some of the frequent parts of homemade compost. Meat and dairy can’t go into the compost, though, so you will still have to either reduce their consumption or turn to a plant-based diet completely.
Eating More Plants, And Less Meat, Can Lower Your Carbon Footprint
Animal agriculture is responsible for 37% of methane and 65% of nitrous oxide emissions in the air. By harvesting your own crops, you will be encouraged to eat more plants and less meat.
People have the wrong idea that protein from meat is irreplaceable. However, some plants have a high ratio of proteins, as well as fiber and other nutrients not present in the meat. Beans, peas, broccoli, spinach, and potatoes are some of the veggies with high protein levels you can grow in your yard.
Rooftop Gardens Can Make Cities Cooler In The Summer
Those living in buildings can also be gardeners. If you don’t have a large balcony, you can always make arrangements with other residents or talk to the building manager about having a rooftop garden. Concrete and asphalt has taken over much of major cities, reducing the number of trees and other vegetation. This means cities are becoming hotter every year.
With a rooftop garden, a building can lower its temperature by a few dozen degrees which will decrease the use of air conditioners and energy. Additionally, cooler buildings can reduce the city-wide temperature up to 5°F, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
It’s A Way To Support Biodiversity
Loss of biodiversity is one of the burning environmental issues in the world. Monocropping, soil erosion, destruction of natural pollinators, and chemicals in farming have all contributed to this effect. An individual is the king in their garden and decides on what kind of farmer they want to be.
Growing your own food can return species to the area and help their numbers increase over time. But it also has a wider impact through limiting the use of plastic, lowering energy and water consumption, and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Bottom Line
Our planet is hurting. As an individual, you can’t always make an immediate and significant impact. You can, however, be a part of the change that will preserve the environment. Producing your own food is more than making sure your plate is full. It’s about keeping you, your family, everyone around you, and the world healthy and thriving.
Author Bio: Nina is a lifestyle blogger, yoga aficionado and a travel enthusiast with a distinctive taste for home decor. She’s passionate about learning new things and sharing meaningful ideas. In her free time, she loves to design clothes and furniture. If you wanna see what she’s up to you can find her on Twitter.