Our planet is changing. There’s no doubt about it. Weather patterns are changing and becoming more extreme. Summers are getting hotter. The situation hasn’t spiraled totally out of control yet, but it’s important that we focus on solving the issue sooner rather than later. Luckily, there are things you can do with your landscape to reduce your carbon footprint.
Your landscaping plan can help combat climate change by reducing the number of natural resources it takes to run your home. It can also contribute to the health of the other plants in the neighborhood, creating more oxygen for all of us. No one step will solve our climate change issues, but if everyone does just a little part, we can help change the course of the predicament we’re in.
While those of us who live in cold climates may smile at the thought of global warming, it presents a very real risk to everything from our homes and property to the food we eat. People use the terms interchangeably, but what’s the difference between climate change and global warming? Put simply, global warming is a side effect of climate change.
Not only can severe weather and out of control wildfires damage our homes and crops, but the devastation to all that vegetation allows excess carbon to build up in the atmosphere, warming our planet. And we’re just in the beginning stages. Taking steps now to combat climate change is the only way to ensure a habitable planet for our kids and grandkids.
Trees and plants are integral parts of balancing our environment and its weather patterns. They absorb greenhouse gases and produce oxygen. They pump water out of the ground to prevent flooding. One of the most important roles that plants play in the world of climate change is that of carbon sequestration, or the ability to store vast amounts of carbon, preventing it from being released into the atmosphere.
As we continue to take more mature trees out of the ground each year, more carbon gets released, and less gets stored. Doing what we can to restore this natural balance is getting more important if we want to combat climate change by the day. By planting and nurturing trees, we can help the earth help itself.
Green landscaping initiatives have taken a prominent role in the industry over the past couple of decades. Not only does going green help the earth and environment, but it can reduce our dependence on energy and water utilities. Recycling rainwater for use in irrigation means we run the hose less often. Shading our homes from the summer sun means we spend less to cool it. There are so many steps we can take. Let’s take a look at a few.
When it comes to sequestering carbon, trees are the gold standard. A single, mature tree can swap almost 50 pounds of carbon dioxide for oxygen in any given year. The carbon is stored in its woody trunk and branches. Choosing trees with a long lifespan will increase the amount of carbon they store and allow them to do so for a very long time.
Similarly, choosing perennials and long-lived shrubs and bushes will take your landscape up a notch when it comes to environmental benefits. They also require less maintenance since they come back every year. Digging up the soil to plant new annuals every spring releases carbon into the atmosphere and can do a number on your back. As they mature, perennials become carbon-sucking powerhouses. They are a great way to help the earth while simplifying your summer yard work routine.
People have planted trees on the south and west sides of their houses for ages. It’s not just a coincidence. Planting deciduous trees on these sides of a building provides shade in the summer months, reducing the energy load on your air conditioning unit. When it doesn’t have to drop the temps as far, it doesn’t have to work as hard. When those leaves drop in the fall, the bare trees allow the sun to warm your house, resulting in a lighter workload for your furnace.
Plants that are native to the region you live in are tremendous additions to your landscape design. Since they are naturally equipped to thrive in your landscape, you don’t need to spend as much time dealing with maintenance and watering. Additionally, they are uniquely qualified to help mitigate extreme weather events. For example, if you live in a swampy area that’s prone to flooding, designing with native plants can help keep your fine gardening from washing away in summer storms.
Another fantastic benefit of landscaping with native plants is their effect on the pollinators and other wildlife in your community. By keeping their food source plentiful, you can positively impact the health of all the other plants in your neighborhood, as well as the health of the planet.
If you’ve never heard of victory gardens before, congratulations! You’re not that old yet. Victory gardens were popular in the early to mid-twentieth century during wartime. The idea was that growing vegetable gardens at home would reduce people’s dependence on the nation’s food suppliers and boost morale at the same time.
In a sense, we are currently at war with climate change. We’re fighting to keep our way of life, and we all must make changes and sacrifices to come out on top. Reducing your reliance on big food producers means your food is grown locally, minimizing your carbon footprint. A basket of vegetables from your backyard garden is a basket that doesn’t need to be transported, stored, or refrigerated before it reaches your kitchen.
If you’re going to try your hand at gardening, using organic fertilizers can increase the quantity and quality of your yield and keep carbon in the ground. When we turn or till the garden to prepare it for seed sowing season, we release a surprising amount of carbon into the air. Utilizing organic fertilizers gives your plants the nutrition and organic matter they need to thrive, and that addition to your soil improves it without the need for tilling.
Organic fertilizers can get spendy. By composting organic material that you’d otherwise be adding to the landfill, you’re taking more of a sustainable landscape design approach than you may think. Organic material in landfills decomposes anaerobically, which means it does so without the presence of oxygen. The result of this decomposition process is methane gas, which is an extremely potent greenhouse gas. By composting it at home, you keep that methane out of the atmosphere while providing a nutrient-rich food source for all the plants in your beautiful landscape.
Learning about the environmental issues landscape architecture can help mitigate is the first step to reducing your carbon footprint through gardening. Making just a few small changes in the way you think about the flora around you can make a very real contribution to healing the earth. If we all do the same, we can begin turning the corner on climate change.
If you want to learn more about how to reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change through landscaping, contact your local landscaping pros.
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