The importance of becoming rooted in gardening
By Claire Livingstone
4th geography student at University of British Columbia
Nov 2, 2016
It is estimated that one fifth of the greenhouse gases that we’re each responsible for, come from how we consume food(1). According to New York Times writer Michael Pollan(2), growing your own food is one of the best things you can do for the environment, as it reduces a sense of dependency on the ‘cheap energy’ that composes so much of an individual’s carbon footprint. As a fourth year UBC Geography student, I am exposed to the importance of being mindful of one’s environmental impacts on an individual level. In order for big changes to happen, we must start with the little ones, and shift how we interact with the Earth on a daily basis.
Think about food production, it is no longer a big secret how much energy is required to ship food across the globe to make it accessible in grocery stores. Sustainable food is not a new concept, yet this doesn’t mean it isn’t an important one. The emergence and growth of initiatives such as Farm-to-table restaurants, community gardens, and farmers markets in urban areas all demonstrate support for the ‘back-to-the-land’ movement- the desire to grow food on a small-scale basis. If you consider yourself to be a ‘locavore’, what can be more local than growing food in your own backyard?
Alongside the direct impacts of carbon reduction, growing your own food can have indirect impacts on how one conceptualizes “waste”. Watering your plants with rainwater and fertilizing with your own compost are ways to directly repurpose what most consider to be “waste”. As well, you are much less likely to thoughtlessly toss out food which you have dedicated time and energy to growing, reducing your individual food waste- a problem that is consuming the developed world. Taking part in gardening doesn’t require any modern technology, and gives distance from the screens that have become so entangled in our daily lives. This further helps in the separation from the ‘cheap-energy’ mindset Pollan warns us about. Additionally, Plants that you grow can become key components in the environment of native pollinators. Birds and insects can thrive off of your edible landscape, enriching, and becoming a functioning part of your local ecosystem.
I encourage you to think about the space or neighbourhood where you live. The lawns that cover many homes and park spaces are a European import. They are not designed, nor have they adapted to Canada’s harsh freezing winters, and hot, dry summers. Watering, mowing, and fertilizing are often the minimal steps needed to produce the luscious green grass that has grown (literally!) to be so widely popular for homeowners. Why not take the work and resources already put into lawn maintenance, and invest it into a space where you can be rewarded with physical ‘fruits of your labour’.
A yard space is a luxury, but not a necessity to grown food. Gardening can be as large or as small of an operation as you would like. Author and Farmer Elizabeth Millard(3) demonstrates how it is possible to turn a yard-less high-rise home into a greenhouse! Growing plants doesn’t have to be a complex process. Take Ms. Millard’s experience for example, she spilled some seeds in her car and ended up growing a crop of microgreens on the floormat of her passenger seat in her 2005 VW Beetle. Taking from this the lesson that “if the conditions are right, it will happen”. This goes to show that growing plants can be simple! As long as you have a soil space and some sunlight, you can often provide plants with the
environment they need.
Gardening provides a new lens in terms of thinking about your food. In his TED talk, Roger Doiron(4) argues that gardening is a “subversive” plot, “… Food is what our body runs on, but it’s also a form of power”. When people grow their own food, they’re taking power into their own hands in terms of their diet, health, and pocketbooks. I can say from personal experience that nothing in the grocery stores, organic or not, tastes like what you can grow in your own backyard. So exert your power as a locavore and do something right now! With all the talk about sustainability, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Take responsibility over your relationship with this Earth and the responsibilities you hold in your everyday actions.
Become an actor in this empowering plot and plant seeds in your own community, for you never know who you might inspire to grow!
1 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 2016 statistic
2 Further support for why individuals should bother with sustainable action can be found in Michael Pollan’s New York Times article “Why Bother”
3 See Michael Tortorello’s New York Times Article “A Conservatory In the Kitchen” for Elizabeth Millard’s instructions on growing plants in your apartment space.
4 Roger Doiron’s TED Talk “My Subversive Plot” focuses on growing food on a community scale
Doiron, Roger “My Subversive (Garden) Plot” TEDTalk. December, 2011 retrieved from https://www.ted.com/speakers/roger_doiron accessed October 27, 2016
Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations “Questions and Answers” FOA website 2016, accessed October 27, 2016
Pollan, Michael “Why Bother” The New York Times April 20, 2008 retrieved from http://michaelpollan.com/articles-°©?archive/why-°©?bother/ accessed October 28, 2016
Tortorello, Michael “A Conservatory in the Kitchen” The New York Times November 5, 2014 retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/06/garden/urban-°©?farming-°©?from-°©? countertop-°©?to-°©?table.html accessed October 28, 2016