With plastic polluting our oceans, air and food, the reduction of plastic use has become a matter of urgency. For a long time, recycling has been praised as a tool for reaching sustainability. However, recent reports reveal that most of the waste we create are hard to recycle, let alone reuse. As urban farmers we are not spared from this and so in this post I’m going to go through some of the ways that lovers of gardening can contribute to reducing plastic waste.
1. Transform your waste into compost
We are a part of an ecosystem, and as participants of that ecosystem we can contribute by ” reducing waste, closing the nutrient cycle, and preventing air pollution that causes climate change.” As gardener, we are dependent on fertilizers to grow healthy, strong plants. As we’re constantly create organic waste through the food we eat, or fallen leaves etc., why not make use of all this garbage? Yes, I’m talking about composts. By turning leftover, food scraps and ”garden waste into a nutrient-packed soil additive that plants love ”, you’ll not only reduce the use of plastic (bags, bottles etc.) but also close the nutrient cycle. For advice on how to make your own compost? Check out this article by eartheasy on ” how to make nutrient-rich, garden ‘gold’ in the composter that will help your garden thrive”. Once you’ve decided to make your own compost, skip the plastic compost bin and use a metal compost tumbler, or put together one by using up-cycled pallets or other lumber residuals.
2. Skip plastic pots
One of the many joys of gardening is to bring home new plant and start carrying for it. What many of us may not consider much are those plastic pots that plants are sold in. Although some can be reused or recycled, many end up as garbage. I still have most of the kits I bought when I first started experimenting with small-scale farming, and I guarantee you that the majority of them are (unfortunately) in plastic. The miniature green houses I bought from IKEA are in metal but the pot that came with them (be it with soil or water) are in plastic. Once I got started, I started looking for ways to make things more effective and environmental friendly. Luckily and a huge unfortunately, my neighbours throw away a lot of things. There’s a saying that ”one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” and for me this has resulted in me recycling many pots that otherwise would’ve been thrown away. If you want to reduce your plastic use, here are some of the ways you can get the things you need for your garden:
- Check with neighbours, friends, family, plant swaps groups (many can be found online),or grassroot movements such Freecycle.org. You may also be able to find people to share tools with, thereby reducing both waste and consumption.
- Make your own seed starter pots from newspaper, toilet paper tubes or used cardboard egg carton.
- Buy bare root plants.
- Buy compostable pots made from materials like coir, paper, and even cow manure. Look out for any bioplastics, which causes the same environmental problems as conventional plastic.
3. Choose plastic free containers
This is another alternative worth considering for us compact farmers. Instead of going for plastic containers because they’re not heavy, easily stored etc. try pots made of terracotta, ceramic, wood, or metal, all of which can be bought second hand.
4. Skip plastic tools and gears
Because plastic tools and gears can be (and many times are) more fragile than their metal or wooden counterparts, which means that there’s a higher probability of you having to replace them often. Rakes, shovels, trowels, garden carts, and trimmers are all tools that easily can be found in plastic-free versions. When buying tools in metal, choose the ones made of forged, carbon, or stainless steel, instead of aluminum. One of the strongest and long lasting woods available is ash, so if you prefer gears made of wood, go for tools made of ash to reduce your foot print.
5. Plastic free watering
One of the garden gears I loved as a small girl was the metal watering cans with plenty of holes at the hose. Although many stores sell cheap plastic watering cans, a watering can will contribute to less use of plastic, prevent any micro plastic from entering your food (if that’s what your growing) and last longer. If you want to reduce the time spent watering plants but still want to make sure that your beauties are properly nourished then opt for an olla (clay watering vessel). An olla will make sure that water is delivered slowly to your plants’ root, and all you need to do is make sure that the olla contains enough water.
While we don’t need to take the whole world on our shoulder, I believe that each one of us can find ways to contribute to a more sustainable living. These are just five out of many advices on how to reduce the use of plastic in your garden (for more advice, click here). Although it may seems like you need to think an extra one or two times to achieve a plastic-free garden, the change is quite easily achieved. On top of that, there are now many shops online and offline that, through consumer voicing, are offering plastic free alternatives for gardener.
Have a great week!