Can an individual really make a difference?
Planting a tree is a great way to help sequester carbon emissions. Through photosynthesis trees absorb carbon dioxide to produce oxygen and wood. By ensuring that the trees planted are native broad leaf species you can help to preserve the UK’s environment and biodiversity. It doesn’t have to be a large tree but if everyone planted just one tree in their garden, just think of the difference it could make!
Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air, during the process of photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide diffuses through the small holes (stomata) present on the lower side of leaves. Owing to these loose-fitting cells on the lower side of a leaf, carbon dioxide can easily penetrate and reach other types of cells. The stomata open wider to let in more carbon dioxide when they are exposed to harsh, drying effects of direct sunlight. Aerosols and clouds scatter sunlight in the atmosphere; this scattered sunlight helps forests and vegetation to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide more efficiently. More leaves of trees are exposed to scattered sunlight, thereby increasing the rate of carbon dioxide absorption and photosynthesis.
Forests have become extremely important as they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigate the effects of climate change in the environment.
During the process of photosynthesis, atmospheric carbon dioxide is converted into sugar and cellulose; this sugar is stored in the wood, leaves and roots of trees. Trees are 50 percent carbon by weight, so growing trees can help in reducing greenhouse effect of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide.
What else can i do?
Whether you live in a house or an apartment, planting some greens is a quick and easy way to reduce your carbon footprint.
We all know plants are beneficial for humans and that we should all be seeking to nurture them. Plant some bee friendly flowers, a few trees, or a vegetable garden. Balcony gardens are great for urban dwellings. Cities often need to reduce urban heat – basically, cities tend to be hotter than rural areas because of vast pavement areas, concrete buildings, and increased human activity.
Creating more spaces for plants, grasses, and trees can mitigate this effect and lead to better cooling, which will be a necessity with worsening climate change. Help avoid the “heat island” effect by planting trees or maybe try a green roof or community garden.
Manicured lawns are a desert for pollinators (and most wildlife), but you can make your garden a pollinator paradise! In spring, leave twig piles and bare ground. Come summer, let veggies bolt. Provide a source of water and don’t rake all the fallen leaves. Build homes where pollinators can lay eggs or overwinter.
Bees eat two things: nectar (loaded with sugar and a bee’s main source of energy) and pollen (which provides proteins and fats).
Choose a variety of plants that flower at different times so there’s always a snack available. As a rule, native plants attract native bees and exotic plants attract honeybees.
Flowers bred to please the human eye (for things like size and complexity) are sometimes sterile and of little use to pollinators. Native plants or heirloom varieties are best!
Bees have good colour vision. They especially like blue, purple, violet, white and yellow. Create floral bull’s eyes: Plant flowers of a single species in clumps about four feet in diameter instead of in scatterings so bees are more likely to find them.
Feed the birds..
Feeding birds allows you to get really close to some of our most amazing wildlife. You might think great tits, robins and finches are nothing to shout about, but the more you look, the more you see their fantastic colours and interesting behaviours. We can all benefit from sharing our lives a little bit more with wildlife.
Over the past 50 years the numbers of many so called ‘common’ birds have dramatically declined. We don’t know for certain why this is, but changing agricultural practices and a lack of food in the summer and winter are likely to have taken their toll.
Sometimes when we look out of the window, it is difficult to believe that song thrushes, sparrows and starlings are all struggling to survive in the countryside, but they are. These, among many others, are now red listed as birds of extreme conservation concern.
By supplementary feeding at the right times of year, you can make sure your garden supports lots of birds. If enough gardens provide food, water and shelter in a neighbourhood, it creates essential corridors for wildlife to move along and live in.
Do your bit to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill. Even for households that are already composting, new research has found that almost half of the food waste in their rubbish bins could have been composted.
Did you know, composting at home for just one year can save global warming gases equivalent to all the CO2 your kettle produces annually, or your washing machine produces in three months?
We’re often asked “Why do I need to compost when my waste will break down in landfill anyway – and why should I worry when my local council does food waste collections?”
When waste is sent to landfill, air cannot get to the organic waste. Therefore as the waste breaks down it creates a harmful greenhouse gas, methane, which damages the Earth’s atmosphere, however, when this same waste is composted above ground at home, oxygen helps the waste to decompose aerobically which means hardly any methane is produced, which is good news for the planet. And what’s more, after nine to twelve months, you get a free fertiliser for your garden and plant pots to keep them looking beautiful.
Pesticides impact nearly all life on earth. Pesticides are designed to kill pests. They include a wide range of compounds including herbicides (designed to kill plants), insecticides, fungicides, rodenticides, molluscicides and nematicides, but also include plant growth regulators, defoliants and desiccants.
Pesticides are mainly used in the growing of agricultural crops, but are also used in our towns, cities, homes and gardens.
Contemporary pesticide products consist of active and inert ingredients. The active ingredient is the chemical designed to kill the targeted pest. However, inert ingredients often make up the bulk of the product and include emulsifiers, solvents, carriers, aerosol propellants, fragrances and dyes.
Pesticides are toxic chemicals designed to be deliberately released into the environment. Although each pesticide is meant to kill a certain pest, a very large percentage of pesticides reach a destination other than their target. Pesticides easily contaminate the air, ground and water when they run off from fields, escape storage tanks, are not discarded properly, and especially when they are sprayed aerially.
More and more people are moving towards a more organic approach in growing flowers and food crops.
These are just a few examples of the steps you can take to begin living a more environmentally- conscious, sustainable lifestyle using your garden. All of these steps benefit not only the environment but you as well, either through your health or your wallet!
With your garden, you really can help in the important fight against climate change.