Better yards and gardens: Producing an environmentally friendly lawn

Hello, individuals! This is our weekly newsletter on all things ecological, where we highlight patterns and solutions that are moving us to a more sustainable world. (Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Thursday.)

This week:

The green turf of house: How to grow an ‘alternative’ lawn

(Taylor Logan/CBC)

For many individuals, their yard is a source of tremendous pride and the things of terrific care. However “turf” yards are not naturally occurring plants — and that has more comprehensive implications.

The principle of a lawn came from in middle ages times, on the land outside European castles. The brief yard made it possible for watchmen to see good friends or foes approaching from afar. Lawns quickly became something of a status symbol among the abundant.

Today, lawns still hold visual appeal, but they likewise have considerable ecological impacts. 

During the summertime months, water use in Canada peaks, and a half to three-quarters of all municipally treated water is used for lawns. To keep them looking their finest, many of us have historically turned to pesticides and herbicides that infect soil, water, grass and other plants. Pesticides and herbicides can also be toxic to fish and bugs important to the ecosystem of our gardens.

Lawns are considered carbon sinks — i.e., they absorb more carbon than they release as carbon dioxide. However a study by Appalachian State University says that if you take into consideration the amount of energy that goes into producing fertilizer and fresh water, as well as cutting, lawns overall produce more greenhouse gases than they can take in. 

Plus, lawns produce homogeneity of greenery when a variety of plant life is essential for a strong and healthy community. Without variety, pollinators, bugs, birds and other wildlife have nothing to eat and no place to live. So what’s the option?

“Replacing lawns with native environments is the best alternative, however other practices likewise can decrease impacts,” stated Amanda Rodewald, a professor and senior director of conservation science at Cornell University. 

The best method to produce a native habitat is by developing an alternative lawn. Substitutes include xeriscaping and permaculture, and are known to be better for the environment. 

  • Xeriscaping (pronounced “zerascaping”) changes yard with low-water, low-maintenance plants, such as succulents, cacti and warm environment grasses. Perfect for warm weather condition areas, xeriscaping can reduce water usage by up to 60 per cent, and only needs periodic weeding and mulching, therefore cutting the output of greenhouse gases into the air.

  • Permaculture is a farm-like system that takes a varied variety of plants and cultivates them into a garden that sustains itself. Rather of having one type of plant that requires fertilizer and pesticides, a permaculture combines plants that complement each other’s environment, developing a more nitrogen-rich ground and smothering unnecessary weeds. Developing a permaculture garden can be done in any environment with a little research study, and depending on the size, will only requirement a couple of hours a month at most to keep.

If you can’t modification your yard to be the perfect environment, Rodewald recommends lowering the size of your yard by integrating native flowers, shrubs and trees that are appealing and assistance biodiversity. Beyond that, she encourages taking a more laissez-faire mindset.

“If your lawn is needed, eliminating the use of chemicals, mowing less frequently and letting turf be taller can minimize energy usage, water requires and attract a greater variety of pollinators.”

Taylor Logan


If you’ve got remarks or ideas, let us know.

Old problems of What on Earth? are here.

How to create a vermicompost bin

(Taylor Logan/CBC)

In the last problem of the newsletter, I mentioned the vermicompost bin my roomie and I developed in our house. Because then, I have actually gotten a lot of concerns about what it is and how to make one. 

Here are some little tips on creating your own no-mess vermicompost bin.

Vermicomposting uses worms to transform food scraps into castings (a fancy name for worm poop), which is a extremely abundant kind of fertilizer. Red worms (also known as “red wigglers”) are the finest kind for composting. You can get them online or at a regional bait store. Although some people might not find worms the most enjoyable animals to have living in your house, they’re a excellent method to create a stink-free garden compost bin. And as long as you’re feeding your wiggly friends, they’ll stay safely out of sight in their bin.

First, you’ll requirement a box with a lid (wood, metal or plastic is great) as well as dirt, newspapers and food scraps. Drill small holes in the side of your box, near the lid and cover with netting. (We utilized an old pair of pantyhose and hot glue.) Then lay down a layer of damp paper, fill the box one-third of the way with dirt and put in your worms. Around 250 to 500 worms will do. 

The worms will begin burrowing. Once they’re underground, cover the dirt with conserved up food scraps and cover as soon as again with a layer of dirt. Make sure to avoid citrusy, spicy or difficult food, as the worms can’t absorb these. If the worms come to the leading, it implies the compost is too wet. To fix that, leave the cover off in the sun for 20 minutes.

Now you have your own vermicompost bin. Stir once a week and enjoy your new little buddies!

Taylor Logan

The Huge Photo: Net-zero carbon targets

We’ve seen a number of countries recently offer timelines for when they objective to be “net-zero carbon,” which means either balancing carbon emissions with carbon removal (through carbon capture and offsets) or going carbon-free. Here’s a list of where the most ambitious nations stand.


Hot and troubled: Provocative concepts from around the web

What’s the offer with thorium?

(Pallava Bagla/Corbis by means of Getty Images)

A few months ago, we looked at the pros and cons of nuclear power. More just recently, CBC N ews took a closer appearance at small modular reactors and how new innovation might fuel nuclear’s return

That prompted some of you to write in asking about thorium as a potentially greener nuclear fuel alternative to uranium.

According to the World Nuclear Company, thorium has a few benefits over uranium:

  • It’s 3 or 4 times more abundant in the Earth’s crust.

  • It creates lower levels of nuclear waste, especially the kind that takes more than 10,000 years to decay.

  • The usage of thorium in most reactor types leads to “extra security margins.”

So, offered years of experimentation in Canada and around the world, why are there no business reactors out there running generally on thorium?

A huge difficulty is that you can’t create nuclear power directly from thorium — first, it has to be converted into uranium (though not the same kind normally utilized in reactors). And what’s the secret catalyst for that conversion? Well, typically, it’s regular uranium nuclear fuel.

That means “thorium fuel” is constantly a mix of thorium and uranium, which makes things more costly and complicated in a traditional nuclear reactor, and doesn’t eliminate the difficulties associated with uranium.

The benefits of utilizing thorium “don’t always exceed the costs,” stated Markus Piro, an assistant teacher at Ontario Tech University, who holds a Canada Research Study Chair in Nuclear Fuels and Products. “At this point, there’s not a whole lot of interest in Canada.”

That’s because uranium works, Piro stated. “And we have lots of it.”

Piro kept in mind that since uranium nuclear fuel is combined in with the thorium fuel, long-term disposal will still requirement to be in the very same kind of underground repository with the same requirements as with traditional uranium fuel.

There are two things that could make thorium more attractive in certain scenarios:

  • Countries such as India and China are interested because they have minimal uranium and more plentiful thorium resources.

  • New reactor designs, such as molten salt reactors, might be much better suited to thorium. That’s since such reactors use liquid fuel, where various parts can be quickly processed and separated, including the waste.

Piro sees “potential” in thorium fuel, however said the true power advantages lie in the style of the reactor. “The excitement, the benefits and all that actually come with the reactor technology as a entire.”

Emily Chung

Stay in touch!

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Editor: Andre Mayer | Logo design: Sködt McNalty


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