It’s winter. And here in south-eastern Wisconsin, my garden sleeps. The season’s hard work is behind us – the planting, watering, and weeding (and I confess – a little prayer during the dry months) has yielded a bounty of fruits and vegetables. And while most of us know the mental and physical benefits of time spent outdoors and the nutritional advantage of consuming fresh, organically grown produce, did you know that gardening – especially gardening in a community garden – can help mitigate climate change? Well, it can, and here’s why.
Gardens provide more than just nutrition. Getting food on your plate via the local grocery store adds carbon to the atmosphere. Eating foods grown in a local community garden helps us consume a climate-healthy and seasonal diet with more veggies and less prepared food. Think more potatoes in winter and melons in summer.
The air we breathe. Did you know that 26% of worldwide carbon emissions come from food production? Or that the produce we eat in the U.S. travels an average of 1,518 miles from field to plate? Diesel trucking releases pollution into the air we breathe; consuming local foods from a garden or a nearby organic farmer can considerably reduce emissions.
Leveling the equity and justice playing field: Everyone deserves access to fresh, healthy food. Climate change endangers food access for our most vulnerable populations and impacts all aspects of the food system, including food production and availability. Community gardens provide fresh, healthy food for communities and encourage a plant-based lifestyle via health education and cooking classes. They also discourage food waste by facilitating food-sharing and teaching people about food preservation and composting.
Building soil for a healthy planet: Gardeners can reduce the carbon pollution associated with waste disposal by turning leaves, grass, woody garden clippings, and garden waste into mulch or compost and then using it in the garden. Recycling plant materials reduces methane emissions from landfills, improves garden soil, and helps it store carbon, which is critical in combating climate change.
Trees for the win: Trees are beautiful and practical. They provide shelter and shade, oxygen, and food. Urban gardens with orchards and fruit trees offer an added benefit to people and the climate. Apple, pear, orange, lemon, fig, avocado, and other trees create canopies and reduce pedestrian heat stress in urban areas by absorbing and reflecting solar heat.
While winter is upon us, now is the time to start talking to neighbors and friends about planning a community garden for springtime. Click here to learn more about setting up a community garden in your neighborhood.
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