One of the beds in my front yard has snow drops, winter aconites, Siberian squill, crocuses and daffodils all in bloom. It’s unbelievably beautiful, but the reality is they shouldn’t all be blooming at the same time.
To me, this early spring (or more accurately late winter) show is just another sign that our climate is truly changing, and it’s time to get serious about making some changes.
To reduce my own carbon footprint this year, I’ve set eight goals for myself for the 2022 gardening season.
- Reduce my lawn area by at least 15%. We’ve been thinking about changing our lawn over to planting beds, natives sedges and white clover, but haven’t really been motivated to do it. Then I read that the United States currently has 42 million acres in lawn and realized I needed to help reduce that number. Lawn areas do nothing to support pollinators or other beneficial insects that keep our ecosystems healthy. Since habitat destruction has harmed so much of our native wildlife, I think returning a bit of ground to them is the least I can do.
- Become much more intentional in the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in my yard, only using them when absolutely necessary. Because of their reliance on chemicals, homeowners here in the United States pollute water systems at a rate that is 10x greater than that of farmers. Organic choices, as well as Integrated Pest Management, help to protect essential microorganisms in the soil.
- Use compost rather than peat moss to enrich my soil. Peatlands are essential for carbon storage. Harvesting peatland releases huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, accounting for up to 5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. There are high quality peat free products available today.
- Speaking of compost, I am going to be more intentional about composting my food and yard waste this year. Keeping excess waste out of landfills not only reduces the amount of carbon dioxide, but also methane gas produced. Methane gas has a climate warming potential that is 25x that of carbon dioxide.
- Grow more vegetables for our own table and shop our wonderful farmers’ markets for fresh, locally grown produce. I’m also going to try and include some native fruits and berries that we can enjoy and that support the native wildlife. Food production, processing and transportation accounts for ¼ th of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
- Sell my gas lawn mower and buy an electric one. Using a gas mower for one hour pollutes the air more than driving the average car for an hour.
- Plant a native hardwood tree. One single hardwood tree absorbs up to 48 lbs of carbon dioxide per year. A native oak tree not only traps pollutants, it also supports the caterpillars of over 500 different butterflies and moths and is a food supply for 96% of all songbirds. If I can’t figure out where to put a new tree, I’ll add some native shrubs and long-lived perennials like peonies. They are also excellent carbon sinks.
- Improve my water management by adding a rain barrel in the back to collect water and a rain garden in the front. A rain garden or a swale slows storm water and allows it to soak into the ground rather than flooding storm drains. Predictions are that summers are going to become longer and drier, but rain events, when they do occur, will tend to be more forceful.
To date, 192 nations plus the European Union have joined together in the Paris Agreement to fight the brutal effects of global warming. Their combined efforts are a vital step in combating this scourge that is threatening to destroy our planet. As important as the Paris Agreement is, I’m also convinced the everyday choices that individuals make can be just as critical to the health of the environment as the policies that governments enact. Those of us who are gardeners can help make a huge impact by doing what we already love – making the earth a better place one yard at a time.