Carbon Footprint

Little Changes, Big Impacts

Carbon footprint is a mathematical measure, accounting for the amount of carbon dioxide and methane emissions of a defined population. Its prolific use has elasticized its meaning—it is often a colloquial estimate of environmental impact. Whether estimated by a marketing department or calculated by a scientist, the mere mention of it provides a glimpse into brand values and ideals, including environmental responsibility.

For most environmentalists, considering carbon footprint is a reflex. It is a cornerstone of every decision, from how many children to bear to deciding whether to repair or replace. As a naturalist, beautifying your corner of the world is important, and environmental responsibility is your default setting. This list is for you—whether it’s a refresher course or generates new, beneficial habits—thank you for doing your part.

Trees are akin to foot soldiers in the anti-carbon army. They absorb carbon, so planting them in your plot does more than simply beautify. Planting native species is critical—they require less watering and fare better over time. Bonus: larger trees can shade your house, reducing energy needed to cool it.

Yard waste fills trash cans quickly, and requires oversized gas-guzzling trucks to transport to landfills. Consider composting—grass clippings, leaves, even fruit and vegetable waste. Compost becomes a nutritious additive to flowers, vegetables, plants and trees. Turning the compost and keeping it moist to catalyze its decomposition can be a fun family undertaking.

Vibrant green grass enables impromptu firefly catching, pickup games of kickball or lunchtime picnics. By many measures, it embodies perfection in both form and function. But bucolic backdrops grow and grow and grow. They demand regular lawn mower action all season long. Replacing expanses of grass with trees, shrubs and other landscaping features will save on gas and exhaust.

Power tools are gas hogs. Opt for conventional tools when possible. Not only will you minimize exhaust and chemical emissions, you will reduce the chance of gas spills—which impact watersheds. I know—you’re just one person, with one small spill in one small patch of driveway. But the cumulative effect on our environment of small gas spills throughout the world will make your head spin. Experts estimate it adds up to millions of gallons spilled every year.

Insist on organic products. Chemicals found in fertilizers and pesticides harm the environment during manufacture and application. A bit of research will reveal a multitude of organic options that work—many of them better and cheaper—than chemical-based options. Allow grass clippings to fertilize your yard through the natural process of decomposition. Apply homemade hot pepper spray on plant leaves to deter pests. Sprinkle crushed egg shells around plant bases to keep slugs from feasting.

To some, environmental responsibility remains a hard sell. But chances are—if you’re reading this article, you’re already a contributing member of the green team. You do what you can—whenever you can—to protect and preserve. We tip our (garden) hats to you!