By Conal Morrison
Most of us have probably had at least one house plant in our lifetime. I know I have, and, as I mentioned in a previous article, I sucked at keeping them alive.
But as it turns out, this hobby may, in fact, be damaging the environment. Now before you freak out and start replanting your houseplants in your garden, the damage to the environment comes more from the plastic pots they come in. Or, sometimes, the plants themselves suffer due to neglect or get thrown away when they no longer look pretty.
The Effect On The Environment
One huge issue with house plants is actually transportation. Basically, how far has your plant travelled to get to your house? Of course, it’s entirely possible that the tropical plant in your living room was grown in a greenhouse only 30 minutes away. But if it did come all the way from a warmer country, well, to my knowledge, there are no winged plants, so that means it had to be flown, driven or sailed across the planet to sit in your home.
To help it thrive, you then have the added cost of creating and maintaining an environment that your plant likes. If you live somewhere freezing cold like Alaska, you’re going to be using a lot of fuel and energy to create a liveable environment for your Flamingo flowers. Now, this cost may be relatively low on a single person’s scale. Still, as soon as you scale it up to, say, a plant nursery, the amount of water and fuel used increases exponentially.
Of course, we can’t forget the pots your plants come in. Odds are, if you buy your house plants from the nursery, they come in a plastic pot. My mother is an avid gardener herself, and her plants used to come in plastic pots. To her credit, she has reused them year after year to minimise the waste.
Some retailers now sell their plants in recycled cardboard pots, although usually only for seedlings and smaller plants. But it is a step in the right direction. Try to use alternatives for your home, such as containers made of natural materials, get plants through cuttings and try to buy from nurseries that use recyclable pots.
Grow Houseplants The Eco-Friendly Way
I am by no means trying to tell you not to grow houseplants. I think it’s a beautiful thing and helps us keep connected with our roots. Pun intended.
But it is essential to be aware that growing plants is a commitment, much like owning a pet. An Instagram user by the name of theplantrescuer puts it best: “It’s clear there needs to be change. Using energy and water to grow plants which end up being thrown away is senseless“. They also explain how plants often get thrown away by retailers for cosmetic damage on a few leaves!
So please, if you are going to grow houseplants. Don’t throw them away when they stop blooming or show a different colour on their leaf. They are living, breathing beings too, and if they are sick, you can help them get back on their roots with some TLC!
The absolute number one rule surrounding houseplants is this: avoid peat at all costs!
You see, peat and peat bogs hold an immense reserve of carbon and help keep our air clean. But due to its natural fertiliser properties, many people and companies dig it up to use as food for plants! This causes emissions from the process and is also damaging natural environments for all sorts of plant, animal, and birdlife.
If you have a bit of space, a fantastic alternative to peat is composting. It can take a little time to get started, but it will provide you with all the nutrients you need for growing plants. If you are strapped for room, you can try worm composting, which can be done indoors within a self-contained system.
You can also use more natural methods to protect your plants instead of nasty pesticides and other chemical concoctions. They are not something you want to keep using, for obvious reasons, if you’re trying to be as eco-friendly as possible. A simple alternative is actually soap water. This will kill most bugs as soon as it touches them. You can also use neem oil or softly spread rubbing alcohol with a cotton bud.
There you have it. While the world of houseplants is not quite as much sunshine and rainbows as we would like to think, there are plenty of ways to ensure it stays as green and eco-friendly as possible. Hopefully, you’ve picked up some helpful tips and are well on your way to a greener house garden!