Recently there was a study from the University of Michigan examining the carbon footprint of urban gardening.
I must take sides in this discussion as a backyard gardener but I will present the other side with any facts they provided from the study even though there are a lot of the facts they avoided mentioning that would defeat their contention that urban gardening creates a larger urban footprint vs conventional gardening.
My position is this study has many false facts and is a bunch of crap and backyard gardening or as they call it urban gardening is not harmful and is much more beneficial than having people rely on conventional farming that uses harmful chemicals and pesticides along with refrigerator freight trucks and air freight to move their product.
I will say that we need both the urban gardeners and the conventional growers that are growing organically to produce our food and try to eliminate the need to grow using harmful chemicals and pesticides.
I must credit one of the groups I follow and the author for addressing this study and the name he came up with to define those of us gardening in our urban gardens “Defiant Gardening”. His name is Brian with Next Generation Gardening, a great site that I highly recommend.
Facts from the study– If you bought new materials to build your raised garden beds and replaced them every year or two it would have a huge impact on the carbon footprint.
Fiction– They state that the group they looked at had 5 years of life from their garden boxes.
Fact- is most urban gardeners get at least 10-15 years from raised beds and for many, they plant directly in the ground with no boxes extending the life to endless.
Fiction from the study– This product used by urban gardeners causes much less of an impact since they are on a much smaller scale and would not have the same impact as the product used to make greenhouses, storage rooms, and other large-scale production facility needs.
In reality, most gardeners who build raised beds are using those raised beds for 10-15+ years if they are using wood, if they are using metal they last as long as they have a garden over 15 years up to a lifetime.
For those of you like me, we have garden beds that are planted directly in the ground with no frame used and therefore no impact on the carbon footprint.
Fiction- They say that urban gardening impacts the carbon footprint 6 times more than conventional gardening. But they give no physical evidence that supports this when looking at urban gardening using sustainable methods that require little or no dangerous chemicals or pesticides and take into account those that garden directly in the ground which is a large number of people.
Fact– They do state that some vegetables like Tomatoes can be grown with less of a carbon footprint than conventional growing. The problem is they did not go far enough to explain how conventional gardening has a huge impact vs urban gardening when you take into account when ground freight, air freight, and refrigeration trailers are taken into account which is for most vegetables and fruit when getting it to the people to buy and eat it.
On top of that all the stores and special needs of each store to maintain the food for people to purchase it.
Fact– They forgot to mention the impact of all the chemicals used in conventional gardens vs the backyard gardeners who use little or no pesticides and chemicals in their gardens. Not to mention preservatives used by conventional gardens so that they can transport the food safely to stores for a longer shelf life.
They also fail to look into the refrigerant needed for the vehicles to move the vegetables and fruit to stores and then the stores refrigeration needs to store the product.
Fact– Most urban gardens are closer to the end users requiring little or no freight trucks needed to move and store the product since they have reduced the distance by growing right there where the people are that the food is intended for.
Carbon Footprint from Backyard Gardening Fact or Fiction- I believe that this is another study that did not take into account all the facts and is intended to support Big Business and put fear in all of us who are growing healthy food for ourselves, neighbors, friends using the yards to produce food.
Lastly, I want to leave you with a fact that needs to be considered when you are looking at backyard or urban gardening. The food you can produce vs conventional food produced is much healthier using sustainable and organic methods avoiding the dangers of food bacteria that can not only make you sick but kill many people every year.
There is also the cost of the food that is produced vs the cost of growing it yourself which can be much less if you use some of the methods I describe throughout this website. From repurposing containers, wood materials for greenhouses, and raised beds to sharing seeds that you collect with others to eliminate the cost of buying seeds or plants.
Don’t let the large chemical companies and conventional growers that produce pesticides and other harmful chemicals scare you into not gardening but do as Brian from Next Level Gardening is doing by being a Defiant Gardener and joining the backyard gardening movement.
Please send links to others connecting them to my Gardening website to learn how they can become a better backyard gardener using organic and sustainable methods.