Agriculture in the U.S. makes up 11% of our country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, with most of this percentage coming from fertilizer use and farm animals. Home gardening can counteract these greenhouse gases because in this scenario, applying chemical insecticides is more easily avoidable.
However, growing your own food can take some time, and that might not be an option for everyone! So, what else can you do? Try shopping seasonally. This means buying food that would naturally grow during whatever the current season is. When you shop for seasonal produce, you can get to know and support local farmers, and discourage summer foods being grown in carbon-emitting greenhouses during winter weather (Sustainable Badass, 153).
Additionally, most produce that’s available year-round in grocery stores are grown in fields known as monocultures. These are crops lacking in the diversity necessary to support life. For example, when you drive through the countryside of PA and see miles and miles of corn with nothing else being grown around it. Shopping for local produce at farmers’ markets combats this because you can find a more diverse and unique food selection from these stands.
A great example of a sustainable, local garden producing diverse seasonal produce is seen in WITF’s video. Here they interviewed Garry Gilliam Jr, the Founder/Chief Executive Officer at The Bridge Eco-Village, a thriving real estate development company that turns older properties in city areas into “eco-villages” that can then be used as housing, office space, education centers, and more. They are striving to be a net-positive company, reducing their carbon footprint to zero and then actually taking out more carbon from the atmosphere than they add to it!
Gilliam explained that the eco-villages bring in food waste from restaurants and grocery stores to create compost for the gardens, which acts as a natural fertilizer. Obviously, doing this also allows the company to encourage zero-waste practices throughout their community! This past year, they were able to donate 5,000 pounds of produce to the Harrisburg community.
The eco-villages all use composting as a way to live more sustainably, you you can too. As stated in the last summary article on WITF’s second video in their climate action series, one of the best things to do to make your home more eco-friendly when cooking or gardening is to compost. To start your own compost, you simply need an area in your backyard like a box or crate to add veggie scraps and yard trimmings. These will decompose in this curated environment to create nutrient-rich soil, while in the landfill they would emit a toxic greenhouse gas. Find out more about how to start your own compost here!
Again, if you don’t have the time or energy to garden or compost but are still looking for more ways to combat climate change induced by agriculture, try transforming your yard into a native-plant paradise. This means your yard would be the opposite of a monoculture, and a safe space for native species that cannot live on or near non-native plants, simply because they aren’t evolved to benefit from them. Check out the DCNR’s native garden templates if you want some inspiration for your own yard!
Jane Allis, the founder of The Bower, recommends slowly replacing the areas of your yard that you don’t use with native plants. The Bower is a beautiful nature site in Perry County, Pennsylvania on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains. Allis says you can swap out one plant in your front lawn at a time with a native one, or add a potted native shrub to your front steps. These are great ways to help the environment at a time and pace that works for you. A native tree, for example, can take more carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in its roots than the typical grass covering most yards in the U.S. The native plants, because they’re adapted to the local environment, also won’t need any additional pesticides/fertilizer and won’t need to be mowed.
For any remaining lawn that needs to be tended to, try switching to electric yard tools. Non-electric mowers and other yard equipment makes up 5% of country’s emissions.
On that note, whether you begin gardening now, adding native landscaping to your yard, start composting, or simply begin to read more on this climate topic, we wish you all the best at your sustainable living endeavors!
What can I do about climate change? Part 3: Dig in the Dirt. WITF News. https://www.instagram.com/p/CwXJwObMxaQ/
Agriculture, including electricity use, accounted for an estimated 11.2 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. USDA Economic Research Service. https://ers.usda.gov/data-products/chart-gallery/gallery/chart-detail/?chartId=104206
P, Susan. Eating seasonally and locally has many benefits. Is fighting climate crisis one of them? CNN Health. https://edition.cnn.com/2022/09/14/health/seasonal-food-produce-lbg-wellness/index.html
Native Garden Templates. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources. https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/Conservation/WildPlants/LandscapingwithNativePlants/NativeGardenTemplates/Pages/default.aspx
Shelbi. 10 ways to compost no matter where you live | indoor, drop-off, & worm composting. Shelbizleee. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WWULz0DMa8