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July 1, 2014
Looking for simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint? Why not start in your own backyard?
Most people don’t think of gardening when they think about saving fuel or energy. However, growing a backyard garden can save significant amounts of fossil fuel and reduce the carbon emissions.
You will save about two pounds of carbon from entering the atmosphere for each pound of produce you grow for your family, according to Carbonrally. That is because most produce sold in stores must be shipped, often for thousands of miles, and requires many gallons of fuel to get to your table. Your backyard garden will also save you gas. The more yard you have dedicated to a garden, the less you will have to mow!
Saving energy is only one good reason to grow a garden. Here are several more:
Lower your grocery bill. Growing some of your own food in your backyard can put a welcome dent in your food budget during the growing season and beyond. Consider this: the average price for fresh tomatoes in the supermarket is about $2 per pound. Most gardeners get 10 or more pounds of tomatoes per plant. That adds up to at least $200 worth of produce for a modest five tomato plants, which can typically be purchased for about $2 apiece from the garden center. If you grow from seed, the savings are even more: a typical packet costs less than $2 and usually contains enough seed to meet your needs for more than one season.
If you have a small yard, you may think you don’t have enough space to grow food for your family. However, it only takes about a tenth of an acre to produce most of the vegetables one person will eat in an entire year, according to gardening expert Maria Iannotti. Even a small garden plot can produce significant food. For example, you could grow the five tomato plants mentioned above in only about 30 square feet if you trellis them. Even if you have no yard, many vegetables are easy to grow in containers on your porch or balcony.
Improve your health. Eating fruits and vegetables is a proven way to stay healthier. Many studies have found that people who eat more fruits and vegetables suffer less from cancer and chronic diseases such as heart disease, gastrointestinal disease and impaired vision. It’s a lot easier to get more vegetables into your diet when they are growing affordably right in your backyard! Your own vegetables will taste better, too, because you can eat them when they’re freshly picked and still contain the maximum amount of flavor and nutrients.
Good-tasting food isn’t the only heath benefit gardening offers. It’s also an easy and enjoyable way to spend time in the fresh air and sunshine getting healthy, moderate exercise. Most people agree that gardening is pleasant and relaxing, and it has actually been clinically proven to can help alleviate stress.
Help save the bees. Bees are vital to our economy and to the environment because they are such excellent pollinators. Many farmers depend on bees to ensure good crops. However, our bee population is at risk due to colony collapse disorder. Therefore it’s important to help bees in any way we can.
Planting a backyard garden is an excellent way to ensure that the bees and other beneficial pollinating insects survive in your area. Although many common garden vegetables, such as cucumber and squash, have flowers that attract bees, planting flowers and herbs in your backyard garden will make them even happier.
Teach your kids about nature and healthy living. If you have kids, there is no better way to introduce them to healthy habits than to involve them in growing a garden. Children are much more likely to want to eat vegetables they have grown themselves. Most kids are excited to watch tiny seeds sprout and grow.
Gardening is also a very easy and accessible way to combat “nature deficit disorder” — a term used to describe the increased alienation and stress experienced by children who grow up without being able to interact with the environment. By playing in the garden and observing the plants and animals in it, children learn valuable lessons about living things and their own relationship to the environment.
One last reason to start a garden may be the biggest bonus of all: gardening builds community.
It seems that few people know their neighbors anymore, but when you spend time outside in your yard you may find yourself chatting with the neighbor over the garden fence. And once you realize you have planted more green beans or tomatoes than you could ever use, you’ll be surprised how delighted people are when they see you come their way!
Ryan McNeill is the president of Renewable Energy Corporation, one of the Mid-Atlantic’s largest installers of American-made solar panels.