Can planting a garden reduce your carbon footprint?

Can planting a garden reduce your carbon footprint?

We often focus on how we can save energy and help the environment by reducing our carbon footprint in the home. So it’s high time we take a look at our gardens too. When it comes to taking positive climate action our gardens are full of untapped potential. Plus, with a little TLC they can become havens for local wildlife - especially our bees. So if you’re looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint, dig in to our sustainable gardening guide.

What is a carbon footprint?

Your carbon footprint is equal to the amount of greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere as a result of your actions and lifestyle. The most common greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2), but other key gases include methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and refrigerants such as HFCFs and HFCs. It can be tough to understand the impact of our personal carbon footprints. Try using the WWF carbon footprint calculator to see how your current behaviours affect the environment. You can also learn what a digital carbon footprint is and get ideas on how to reduce yours in our quick guide.

How can gardening reduce your carbon footprint?

Plants capture carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and use it to create sugars, which provide energy and help them grow. This means they act as carbon sinks by helping to remove CO2, one of the most problematic greenhouse gases, from the atmosphere. As a byproduct they also release oxygen back into the atmosphere - which is pretty handy for us. Therefore, sustainable gardening can help to reduce your carbon footprint, by adding more plant life to your garden to capture even more CO2. It is important to pick plants that will thrive where you are planting, to minimise the need for any chemicals or pesticides that can pollute the environment. To improve the sustainability of your garden, try to reduce garden maintenance that uses energy consuming tools (especially petrol powered) - such as strimmers and mowers. Embrace a more natural and wild garden style.

More ways to turn your garden into an eco haven.

Sustainable gardening isn’t just about reducing your carbon footprint, it can have many other environmental benefits.

  • Rewild your garden.

    Rewilding is really just embracing nature for a more relaxed garden style that is fantastic for increasing biodiversity and saving our best friends the bees. To rewild, reduce your mowing to encourage pollen rich clover and save energy. Cut back on your weeding for an instant boost to biodiversity that provides extra nectar, pollen and seeds to wildlife. Consider dedicating part of your lawn, or a border around your garden to a wild meadow - just let it grow. Learn more about rewilding.

  • Grow your own fruit and veg.

    Our food is often flown miles around the world, and kept in refrigerated stores for weeks or even months before it reaches our tables. Try planting your own vegetable patch or fruit tree to enjoy fresh homegrown produce that cuts back on energy. Short on space? Try potting a windowsill herb garden or smaller plants, like chilli peppers or salad leaves. Calculate the food miles of your favourite meals.

  • Make your home a home for wildlife.

    From bug hotels to bird feeders, there are lots of ways you can help out local wildlife and improve biodiversity in your garden. Better yet, many birds will naturally reduce unwanted garden pests, meaning less need for chemical pesticides. Get more gardening tips to encourage wildlife.

Planting for an eco-conscious garden.

There are two factors that improve a plants ability to capture carbon dioxide - growth speed and lifespan. The faster a plant grows the more carbon it will capture through photosynthesis in that time. After all, it needs extra energy to fuel those growth spurts. However, surprisingly this isn’t the most important factor when considering the effectiveness of a plant's carbon capture. The lifespan of a plant determines how long it will store the carbon dioxide. When plants die all the CO2 they’ve absorbed is released back into the environment as the plant breaks down and decomposes. Therefore, longer living plants, such as trees, are the most effective as they can keep hold of that carbon for hundreds of years1.

Top plants for carbon capture.

  • Bamboo.

    Not only can it live for decades, but it is also the fastest growing plant on earth2.

  • Trees.

    If you have the space, trees are great for long term carbon capture.

  • Hedges.

    Replace your fences and garden walls with hedges to provide helpful habitats and help trap air pollution.

  • Grasses.

    Native grasses have large root systems that store up lots of carbon underground3, and they’re easy to manage.

Top tips for sustainable gardening.

  • Composting.

    Reduce waste at home by composting food waste and biodegradable packaging to provide nutrient rich soil for your garden.

  • Chemical free gardening.

    Try to avoid fertilisers and pesticides where possible. Check out some chemical free gardening tips and tricks.

  • Water storage.

    Invest in a water butt to collect rainwater, reducing your water usage and helping keep your garden lush during hot weather.

  • Solar power.

    Reduce your energy use with solar powered tools and garden lights. Or go one better and incorporate a solar installation to generate renewable electricity at home.

  • Pollinators.

    If you are looking to add some colour, try choosing plants and flowers that are great pollinators to help the bees.

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Published 25/03/2024