Save the planet: plant that garden!
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It is March, the time to change out the heavy winter coats and scarves for lighter sweaters and jackets, maybe even T-shirts and shorts. With longer days and warmer weather, it’s also time to start this year’s garden. Although some portions of the country are still getting snow and frost, many gardeners are now planting their lettuce, onions, and other spring vegetables.
Gardening is a lot of fun for most people. It can also be a way to lower the amount of greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere. The more of your yard devoted to gardening, the less space you have for grass, which is a good thing. Grass needs mowing, which is usually done with a polluting mower. According to a study out of Sweden in 2001, mowing your lawn for an hour produces emissions on par with driving your car 100 miles. Research by the EPA in 2011, revealed that mowers, leaf blowers, and other landscape machinery accounted for about 26.7 million tons of pollutants that year. The technology may have improved since these studies were done, but even if emissions were halved, they’re still pretty bad.
Mowing lawns also generates grass clippings, which are usually raked up and sent off to landfills to rot and generate methane, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases. In 2018, the EPA estimated that the amount of grass clippings and other yard waste going to our landfills totaled 35.4 million tons, accounting for more than 12 percent of all landfill material. Dried up beanstalks, dead tomato plants, and other waste from the garden can wind up as landfill, but in far lower amounts than grass clippings raked up all spring and summer long.
The National Wildlife Federation endorses home gardening, saying that a garden presents an opportunity to compost your kitchen scraps and put that compost to use as fertilizer. Composting further diverts methane-producing organic matter from landfill. The Federation also recommends environmentally sound gardening based on muscles instead of power tools. So when you go to your garden supply store or nursery, buy a rake and a hoe instead of a weed whacker and leaf blower.
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