This article has been written by Rachel McLeod on behalf of Planting Works

As much as the weather isn’t very promising at this time of year and there’a lot of time spent indoors, now’s the time for making resolutions for the year ahead. What better way to start than by pledging to live in a more environmentally friendly way and applying the principles of reduce, reuse or recycle.

Our gardens and green spaces are so wonderful that we should cherish them. Looking after the ground means sending less to landfill, reusing plastic as much as possible and thinking about your household carbon footprint. Do you always buy packaged fruit and vegetables? Want to stop using cling or cut down on the number of plastic bottles in your house? Maybe it’s time to visit your local greengrocer or join a box delivery scheme. Do you live close to a refilling centre for shampoos, olive oil and other eco friendly products? Perhaps you’d like to subscribe to eco and ethically responsible schemes for washing and dishwasher powders or even toilet paper. Sometimes the decisions that you make, which take some effort and time to organise can turn out to be some of the best and actually save you money in the long run.

In your garden there are many changes that you could make. Maybe you would consider composting some of your fruit and vegetable waste – there are a number of options available depending on your outdoor space and don’t forget that many local councils will take away garden and general compost waste for a small monthly fee. Visit https://www.wigglywigglers.co.uk/collections/urbalive-wormery-kits for some great composting ideas even for the smallest outdoor spaces.

Even leaving an area of your garden to grow wild or sewing some wild flower seeds in containers will encourage wildlife and pollinators and increase the biodiversity in your garden: How gardeners can help our declining bees and other pollinators / RHS Gardening. Rainwater harvesting through installing water butts and seeking out ways to reuse water are also beneficial for the garden as well as potentially reducing your bills. Planting drought resistant varieties among borders and beds can reduce heavy water consumption. Nature is so wonderful at regrowth and regeneration. I spotted the stump of a wonderful mimosa long gone as a casualty of a storm and all around miraculous seedlings were thriving with the hope that once again a tree will grow there. If we could also find a different path and develop new habits that are less harmful to the environment then our legacy will be amazing.

Plants and trees help to clean the air and reduce pollution from cars as well as soaking up rain water in wet areas of the garden. You may consider planting a hedge if you live beside a busy main road which would act as a sound barrier, as well as absorbing harmful car fumes. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to plant a tree in the garden with the kids or grow some vegetables. Growing vegetables and fruit or supporting a local fruit and vegetable box scheme will significantly save on greenhouse gas emissions as well as tasting so much better. Who knows, you may even be encouraged to try new vegetables and expand your cooking repertoire. There are numerous environmental benefits of planting trees, including creating wildlife havens, locking up carbon as well as providing natural wind breaks and flood defences. There’s something quite magical about a woodland walk through the seasons. Tree Planting Advice – Plant Trees – Woodland Trust

Spend time looking after your garden tools instead of sending them to landfill and replacing them. Keeping tools dry and clean is a good habit to keep and as simple as keeping a towel in your shed or garage to wipe them down with when you are finished. In Spring and Autumn set aside a “maintenance hour” to check, clean and sharpen your garden tools. Cleaning bars and sharpening tools are inexpensive and a cheaper alternative to re purchasing tools.  Repurpose old plant pots after their initial use and with a bit of cleaning and disinfecting they’ll be as good as new. Remember to keep broken crockery for drainage at the bottom of containers. Switching to peat free compost and only using recyclable plastic plant pots are also great alternatives. Once you’ve finished with the compost bag, there are multiple ways to reuse them, as rubbish sacks, weed suppressant material and liners for pots and hanging baskets or even growing new potatoes to name but a few ideas. If you always resort to weed killer in the garden, maybe consider switching to doing some hand weeding or hoeing instead or use weed suppressant material when planning new borders. Spending an hour or so outside weeding and tending to your plants and flowers can have a beneficial impact on your health and wellbeing. If you do resort to using chemicals, always check the label for products with a low environmental impact or organic. If your petrol lawnmower is ready for replacement, maybe you could consider an electric or battery operated one which would be less harmful to the environment.

If you enjoy gardening but have no access to one, then maybe this year you would consider volunteering through charity schemes or organisations such as The National Garden Scheme Volunteer – National Garden Scheme (ngs.org.uk) or approach your local school to volunteer on gardening projects. Being out in the fresh air and seeing plants growing and flowers thriving is such a wonderful tonic which you can be part of and looking after all of that is so important.

If we all do our bit towards helping the environment, until it becomes a good habit then we will make the world a better place. Sometimes we take nature and our plants for granted especially on a cold winter’s day. We should appreciate and nurture what we have, no matter how small our outside spaces are.

“The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.”Sir David Attenborough