Sometimes saving money and being environmentally conscious go hand in hand. More people are getting into the habit of looking around for cheap electricity deals and are prepared to switch providers than in previous years. We are also becoming more aware of the impact of our lifestyles on energy consumption in the home and beyond. In the home, this translates into energy-saving practices such as turning off lights and appliances when not in use, washing clothes and dishes at lower temperatures and choosing energy efficient models when purchasing new appliances.
We are also becoming more conscious of the waste we throw away. Usually we think about food waste and packaging. There are many ways to reduce food waste, including meal planning and freezing meals, and with excess packaging we can vote with our feet to reward retailers that follow environmentally friendly policies. But what about our garden waste? Many people often think of garden waste as not really waste – after all, it’s all green, isn’t it? Surely it will just compost down somewhere. Green waste is not usually sent to landfill because it decomposes under anaerobic conditions – without oxygen – producing methane, a key contributor to global warming.
So councils usually encourage people to compost at home where they can, or take it to community recycling and composting schemes. Having a compost heap at home is not only a great way of getting rid of your garden waste but also provides a great habitat for slow worms and grass snakes who enjoy the warmer temperatures generated by the decomposing material.
In some areas green bins are provided, but with more councils starting to charge for green waste collection it can all add to household bills. Nearly a third of councils charge households for green bins, and the costs can be up to around £70. Charges are made to subsidise the cost of collection and composting. In some areas, garden waste can account for around a quarter of household waste, so it’s not an insignificant amount of material to be dealing with.
Fortunately, there are several areas where we can cut back to reduce the amount of material that ends up in the green bin. It’s understandable to want to tidy up grass cuttings after we’ve mown the lawn, but leaving them can not only save on our green waste but also provide nutrients for your lawn. The clippings will naturally begin to be absorbed after two days or so and the added nutrients will encourage thicker and healthier growth. Alternatively, you could consider a slower growing turf, allowing some areas of grass to grow longer to provide safer areas for wildlife to move through or even getting rid of your lawn completely and converting it to a wild flower meadow which will attract bees and encourage biodiversity.
Weed growth can be controlled by a number of different methods. You could try mulching, where a layer of material such as bark is spread over the top of soil. Pulling up weeds when they’re young is easier and they can just be left on top of the soil to dry out. You can also cut out the light weeds need by growing plants that give good ground cover.
Paying attention to your plants and their life cycles will help to reduce garden waste. Shrubs can typically be pruned just when the branches are young. Prunings can be left in the garden as log piles to act as basking spots, shelter and attract food for reptiles. Putting plants in a place that is appropriate for them will cut back on the maintenance required to keep them in good condition. Choose slow growing species and dwarf and alpine plants that won’t create a lot of new growth. To provide the best amphibian and reptile habitats its’ vital to create a variety of plant heights.
What you can do:
• Find out more about wildlife friendly gardening
• Record sightings of amphibians and reptiles using our Dragon Finder App
• Report dead or diseased wildlife to the Garden Wildlife Health project
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