A short and sweet post today, about something I truly believe in – Gardening in an environment friendly way. It should be fairly intuitive, really, but you’d be surprised to know how many people don’t get it.
So in this post, I note down 8 ways in which I make efforts to reduce the environmental footprint of beautifying my balcony. I suggest and request that you follow as many as you can.
Now, why is this post necessary? Isn’t gardening a green activity already? How can my plants have an environmental footprint?
Let me clarify – it is not the plants. It is you – and your practices, towards getting the plants to bloom or fruit or stay healthy, that have a footprint.
- Using chemicals – as fertiliser, insecticide/pesticide, growth hormones etc. – is a major culprit.
- Using gallons of fresh water – when partially clean waste water (unusable for other activities but perfectly acceptable to plants) would do.
- Throwing away perfectly usable green vegetable waste, that could turn into yummy and nutritious plant food with just a little effort.
- Plastic plant pots that would never rot when thrown in garbage.
- Buying too many – or only – exotic or seasonal plants. The amount of care, nourishment, water, sometimes investment needed is high in plants that aren’t from a similar climate.
- Buying plants online or from faraway places – let’s face it, you have limited space and are also bound by your climate. You absolutely cannot have every pretty plant or flower in your balcony or even your yard. Be sensible about what you buy – whether it’ll live in your climate, how much carbon footprint it has in shipping (for online ordering).
All the points I’ve mentioned leave a footprint, albeit small. If you do more than one or all of the above, you maybe making a considerable dent in the environment without even knowing about it, all the while thinking you’re making your home green!
Avoiding the above is actually quite easy, with only a small effort and some mindfulness. Let me tell you how:
- Organic manure – Instead of chemical fertilisers, try organic manure. Buy it locally from your nursery or make it yourself! Worm compost, cow dung manure and regular brown compost work wonders for your plants. I can vouch for them for I’ve never put a chemical fertiliser in my plants, and they’re all doing fairly well. Cow dung manure is like magic.
- Organic pesticides – Pesticides affect not just pests, but also the plant, its flowering and beneficial insects such as multiple varieties of bees, ladybugs and other insects that are our friends. Instead of an industrially made poison, use effective natural insecticides such as tobacco, neem and gomutra. They’re very effective and definitely won’t kill your little pollinator and pest-eater friends!
- Reuse water – Water that is not usable for drinking and washing but is otherwise clean enough, can be used in plants instead of gallons of fresh water. Reuse waste water from RO (which is perfectly clean water) and final rinse of clothes (doesn’t have detergent left). This way you save a lot of water being thrown away in the drain. RO throws away 3 times as much water as it gives for drinking. Why should that water go down the drain when there’s nothing wrong with it?
- Compost kitchen waste – All you need is a big enough space/container with some air flow and preferably contact with the earth. Throw your green kitchen waste in this bin, give it a couple of months, toss it every once in a while and in three months your plants will have home-made yummylicious food!
- Terracotta pots – Not only is terracotta great for your plants, it is also just plain clay! Once the pots break, you can use shards to line the bottom of your other plant pots or even holes in your garden before planting, or even if you throw them they’ll decompose!
- Native plants – As I mentioned earlier, growing native plants is easier, better for your pocket as well for the environment, since native plants require fewer resources to maintain.
- Buy locally – Buy plants and other material locally. Not only is it fresher, the carbon footprint of shipping it from a distant location, packaging material etc. is not added. You also support your local nursery and artisans and growers on the side, which is always a good thing, isn’t it?
- Reuse some household waste as plant pots – Try to reuse old containers, kitchen utensils, plastic bottles etc as plant pots, rather than buying new ones generating twice as much waste. It’s not too difficult to do, check this out.
If you were to ask me to choose the easiest yet most important; I’d say reusing water, terracotta pots and doing away with chemicals.
Chemicals affect the environment in multiple ways. Fertilisers may be absorbed in higher concentration than needed and actually be present in the fruit or vegetable you consume from your garden. Pesticides cannot be completely washed away from leaves, fruits or vegetables, so you end up eating some. Pesticides and insecticides don’t know how to differentiate and end up killing the friends such as bees and ladybugs along with the foes. If bees survive, the chemicals can make their way to their honey and again come back to you for consumption.
You cannot change everything nor can you make your environmental footprint zero without going all Tarzan. But you can, and you must, try your best to make your contribution, however small. I do, and I can vouch that the above steps aren’t so hard to pull off. So give it a try, let me know what worked and what didn’t!
Until we meet again, take care and keep gardening!
Cover image source: http://www.drkeithkantor.com/eco-friendly-non-eco-friendly-foods/