Practical ways to reduce your plastic use

Creating a greener garden

If you’re the lucky owner of a garden or outdoor space (of whatever size), you can do amazing things for wildlife, as well as having a great space to relax in. However, making greener choices for your garden isn’t always easy, particularly when it comes to plastic. Cost and availability mean that plastic is often the first, and sometimes the only option for many gardening products, and because these items have to survive outside, plastic can even sometimes be the best option when you consider longevity.

But there are actions you can take to drastically reduce your plastic usage in the garden. The most important thing is to consider everything before you buy, look for alternatives where possible, and follow the guidelines of reduce, reuse and recycle. Here are some more ideas:

Plastic garden furniture

It’s important to sit down and enjoy your garden, but outdoor furniture can be very pricey. Plastic chairs and tables are a cheap option, but they often don’t last, degrading in the sunshine and breaking in storms. Choose sturdy options like recycled plastic or good quality wood (make sure it has the FSC mark on it to ensure the wood comes from sustainable forests) and look after your furniture by storing it under cover when not in use.

Plastic weed fabric

Horticultural, landscaping or weed fabric has become popular in gardens as a way of suppressing unwanted plants, but although it may not look like it, this fabric is usually made from plastic. Sometimes it degrades into tiny pieces (of plastic), and weeds always find a way to grow through it or on top of it anyway, so it often ends up causing just as much hassle in the long run. Try to find a fabric that’s made from plant-based materials or consider using horticultural paper, as both will fully biodegrade. If you’re trying to reduce weeds in a flower bed, consider using cardboard with a mulch on top, as it’ll break down in a few months, and you can just add more.

Plastic netting and string

Netting is a bit of a necessity for growing climbers like peas, and for protecting fruit bushes. Think about using something like chicken wire instead, but if plastic is the only option, try to reuse it for several seasons by carefully storing it over the winter. Jute string is a good alternative to plastic string.

Plastic pots

It’s difficult to buy plants without a ubiquitous plastic pot, but it’s not impossible. Consider sourcing bare root plants in winter or look online for suppliers that sell plants wrapped in waxed paper. Growing your own plants from seed takes time, but it’s much cheaper, and you could also take cuttings or split perennials in your own or from a friend’s garden (ask permission first of course!). Reuse your existing pots as much as possible, and avoid buying plants in polystyrene trays, as they often fall apart and aren’t easy to recycle.

Plastic labels

If you’re growing plants from seeds, it’s easy to end up using dozens or even hundreds of labels in a season. There are non-plastic alternatives available, like wood or metal, but they can be expensive, and wood tends not to last well in the warm, damp situations used to grow plants. One thing you could try is making your own labels from something like a yoghurt pot or milk carton. This reuses the plastic, and they can be used again before finally being recycled. 

Plastic seed trays

If you’re growing your own plants from seeds, invest in good-quality seed trays that will last several years. Try root trainers for beans and peas – as they’re reusable – or recycle plastic food trays from the kitchen. You can try making your own soil blocks (you can buy a tool for this) or use a traditional seedbed if you have the space. But avoid biodegradable pots made from peat, as they contribute to the destruction of peat bogs, which are so important for wildlife and as a store of carbon.

Plastic bags of compost

If you have a big garden, it’s easy to go through a lot of compost each year. Always make sure you’re buying peat-free (see above), but even if you are, there will still be plastic waste from the bags. It’s relatively easy to make your own compost, but challenging to make it in large quantities. You could consider a bulk order if it’s practical for your plot, but if you have to buy bags, go for the biggest ones you can manage, and reuse the packaging. Why not make leaf mould? Fill the bags with fallen leaves, tie the tops, carefully pierce the plastic a few times with a garden fork, and then leave them alone for a couple of years.

 

Your garden is your little bit of this precious planet

Given the climate and nature crises we’re facing, anything you can do to reduce your plastic use can make a big difference. Even small actions will add up, and by creating a demand for more plastic-free products, gardening companies should respond with more and better options.

You can also get more information on how we're reducing plastic in our shop here

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