Gardens as fighters of climate change?
Growing your own vegetables is known to be beneficial to your wallet by reducing or eliminating the need for a trip to the grocery store. Growing your own veggies is also beneficial to your health, allowing you to monitor the amount of pesticides and fertilizers used on your food.
But gardening in general, and growing your own vegetables in particular, can play a role in fighting climate change in urban environments.
To begin with, growing your vegetables at home eliminates the transportation emissions produced by your tomato's truck ride from farm to store and the round trip car ride you take from your home to the store. But actually growing and maintaining the vegetables at your home also plays a role in reducing emissions.
"How can my small garden possibly tackle an international crisis like climate change," you ask?
There are a few ways that plants and gardens can reduce carbon emissions and pollution.
Fighting carbon emissions
Plants use photosynthesis to produce their own energy from the sun and atmospheric carbon dioxide. Natural carbon dioxide sources include the air that we breathe out and the decomposition of organisms on earth, but increased carbon dioxide emissions are a large contributing factor to climate change.
Carbon dioxide is emitted every time we burn fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal for transportation, manufacturing, and energy.
High levels of carbon dioxide cause the much talked about greenhouse effect. The gas traps heat from the sun in the earth's atmosphere, warming the earth and causing a host of problems for humans and the environment.
Our emissions of carbon dioxide far exceed the levels plants are able to absorb during photosynthesis.
This is where your garden comes into play.
By planting vegetables, you are increasing the number of plants available to perform photosynthesis and transform our carbon emissions into energy and oxygen
Result: a reduction in atmospheric carbon resulting in a decreased rate of global warming.
For every kilogram of vegetables you grow, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by 2 kilograms. By that measure, the GARDENS’s Pods in 2016 reduced emissions by 244kg and in 2017 emissions were reduced by 474kg!
Fighting runoff pollution
If your garden is replacing an impermeable surface, such as asphalt or cement, then it is playing a role in reducing runoff pollution into our rivers and lakes.
Exhaust from cars and other air pollutant particles settle on our roads, driveways, and roofs. When it rains, these pollutants are washed into storm drains and sent straight to our waterways. By providing a garden or planter full of soil, water is absorbed into the ground where it nourishes roots and is diverted from storm drains.
*This is only beneficial if your garden is organic and doesn't use ant fertilizers or pesticides*
The replacement of impermeable surfaces by gardens can also significantly reduce the prevalence of floods by diverting storm water from over-taxed and backed up storm drains. A number of our Pods are built on existing sidewalks and cement play areas at schools and we're happy to have the rainwater feed our plants instead of polluting the lake!
Fighting the urban heat island
Depending on the size of your garden, it can help reduce the urban heat island effect.
As discussed in the previous paragraph on runoff pollution, urban environments are increasingly made up of impermeable infrastructure. Compact cement structures and roadways that are usually dark in colour absorb a large amount of the sun's heat and are not quick to let go of it. This results in city temperatures being a few degrees higher than the surrounding rural areas.
The direct effects of urban heat islands on climate change are still being investigated but residential air conditioning and electric fan use are symptomatic of higher temperatures. And increased electricity usage means higher carbon emissions! Gardens and other green spaces help to reduce the urban heat island effect by reducing the concentration of cement and not retaining an abnormally high amount of heat.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the environmental benefits of gardening, but is hopefully enough to get you thinking!