Limiting single-use plastics in our daily lives has become somewhat of an exciting challenge for those of us who try to reduce the impact that we have on the environment – especially now that it is clear the world needs to act with a little more urgency. It’s easy for some to make the argument “my actions alone won’t make a difference, so what’s the point?”. I don’t believe that is a reason though for each of us not to do the best we can. We should all feel some responsibility.
So how can we reduce plastic use in our gardens in particular? There are many instances where gardeners have grown to use plastic in some form or other to assist in producing crops. A few examples include garden punnets/pots, mesh trellis, bagged compost potting mix, plastic-lined raised beds, garden tools, plant protectors, string and so on. Some uses of plastic are somewhat unavoidable, such as the pots you buy your nursery plants in, whereas some are totally unnecessary, like the plastic bag you’re offered to carry a couple of plants home. If you’re intent on doing your bit, perhaps you could try some of the following:
• Use jute mesh, reo-mesh, or – better still – sticks instead of plastic trellis mesh;
• Don’t line your garden beds with plastic. If you use plastic to reduce the harm that treated pine or railway sleepers may cause to your crops, perhaps use a cleaner timber. And perhaps resign yourself to the fact that your beds may not last quite as long if they’re not lined;
• Avoid using perishable plastic string and plant guards in the garden;
• Instead of buying bags of planting mix, make your own compost more or purchase in bulk direct from your local garden suppliers;
• Use metal watering cans, or look after your plastic one by storing it in the shade; and,
• Consider how much plastic is in the garden tools you buy, and look for the most ethical alternative.
I suppose that last point sums it up: we should consider the most ethical alternatives in the way we purchase. Understanding where consumer items are made, who makes them, what they are made from, how long they may last and whether they can be recycled at the end of their life are important factors in all things we consume, including in the garden.
And when we discover something new, or a better way to do something, it really helps if we share that knowledge in order to make the biggest impact. There are many creative people out there kicking fantastic waste-reduction goals and either writing about it in books or posting online. It’s really worth seeking out some of this information from others to help you on your journey. For a start, check out www.zerowastevictoria.org and www.zerowastechef.com
Momentum within our communities can only be gained if enough of us are on board.