As I write this on 12th Night, Christmas and New Year celebrations seem a distant memory. Anyone else set themselves a New Year Resolution? I’m not usually very good at these, but a few years ago I set myself the target of completing Veganuary, that challenge to exclude all meat and dairy from your diet for the month of January.
We all know about the impending climate crisis. We all try to respond in one way or another – maybe reducing our car journeys, fewer foreign holidays by flight (often imposed now in our COVID times). Many try to reduce the use of plastics.
As gardeners there are things we can do. Try to use plastic free pots (bamboo fibre etc). Avoid peat at all costs (it’s one of our natural carbon storage systems, and upland peat bogs help prevent flooding by holding the water upstream). Plant a tree – it will store carbon and clean the air. And then try to grow some fruit and vegetables.
You may be lucky to have a large garden with a vegetable plot, maybe an allotment. But you can sneak in some fruit and veg into even the smallest gardens. Try growing salad leaves like mustard, mizuma, bitter lettuce etc in between ornamentals. Grow Bull’s Blood beetroot- it’s the equal of any purple leaved Heuchera and you can eat it! Let purple Orach seed through the border and pick the leaves to brighten any salad. All these leaves are super expensive in the shops, but are so easy for you to grow at a fraction of the cost. Train apples and pairs against walls and fences, or grow as a half standard, ornamentally pruned. There are a myriad of ways in which you can sneak food crops into any garden. Don’t obsess about the pests, accept some damage. Most of all, settle back and enjoy that warm feel-good glow of harvesting your own produce.
Gardening is proven to have huge benefits for our health and well-being. It lowers the blood pressure, is good exercise, promotes healing and so on. Moreover, it is good for the climate. You will be doing your own thing to clean the air, reduce supermarket packaging, store carbon etc. One way or another you will have reduced your carbon footprint.
So how about trying Veganuary too? It’s not too late. Eating meat and dairy is a huge drain on resources and produces huge amounts of methane, a gas with a higher impact on the climate than even carbon dioxide. If we all make these small changes to our lives then we really can make a difference. Have a look at multi-award winning designer Cleve West’s book – “The Garden Of Vegan; how plants can save animals, the climate and our health”. It really is inspirational.
And now, several years on, I’m still vegan. I feel fitter and healthier than ever, and happy that my impact on the climate is now greatly reduced.